||The Child Molester and the Sea
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
a feeling came upon me, a feeling that somebody was watching me.
was about ten in the morning when my friend, Hassan, knocked on
my door to ask if I could go with him to the seashore. Here, in
Rabat, the Atlantic Ocean is only about a few blocks away from my
Sometimes at night,
I could hear its waves roaring, splashing against the rocks. I could
smell mussels, clams, and seaweed, and even sea salt, when I got out
for a walk after dinner. My sister was in the kitchen, washing dishes,
singing. My mother had already gone to the market to buy groceries for
lunch-she had to start cooking it before eleven, because my father would
always come for lunch at twelve fifteen. My little brother was upstairs
on the roof, tending his pigeons-he had been collecting them for almost
three years now. My other little sister was outside playing in the dust
with a neighbor friend-I could hear her screechy voice and her friend's.
I had nothing to do on that summer morning, so I said okay to Hassan
and put on my plastic sandals and grabbed a towel and got out of the
Outside, the sun was hot. The ground was also hot. I could feel the
heat coming through my plastic sandals. The sky was whitish blue. There
was no wind to cool you down on that morning. But there was a noise
coming in from the nearby market-noise of people, clinking scales, and
barking dogs. There were some kids playing under a weather-beaten tree,
the city had never tried to maintain or even water. My friend, Hassan,
was waiting for me, leaning lazily on the wall of our neighbor's house.
"You got your swimming thing?" he asked and pushed himself
away from the wall.
"Of course, I do. I got my underwear." I said.
It was okay to swim in your underwear in those days. Sometimes it was
even okay to swim naked when no stranger was lurking around.
"Let's see if T'hami wants to go with us." Hassan scooped
up a ball of rag from his side pocket and mopped his face. His forehead
was still shining from sweat.
"Sure, why not." I said. I always liked company, even the
No company is a bad company, so I figured.
We walked on the dust toward the road, and crossed the road, and then
walked one block to T'hami's house. T'hami was a good soccer player,
by the way, but his family was poorer than ours, and their square house
was all cracked up from the sun and buckled and chipped and old. They
had several chicken up the roof and sometimes you could hear them clucking
before you even got to their house.
We found him outside, sitting in the narrow shade of his house. His
father was sweeping the floor right beside him--sweeping obsessed his
father. He always swept the floor, dirty or not.
T'hami saw us and stood up and dusted his bottom. He became happy after
he saw us. He was like me: he always liked company.
"We're going to the sea, you wanna go?" Hassan asked him.
"I got nothing to do." He said, and he pulled out a rock of
bread from his pocket and took a bite out of it.
"You want some?" he showed us his bread.
"Thank you," I said, and I broke his rock of bread into two
rocks and took one, then I broke my piece into two pieces and gave one
"We're gonna cook mussels at the seashore." I said, chewing
on my piece of bread. "It's low tide now. They'll be too many of
them, mussels, waiting for us."
"Let's go." T'hami said.
"Let's go!" I said, and we all went off.
We walked up the road heading for the sea. Up an old hill, there was
a deep path, like a groove, that lead to the market and then to the
sea. Luckily now, I could feel a cool breeze blowing against my face.
Standing on the tip of the hill, we could see the market with its corrugated
roofs held together by rocks, the people squirming like bugs among produce
and meat and piles of watermelons. We stopped at the water fountain
of the market and drank plenty from its squeaky, coppery faucet, and
filled up a large, plastic container, we had just hawked from a garbage
dump nearby the market. We passed some abandoned houses and now we could
see the vast Atlantic Ocean in front of us. The sea looked huge and
powerful and very flat at the far end where it connects with the horizon.
We got to the cliff that overlooked the seashore and stood there momentarily,
listening to the crashing of waves, the crying of seagulls. We were
looking for who would be there swimming in the sea or sunbathing on
the rocks. There were a few dozens of people out there, of course, but
still they were too far from here to make out whom they were. So we
clambered down the cliff in tandem, leaving a series of clouds of dust
behind us, and got to the rocks.
There were a few fishermen sitting in the baking sun on the edge of
rocks that overhung the sea, staring off into the watery distance, fishing
with their bamboo shoots, long like flag poles, waiting for the unlucky
fish that would be caught and sold at the market before the end of that
day. Now we got to the clan that were sun-bathing and swimming and found
out that they were ours, and that my big brother was one of them, sunbathing-he
had just been through a surgery, he wasn't allowed to swim yet.
T'hami said to me, "Let's start gathering mussels, Zdi'hmed."
I said, "Yeah, let's get those buckets over there." There
were a few buckets sitting on a flat rock, which bums and some regulars
use for cooking mussels. I grabbed two of them and gave one to T'hami.
"You go to go collect wood, Hassan," I said. "Bike tires
are good, if you find one. They burn longer."
"Let's swim, first." Hassan ordered.
"I am hungry." I said primly.
"I am hungry, too." Said T'hami.
Hassan forgot about swimming, turned around slowly and trotted like
an old dog towards the cliffs. The cliffs looked high and domineering
from here. At their foots there were fallen debris, sticks, garbage,
and old dusty papers the summer wind had blown off from the hills.
I flung my towel on my right shoulder and went walking along the shore,
with my bucket in my right hand, looking for the dark rocks with the
dark, huge mussels-huge mussels are meaty, easy to grab, and moreover,
when you pull one out from the rocks, the others become easy to pry
out, especially if you have a hooked hammer or a chisel or a scraper.
Under the hot sun, T'hami went the other way. He was getting smaller
as he went farther along the shore. A slow, unbroken wave came quietly
into a large V-shape crack in the rocks, rumbled momentarily, and then,
with a loud boom, shot up foam and fat drops twenty feet high, making
T'hami jerk convulsively in his place.
There were many potholes on the rocky floor of the seashore that one
has to watch out for. They were full of urchin, mollusk, small fish,
and other stationary funny-looking creatures with slow-moving tentacles,
nature has created just to scare you, or at least to gross you out.
I walked very far from T'hami and from where the other kids were swimming
and sunbathing. Suddenly a feeling came upon me, a feeling that somebody
was watching me. I slowly lifted my head and that's when I saw Harad,
the child molester, standing by the mouth of a dark cave, looking wantingly
at me. I was very afraid but could not call out or do anything but stood
there and look at him.
Harad was a large, young man. He stood about six-two and might have
weighed over two hundreds pounds. His body was ropy with muscle. Some
of the neighborhood kids had once told me that he had a large penis,
too, as large as that of a donkey-we had so many donkeys in our district.
They had seen him once masturbating alone, masturbating on a rock, and
facing the sea and the sun. Harad had a mean-looking face, and what
surprised me most, was that he smiled at me. But I came to recognize
that it was more of a grimace than a smile.
"Hey, Zdi'hmed!" he finally said. "Can I borrow your
towel?" and he stretched his arm toward me.
I could see the muscles of his legs and the cords of his arms ready
to make him move forward, or maybe pounce if necessary. But he was too
far to pounce from such a distance, at least for now. I was about ten
back then. I was very skinny. To him I was as fragile as the wings of
I said, "Sure." And I started walking toward him.
The cave looked dark from here. Dark caves usually are deep. In the
beginning, as I was walking toward him, I thought all he needed was
my towel, but then a strange voice came to lurk in the back of my mind
and said, "Don't go! He's gonna fuck you, my friend!" and
that word "fuck" gave me funny Goosebumps. Made me sick in
"Don't be afraid," Harad interrupted that voice. "I am
your friend. A good friend. Please, give me that towel."
His skin was sun-beaten and dry, not one spot of it was wet. And that's
how I knew that he was just trying to lure me into his dark cave. Lure
me and then molest me. If he had been a little smart, he would've at
least wet himself before asking me for a towel.
I swung around and my bucket swung with me, and I ran away as fast as
I could from Harad. It wasn't that easy to run that fast on a weedy
wet floor, full of urchin-infested potholes. But I just kept on running,
splashing through. I skidded on one flat surface, but, for some miraculous
reason, I didn't fall. I kept on standing while sliding. If I had fallen
I would've become one of the dozen boys Harad had molested in our district,
let alone our county. I finally reached a rough surface and regained
my speed. I kept on clinching to my bucket for protection, and I threw
the towel behind me because it was bothering me, but Harad didn't seem
to be interested in it, for I could hear the sucker breathing heavily
right behind me. I started screaming while running, screaming my lungs
The other kids and my brother were now looking at us. I could tell because
all their faces were pointing to this direction. On the other hand,
T'hami was nowhere to be found. He was probably at the edge of the rocks
by the water, digging for mussels, engulfed in the sea noise. I kept
on screaming so loud to cover up for the roars of the waves and the
crying of seagulls overhead, afraid the kids couldn't hear me. But hear
me, they did.
My brother and the clan stood up now and began to run towards us.
They were on dry ground that went along the shore when they were running,
and they could run very fast. They were about twenty of them, all healthy
and strong, except for my brother who was trailing behind them-remember
he had just had an operation. I could hear them, yelling back and forth
to each other, in some cases bumping into each other like do wild animals
in a stampede.
The noise of the breathing behind me had quickly retreated and then
disappeared. I knew Harad had stopped to run the opposite direction.
Even though he was that strong, he was always that coward. My brother
and the squad were closer to me now, and I could see them picking up
rocks as they were running. One of them was holding a bike chain.
Another had something in his hand that glistered in the morning sun
that looked like a knife or a shiny rod. I began to cry, and even though
I felt protected, I kept on crying. Crying loudly.
"Run around and encircle him!" my brother ordered his squad
angrily from the rear of the stampede.
The squad split automatically into two groups and one group ventured
forward and the other cut through from this side, where I was now standing
and breathing heavily. The two groups began to open up and disperse
and started to throw rocks at Harad, who was about to be encircled.
He was too stupid, for he kept on running on the rocky, splintery surface
instead of climbing up to the dirt road that run along the shore.
Rocks were now flying about Harad from every direction. Some of the
rocks hit him hard but others either made a splash in a pothole or ricocheted,
passing him, falling into the ocean. As the squad was approaching him
the number of the flying rocks increased and their aiming improved.
One rock hit him right on the head and Harad whined like a puppy.
He stopped and looked at us. The flying rocks overwhelmed him.
"Please, don't him me!" he cried from a distance. "Please,
stop!" The rocks didn't stop from coming. Nobody seemed to care
for his plea. On the contrary, the kids were only picking up large rocks,
the ones that could fracture his skull.
Harad was finally cornered. Behind him was the Atlantic Ocean, roaring
and splashing and in front of him was the squad shooting rocks at him.
The ocean seemed to be the path with the least resistance. So he ran
to the edge of the rocks and jumped into the roaring waves. But the
kids didn't stop there. Their mission to destroy him was not completed
yet. They knew him very well, and he had probably molested some of them
previously. Time was on their side, and they figured they could run
faster on ground than he could swim in the ocean. The only way out for
him now, was to swim to America, which is obviously impossible. The
kids stood by the edge of the rocks, wet from the crashing waves, rocks
in their hands, watching Harad as he was crawling clumsily along the
"Let's walk with him." My brother ordered the squad. "He'll
get tired soon before he'll try to come out." And the squad started
to move slowly along the seashore.
One hour had passed when Harad's head began to look smaller. He was
slowly drifting away from the seashore as the ocean was happily sucking
"Help!" he probably cried, because I could see him waving.
And he wouldn't wave to his enemies unless he was in danger.
"He's gonna drown!" I told my brother. "I think we should
tell the cops." "You don't go squawking at the cops, you idiot,"
my brother stared at me, "they're gonna wanna know how he got there!"
"We'll tell them the truth!" I said.
"Shut the fuck up!" he said. "Let him go! He was going
to fuck you, wasn't he?"
"Let him go." I said.
Meanwhile Harad was sliding deep into the far out distance. His head
now was just a black spot, floating aimlessly like a bottle cork. We
stood there till we couldn't see him anymore and waited and waited till
It has been twenty-seven years that I haven't heard of him.
© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra 2002
*Sidi was born in Rabat, Morocco. He came to America when he was about
a teenager. He has a PhD in nuclear physics, which he obtained from the
University of Minnesota. He permanently live in Minneapolis, but is now
teaching physics at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. He has
written a few books--The Head; the Woman with the Hoofed feet, and Woman
City. He is also published in Mizna magazine.Now writing a text book in
physics titled, "Quantum Field Theory".
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