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••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line From Our Archives

The Child Molester and the Sea
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
Suddenly a feeling came upon me, a feeling that somebody was watching me.

It 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 house.

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 house.

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 bad one.
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 to Hassan.
"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 the butterfly.
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 the stomach.
"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 out.

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 seashore.
"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 him in.
"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 the sunset.

It has been twenty-seven years that I haven't heard of him.

© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra 2002
email: sidi.benzahra at

My First Kiss


*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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