International Writers Magazine: Fiction - Archive
the Black Dog
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
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 housewe
lost one to cancer a few years laterand 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
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 thenroofs in Rabat are all flat for we
had never seen any snowand 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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra October 2006
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