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The International Writers Magazine: New Fiction

Booboola, the Black Dog
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra

I
was thirteen going on fourteen when I made first contact with a black dog. I never knew what kind of a dog he was until later on when I started to know more about dogs and cherish my moments with them. All I knew about this black dog at that time was that he was a dog and that he was black.

His ears were always dangling beside his face. I would pick them up to see if he could hold them straight, but when I let go of them, they would flap back down to the sides of his face. Sometimes I would hold his tail to see what he would do, and he would turn around and look at me and show me his discontent. I said his face and his discontent but actually I can't even remember if he was a he or a she. I am going to assume that he was a he, because many times we set him loose in our sunny dusty neighborhood, and he had never gotten pregnant or delivered any puppy, even though there were many bad dogs around by the garbage dump a few block north of our house and at the Bugarba Market, not far away south.

Our house was not suitable for a dog to live in, because it was very small and we were nine kids piled up altogether in one house–we lost one to cancer a few years later–and we used to move around like cats in the house, and my father and mother occupied one bedroom to make more kids for themselves, and not to mention my Grandmother who would always come to stay with us, and eat our eggs and drink our milk, and eat some kind of soft rock called, Tadakka, a kind of soft gray rock that she would bring with her and try to hide it from us underneath her djellaba.

But for some reason or another, the black dog was enforced on us by either my father, or by my big brother, and we couldn't say no, especially the kids, because once we saw the dog, we were very happy to be with him. But this black dog was only good for playing. Other than that, he was a bad dog. And the reason I said he was bad, was because he used to pee in our house all the time. The time he did not spend peeing, he spent in his mind thinking about peeing. So one of us named him, Booboola, because boola in Moroccan Arabic means pee, and Boo means father. So he was the father of pee in our house and nobody could match him. Some dogs could not learn to pee outside. Booboola was one of them.

My mother suggested that Booboola should go live on the roof, because our roof was flat back then–roofs in Rabat are all flat for we had never seen any snow–and there was a short wall that surrounded the entire roof so that us kids would be protected from falling in case we were playing there. If Booboola peed there, my mother said, the wind would come and blow the smell away. My big brother made a doghouse for Booboola to live in, and set up a wooden bin full of sand for Booboola to take a leak. Booboola was very happy to move upstairs. I could see that on his face and feel it in his tail, which was always wiggling like if it was attached to an atomic generator.

But the story didn't stop here. Booboola started to cause more troubles. He was causing troubles downstairs, but now he was causing them upstairs. He started to eat our clothes and eat them all the time. After doing the laundry, my mother would take it upstairs to hang it up on a couple of wires so they can dry up in the sun. But after my mother would go down, Booboola would jump up on the clothes and pull them down with his mouth and front legs and destroy them with his sharp teeth. One day I was hanging out with our neighbor's kid on their high roof and saw Booboola away down there tearing and mowing my father's T-shirt. He was holding one end with his paw and the other with his teeth, pulling hard on it like a psycho-dog. He had problems tearing sweaters and blue jeans, but tearing shirts and T-shirts turned out to be a cakewalk. He was probably bored of life and he didn't have anything to do upstairs and he started getting busy destroying our clothes. He rarely destroys kids' clothes though, because they were too high for him to reach, but my parents' clothes were reachable and he was attacking them and destroying them all the time.

My mother complained a great deal about Booboola. She would say more than once that the dog has to go, and my father would say, let's give him another chance; maybe he is too young to know that he is hurting us. My mother would then say no way! Booboola must go! And my father would say no.

But then something strange had happened.

Booboola stopped eating clothes. Everybody downstairs started to wonder why Booboola all of sudden stopped eating clothes. My father said that the dog had grown and became more mature, but then my mother said it had been only a couple of weeks, and dogs do not mature that fast. And then after a day or two of this discussion, we started to hear Booboola whining. His whine was soft and long. He had probably been whining all along, but we couldn't hear him because we hadn't paid attention.
My father went upstairs to check on the dog and I followed him. He grabbed Booboola and looked into his face as if he held a bright light against it.
"A big bone is stuck in his teeth," my father said lamely.
I looked into Booboola's mouth and saw this large block of bone stuck firmly in his back teeth, keeping Booboola's mouth open. I looked into the house from upstairs-we had a large squared opening in the middle of the roof-and I said loudly, "A bone is stuck into his teeth!"

Two of my sisters who were mopping the floors and straightening up the house stopped and ran upstairs. My mother came out from the kitchen, wiping her hands with her skirt. My other sister came out from the bathroom, running. Two other kids came out from the closet. And more came out from somewhere else. Now everybody came upstairs and we all huddled up over Booboola. Booboola was in agony. I could see that on his face. My joy of having a dog had now brought me too close to sorrow. I almost cried when I saw Booboola's eyes full of pain and discontent.

My father picked Booboola up and walked downstairs. We all followed him. My father was grunting when he was walking downstairs. He aged a lot lately. Because we were so many in the house it took a while for all of us to come downstairs. We all huddled up over Booboola again and my father said, "Move away, the dog needs space."
And we all moved away like the petals of an opening flower. But once my father started examining Booboola's mouth, we huddled up again.
"I need something," my father said, moving his fingers in his hands. "I need a screwdriver or something."
My big brother ran to the kitchen, rummaged in the drawers and brought a screwdriver, pliers, and a butcher knife. I got scared when I saw that butcher knife. My father grabbed the screwdriver; he looked at the butcher knife and then looked at my brother and gave him a look that said he was stupid. My father didn't say anything, but I could read the disappointment in his eyes. My father said help me and everybody grabbed the dog at once. The dog was tense when we grabbed him. He knew we liked him but he also knew that we were about to do something that would hurt him. My father opened the dog's mouth and stuck the long screwdriver in and started working inside. I had never seen the top of my father's head before, but this time I did. He was fifty and getting bold from the top of his head down and there were crocodile purses under his eyes. The dog tried to back up but we all blocked him up with our hands. My father kept on moving the screwdriver inside, concentrating on one spot, and making crackling sounds of metal against teeth. Suddenly a big bone dropped to the floor and we all moved our heads to look at it. My father said let go of him and we all released the dog and the dog ran to my sister's bucket and started to slurp the dirty water.
"Stop," one of my sisters said. She didn't want Booboola to drink that dirty water.
"It's okay," my father said. "Let him drink. He is very thirsty."

Booboola was taken upstairs and the clothes started to come down torn again. This time he was attacking all kinds of clothes. Was attacking the underwear, our small T-shirts, even our socks. Adding insult to injury, Booboola's barks had gone up many decibels in the acoustic scale. His barks became loud and sharp and penetrating. Some neighbors started to complain secretly and my mother couldn't stand it anymore, so she held a meeting with my father and insisted that Booboola should go.
"Go where?" My father said.
"You'll figure it out," she said. We were all, kids, listening to them as they were talking in the room about Booboola, and Booboola was upstairs walking around on the roof not knowing that my parents were planning for him to go. Go somewhere where he had never gone before.
I was sleeping when my father woke me up early in the morning.
"Wake up!" he said softly. "We're taking Booboola away."

You see I was the only male in the house beside my big brother. And my brother liked to sleep a lot. And if my father had wakened him up instead, he would have been complaining, creaking and dragging himself all along the way.

We put Booboola in the car and drove off about half hour to a wooded area beyond the Swissi Hospital.
"You're gonna release Booboola deep in the woods," my father said," and you're gonna run to the car so quickly and jump in and I will drive away."
I looked at Booboola to see if he was listening to us, but he was looking intensively under my father's seat instead. I then looked at my father to see why. The skin on his throat looked grizzled and irritated from over shaving.
"Are you listening?" My father asked.
"What happens if he chases me?" I asked back.
My father reached for something under his seat and pulled a big bone.
"Give him this bone," my father placed it on my lap. "And as soon as he gets busy eating it, you walk slowly away from him, and you run as fast as you can to the car."
"Sure, Pa," I said.

We got to the woods and the car slowly climbed the curb and boosted itself up a dirt road to a large clearing.
"Get out now," my father ordered. "Take him away up there and throw the bone to him, and come slowly backward and then turn around and run."
"Sure, Pa," I said.

I got out of the car with the bone in my hand and opened the back door for Booboola to come out, but Booboola didn't want to. I got him out and left the door open in case I wanted to jump back in. My father signaled for me to run away. I started running and Booboola chased me. I kept on running until I couldn't see the car. I dropped the bone on the ground and Booboola went to it. He picked it up with his mouth and made two circles and sat down to gnaw on it. I walked slowly away and towards the car, which was hiding behind the trees. I looked behind me and saw Booboola looking at me, standing. I started to run and Booboola chased me.
"Run! Run!" My father yelled.

The front passenger door was open when the car was slowly moving waiting for me to jump. Booboola was approaching me. I could feel him running behind me. I jumped like a pirate into the car, and the car made an explosion sound and sped on the brush, the briers, and the rocks, leaving a cloud of smoke behind.
"Shut the door!" My father screamed as the car was moving.

I slammed the door shut and the car rumbled down a big ditch, and boosted itself up the big ditch again, and made a turn around a tree, and another turn around another tree, and Booboola was also making these turns, following the car. The car finally jumped on a dirt road and spun its wheels on the dust, and made a huge cloud, which it would take a while for it to dissipate. I looked behind me and saw Booboola jumping off the cloud and onto the dirt road, and he was running like a crazed dog, who was chasing something, which was precious, and wanting, but he was faraway now and too small to even make out whom he was. He became just a dog. He became a dog with no master, a dog with no guidance, a dog on his own.

"He's gone," my father cut my line of thoughts. He looked sad but relieved. He knew my mom wouldn't bother him about Booboola anymore. He was sad and happy at the same time.

When I got home, the sun was hot. It had already sunk its teeth into my neighborhood. I saw my brother smoking by the famous lamppost where all neighborhood bums cadge smoke and hang out when there was nothing else shaking. My brother saw the car and dropped the cigarette, trying to hide it from my father. My poor father couldn't tell my brother to stop smoking because he had been doing worse than that. He smoked like chimney and drank alcohol almost every weekend. Sometimes he came drunk we had to hold him up when he came out of the car so that neighbors wouldn't know. But the neighbors always knew, and out of respect they had never told us so.

I went with my seven friends to Rabat Beach and forgot about Booboola, the black dog. We spent the whole day plunging and splashing in waves, playing and jumping on the sand. After we got tired we lay on our back talking to each other while looking at the blue sky. We had a wonderful time. Those were the moments I cherished dearly. After we finished with the beach and took a shower on the platform by the exit of the beach, we put our wet underwear on our head so they can dry out in the sun and walked down in single file along the street that lead to our neighborhood. Every now and then we would knock on the door of a house and ask for a piece of bread or a glass of water. People would always give us bread. We would eat it and move on to another house and keep on moving and eating until we got home. It was kind of a routine back then. Kids would do that all the time and nobody shooed us or hustled us away. One day a dog chased us and we ran away roughly at the speed of light.

After I got home, I found Booboola in the house. He was lying peacefully on the tiles. How he got back home nobody knew. My Mom was pissed and my brother and sisters were happy. My dad wasn't home yet. I couldn't look at Booboola because I felt so bad and guilty abandoning him in the woods. I felt like I betrayed him. He came up to me to say hi and I even felt guiltier. I pulled out a piece of hard bread from my pocket and gave it to him. He made two loops and sat down to eat it.

After my dad came back, my mom went up to him right away, before he even sat down, and ordered him to get rid of the dog. My father slowly sat down on his chair and looked down at the dog and then looked up at my mom. I was wondering what he was thinking about at the moment.
"I know of a farmer friend," he said. "Boobker Al Harrate is his name. He owns a farm a couple hours away south of the Casablanca Highway. I'll take him there early tomorrow morning. How about that?"
"Good," my mom said and went to the kitchen.
My father looked at me and said, "You're going with me, Sidi Ahmed."
"Can Ben Asher go with you?" I said.
"I'll see if your brother will go with me," he said.
The next morning I kissed Booboola goodbye and I have never seen him ever since.
© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra– October 2006

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