The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes in Morocco
Strange, Sunny Vacant Lot
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
were many vacant lots in the old city where I was born. The old
city exists only in my memory, and it is now completely mixed
with my imagination. I wish one day I can walk through some tunnel
of imagination and get to that old city and to the vacant lot,
I used to play in, and become a kid again, just for one hour or
two, and run in it in my shorts, and fall down like I used to,
or a bump a lamppost, and get some bruises on my forehead, and
play soccer until the sun goes down.
Since there were
many vacant lots in my old city, the strange vacant lot was right there
on the edge of my neighborhood. We called it Abu Hanbals lot.
I walked a million times to school through that lot. Many things had
happened there. Some of them were good and some were evil. I can only
tell you some and I will try to be fair and square and tell you the
good things first, and then if I get the courage, I will tell you the
bad ones last. There was a deep cliff on one side of the lot and a high,
concrete wall on the other. The wall faced east and was all cracked
up from the sun, and many large rocks were erected along its foot so
that kids would sit on and watch soccer games. When we played soccer
there, we always had to beg for a kid to stand by the cliff to catch
the ball incase somebody missed and threw it to the side. Bunch of kids
had fallen from that cliff, trying to catch the ball, but there were
no major catastrophes because the cliff was not that steep, and there
were rocks and shrubs kids would hung on.
One of the good things that had happened to me in that lot was I found
a turkey. I was walking to school across the lot, head down, kicking
small rocks, when something large and black flapped by my side. It was
a huge turkeya colossus of black feathers and clawed feet. The
turkey wasnt wild. Wild turkeys can really hurt you with their
claws. But this turkey was fat and domestic. Probably somebody was fattening
him up for some occasion but he got loose somehow. The turkey stared
at me, his eyes seized with dark fear. His feathers were perked up as
though he knew what would happen to him. I saw him and I suddenly dropped
my school bag onto the dust and chased the turkey. The turkey swung
around in his place and charged on the dust toward the cliff, bouncing,
head going up and down, short wings beating on air uselessly. The turkey's
body was too heavy for the wings to pick him up, and the cliff was too
close when I jumped on the turkey and grabbed one of his legs. I spat
the sand and stood up with the turkey in a cloud of dust. His legs were
hard like dry sticks when I curled my small fingers around them. His
neck was long and awfully ugly. The turkey was tall and heavy and I
had to curl up my arm, lifting him up so that his head wouldn't drag
against the ground. I decided to take him home, because I knew my mom
would enjoy cooking him with couscous. Finding a turkey and taking it
home for food wasnt such a bad thing after all, but it was very
bad for the turkey.
Another good thing that had happened in that lot was one day I was dragging
my feet to school when I saw a 1000 Rial bill flapping and turning in
the wind. It was very hard to find a 1000 Rial bill lying around at
that time. 1000 Rials to a kid back then was like 100 dollars to a grownup
now. You could have a good breakfast, a good lunch, a good dinner, a
good drink from a bar, and even a good cigar. I chased it like my life
depended on it. There was always a strong wind in that lot, for the
lot was situated in a large clearing where there were no trees or bushes
to block the wind. A flux of wind would get generated in the air somehow
and grew stronger and harsher and descend on the lot and sweep it and
lift its dust and shrubs and debris, and blow them over the cliff and
down onto the small panorama of rocks, shrubs, and rusted cars. Whenever
I tried to grab that bill it would move away from me, as though it was
connected to a string and somebody at the other end of the string was
pulling on it just to aggravate me. I remember I was wearing plastic
sandals on that daymy mom always bought me Moroccan-leather sandals
but I preferred plastic ones instead because they worked well with soccer,
so I threw them out and chased the sucker and jumped on it before it
got to the cliff. I grabbed that 1000 Rial bill and stood there feeling
happy in the dust, my face all dirty, thinking about what to do with
all that money. I remember it took me a long time to spend that bill.
Everyday I would buy some candy, or pop, and enjoy every bite and every
gulp, knowing that one day it would all go away and I would become poor
So far, I told you about the good things that had happened in the lot.
Now brace yourself for the bad things, my dear reader. Bad things always
come last because it is very hard to talk about them. One day my sister,
Fatiha, was walking through the lot when she saw a mound of ashes by
the cracked wall of the lot. When we were kids we would walk by fences
or walls to find paper money, because if somebody loses them, they would
get blown off by the wind and stop at the foot of the fence or the wall.
My sister was probably searching for paper money when she saw that mound
of ashes and thought it was cold when in facts it was cold only on the
outside, but burning hot in the inside. She walked on the ashes and
she was only wearing plastic sandals and the plastic sandals melted
in the hot ashes and onto her skin. My sister screamed of pain and ran
to the house from the lot with her melted sandals. My father was working
at the time, so there was no car to take her to the hospital. My mom
took my sister to the kitchen. Our kitchen was the hospital back then.
There was always something in the kitchen to help your sickness. For
example, if you have an upset stomach, my mom would boil thyme and give
it to you for a drink. If you have sore throat she would mix honey and
lemon in a cup and give it to you to drink. If you have a headache she
would make you mint tea and mixed it with some secret herbs and give
it to you to drink. The good thing about this is you would feel better
afterwards. My mom grabbed a couple of potatoes and put them on the
counter and sliced them off into disks as fast as she could while my
sister was screaming from pain. She put the potato disks on my sisters
feet, so that my sisters feet would suck in all the juice there
was in the disks. This juice was supposed to make my sister heal, my
mom had figured. Every time a slice touched my sisters feet, she
would scream and my mom would yell at her to stop from screaming.
Another bad thing that had happened in the lot was actually very strange.
You might not believe this, but it is true that it had happened. I once
was walking through the lot coming from school, dragging my feet, when
I saw a guy standing by a dry brush and masturbating. Yes, you heard
me right, the guy was masturbating. In facts, he was pumping his penis
like pure gold was going coming out it. He was an older kid, about eighteen.
I was in my early teens. He didnt see me. He was masturbating
and shaking and grimacing with pleasure. I started laughing when I saw
him acting funny like that. The masturbator heard me laugh and when
he saw me he stopped pumping. He looked at me and then he looked at
his penis and made the connection that what he was doing was inappropriate.
I could see that in his face and in his reaction. I got scared and prepared
to run. He moved towards me and I started to run. I knew he wouldnt
catch me because I was a very fast kid. Somehow I could run very fast.
The masturbator chased me and I could see him trying hard to approach
me. I picked up the speed and after a while he knew it would be impossible
to catch me and he picked up a rock and threw it at me instead. I yelled,
masturbator, a couple of times and kept on running until I got to the
center of my neighborhood. I walked home laughing to myself. My mom
saw me laughing and she became curious. Since I couldnt tell her
she grabbed a sandal to spank me.
"Why are you laughing?" she asked. I knew she would hit me
if I didnt tell her.
"I saw a guy pooping, Ma, pooping by the wall of Abu Hanbals
My mom smiled, let go of me, and went to the kitchen.
I have to tell you the very bad thing that had happened in the lot.
Back then to be a homosexual was a death sentence. I dont
know about now. Ive been in America for a long time. In facts,
I lived in America more than I lived in Morocco. I have no idea
whats going on in Morocco these days. But then, if you were
gay and people knew about it, you were done with. They would shun
you, isolate you, and beat you up if an opportunity came their way.
In our neighborhood
there was a kid who was secretly gay. His name was Mernissi. Every kid
in the neighborhood knew he was gay, but since he didnt come out,
they werent that sure. One day a bunch of kids were planning to
play soccer in the lot so they got together and asked me to bring Mernissi
over to the lot. Mernissi somehow trusted me more than he trusted any
other kid. I was a good kid back then. I am still a good person, I guess.
I asked Mernissi to go with us and he said yes. My best friend, Mustapha,
brought his leathery sun-beaten soccer ball, and we all met at Omars
bike shop on Al-Farabi Street. We hawked a plastic container from Omars
shit-pile in the back of the shop, and filled it with water from the
fish market fountain and walked down the dirt road between the sunny
squares houses of our neighborhood until we got to the lot. One of us
kids kicked the soccer ball to the lot and we all ran after it. We played
a great deal of soccer until we got tired and then we scrambled down
the cliff to the rusted, stripped cars that lay down below. I was talking
to my best friend Mustapha when all of sudden a kid wrestled Mernissi
to the ground. A second kid came to Mernissi and started pulling down
his pants. A third kid pulled out a big carrot from his pocket and went
behind Mernissi. I didnt know how that kid managed to hide that
big of a carrot through out all that running, tackling, and hustling
during the soccer game. What they were trying to do to Mernissi was
very bad. A part of me knew what they were doing was wrong, and the
other part was getting suppressed by the peer pressure. Three kids were
holding Mernissi and poor Mernissi was looking at me, crying for help.
Suddenly I saw the carrot kid readying the carrot to shove it up Mernisss
I cried loudly.
"Why?" one of the kids said. "He is Hassass." Hassass
means gay in Moroccan Arabic.
"I dont care," I said. "You better stop."
I was a very strong kid. I was a good wrestler too. I was somewhat skinny
but very strong. My mom fed us good food, mostly fresh vegetables.
One kid let go of Mernissi and Mernissi looked at me for help. He was
"Give me the carrot," I told the carrot kid. "Give me
the fucking carrot."
The carrot kid didnt want to. I picked up a big rock and held
it over my head ready to swing it at him. I wasnt going to; it
was just a scare tactic. Mustapha picked up another rock and stood by
my side. The carrot kid saw the two rocks and studied them carefully
and handed me the carrot. I threw the rock away with one hand and snatched
the carrot with the other. I snapped the carrot in two halves. I didnt
want to snap the halves into two, because I was afraid I wouldnt
be able to, because the carrot was thick and hard.
Now that the carrot was snapped, all the other kids let go of Mernissi.
Mernissi, tears on his cheek, pulled up his pants quickly and came to
stand behind me and Mustapha.
"Mustapha," I called. "Lets get the fuck out of
Mustapha threw the rock away and boosted himself up to the foot of the
cliff. Mernissi followed him and I followed Mernissi.
After I came to America I barely kept contact with Morocco. When my
mom came to America for good, she told me that poor Mernissi had died.
I felt very sad. I still feel sad when I think about him. I am very
proud I saved Mernissi from that rape. I am very proud I wrote this
story about him.
© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
Written in Los Angeles Airport
Flight NW 320 was delayed 3 hours.
Death of an Immigrant
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
Queen of Nightmares
Sidi Benzahra - she's dead sexy
Drives a Mercedes Benz
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
Sidi is a regular contributor to Hackwriters and works in education
in the field of nuclear physics
all rights reserved