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The International Writers Magazine: Real Life Travel Stories

A Moroccan 20-Dollar Foot
• Sidi Benzahra Cherkawi

Because the road was narrow, I stopped my rented car to wait for another car to pass through, coming in from the opposite direction. My beautiful Moroccan wife was sitting next to me and we were listening to Radio 2M. We were in the City of Salé, the heat was blazing outside, the air-conditioning was struggling inside.

Dusty Road

After the other car had passed through, I drove away slowly when all of sudden it felt as though I drove on something. I thought it could be some one-side road bump left out from an old regular bump, but I could see no one on the road, when I was waiting for the other car to pass through. I thought it was just a rock or a piece of garbage so I kept on driving picking up the speed when all of sudden again I heard thumps on the side of the car. Somebody was banging on the car, running on the side of it, as the car was moving. I stopped the car and pushed some button to open the window on the side where my wife was sitting.
“You drove over my foot,” protested the guy, violently banging on my car.

He was about 18 years old and he looked angry and shaken. He was staring at me like I killed his sister.
“I am sorry,” I said in Moroccan Arabic.

I am originally from Morocco. I kept my language even though I lived in the US for 32 years continuously. I looked at my wife for help and my wife looked back at me not saying a thing.
“Open the door,” I said to my wife. I wanted to see the guy’s foot. His foot was shaking very fast and to add insult to injury he was wearing plastic thong sandals. Those sandals can’t protect a thing. I noticed that most Moroccans wore sandals. It was summertime but still, almost everybody was wearing sandals, even those that drive motorcycles. I really once saw a guy driving a huge Harley Davidson wearing sandals. I live in Southern California. There are tons of people that drive Harleys and I have never seen one wearing sandals. All of them wore shoes or boots and some of them even wore leather pants and leather jackets. And it’s warm there all the time. Leather is an extra skin to protect your skin.

The reason people don’t wear sandals when they drive motorcycles is because of safety. If one has a motorcycle accident and was wearing sandals, he or she will scrape half of their foot on the concrete of the road. I cannot imagine myself driving a motorcycle wearing sandals. Anyway, the guy was wearing Thong sandals and his foot was dirty with dust and sweat and it was shaking violently and he was looking at me, both his hands shaking, and his eyes asking for help. He was in a state of shock.
“Get in the car,” I said. “I have to take you to the hospital.”
The guy got in and sat in the back seat and I drove away.
“Where is the nearest hospital?” I asked.
“Up the road,” he said. “Not far from here.”

I decided to drop my wife at my sister’s house. My sister’s house is like a hotel. She bought it as a place to stay for the summer whenever she came from the US for a vacation, but she never came and now any member of the family that came from overseas would use it as a hotel.

After I dropped my wife, we headed for the hospital. The guy’s foot was still shaking. I told him the car is small – a tiny Fiat - and his foot should be okay because it was probably standing flat when the car drove on it. He told that the wheel had twisted his foot as the wheel was turning and probably crushed it.
“Where is the hospital?” I asked again.
“My sister works in the hospital,” he said. "If we both of us go to the hospital, they will make us wait. This is not an emergency to them.”
“But we can go directly to your sister at the hospital.”
He said, “My sister is at home now. Take me to my sister’s house now and then she can take me there.”

I agreed and I started to think. I said to myself, I am going to have a long day, spending time at the hospital, discussing insurance with the police, and explaining the accident with the rental company. I started to worry.
“You are not from here,” he said.
“How do you know?” I asked.
“Your license plate,” he said.
I rented the car from Bouznika, a small town, not far from Rabat, the capital.
He said, “If you give me 120 Dirhams – about 12 Dollars - to pay for the x-rays, I can go to my sister, and my sister will take me to the hospital, and I don’t have to wait.”
“Give me your phone number or your home address,” I said. “So I can contact you in case something major occurred to your foot.”
“I don’t want my mom to know,” he said. “She just had a heart attack. If she knows, she will worry so much about me. I don’t want her to worry. I am afraid she will have another heart attack.”
“Fair enough I said,” and I stopped the car near a coffee shop to get the change. I had only 200 Dirham bills.
“Why did you stop?” He asked.
“To get the change,” I responded. “You said, you want 120 Dirhams for x-rays.”
“That’s the minimum I asked for. I still have to take the bus to get back home.”
I pulled out one 200 DH bill – about 20 Dollars - from my pocket and gave it to him.
“Thank you,” He said. “Are you Shelh?”
Shelh means Berber. I said, “No, I am not shelh.”
“I am Shelh,” he said.
To this day, I have no idea why he asked me if I was a Berber.
“That 200 DH you gave me is not enough,” he said. “please give me more.”

I thought 20 Dollars is cheap. I came from the US. If I had an accident like this in the US, it will cost me more. I will have to wait for the cop to come in. The cop will file a report, the report will go to my insurance and my insurance might increase in value even if it wasn’t my fault. So 20 Dollars in this case is like a drop in the bucket. I fumbled for some change in my right pocket and pulled out an equivalent of 20 DH of change. I gave the change to the guy and he grabbed my hand and kissed it.
“Thank you,” he said.
I was confused. I said to myself, I damaged this guy’s foot and he is kissing my hand. The guy opened the door and exited.
“Go to that coffee shop,” I said, “and get some ice and put it against your foot to stop the pain and swelling.”
“Thank you,” he said.
I drove away, but later on, when I looked down into an open container between the front seats, I found out that my USB was gone. It contained files for my business, very important files. I called my friend, Tounsi, to tell him what had happened and to let him know that I would be coming late for our meeting, he said: “You’ve been cheated, my friend. The guy fooled you into thinking it was an accident. The guy planted his foot on a purpose, to get the 200 DH.”
© Sidi Benzahra Cherkawi
Written in Salé, Morocco, August 2012.

A Leg to Die For
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
My grandfather took his leg to Lalla Fatima and she invoked the spirit and did all she could do to heal his leg

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