The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Stories
way to lose your coat
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
dad was an auto-body man. He made his living in a dusty shop,
fixing and painting cars. He was also illiterate. He had never
gone to school and there were no schools back then for him to
go to. Of course, there were some schools nearby, but they were
only for the rich.
My dads family
was poor. He lived like a fly on the ground. His dad was a private in
the army and his mom was a common, regular housewife. My grand-grand
parents were rich and wise and respected religious people. In facts,
they were descendents of Omar Ibn Al Khattab, a relative of the prophet
Mohamed. But somebody in my family tree line fucked up somehow, and
the rest of my family went down the drain with the slime of poverty.
When my dad was about fourteen his parents filed for divorce and my
dad left the house and started to sell newspapers. I dont know
how he made a living selling newspaper because Morocco at the time was
full of illiterate people. It is possible that he sold his newspaper
to the French people. There were many French people living in Morocco
at the time and some of them wanted to live in Morocco forever. Morocco
is not a bad country, after all. It is like California if you look at
it from some point of view. I lived in Morocco when I was a kid and
I now live in California. Some plants I saw in Morocco I found them
right here in San Luis Obispo, California. Rabat, where I was born,
is like San Luis Obispo, except that San Luis Obispo has hills, expensive
cars, and girls with nifty clothes and big breasts.
My dad was a hard working man. He worked hard but he also drank too.
He tried very hard to avoid drinking, but in the end he gave up to it
and died jobless and moneyless at age 61. They took his shop and sold
his tools and my mother buried him in a nearby cemetery by an old beach
and the mighty Atlantic Ocean. My dad was like Dylan Thomas; it is just
Dylan wrote poetry and drank himself to death while my dad painted cars
My dad used to wake up early in the morning and leave for work. He had
an old, ancient car. When he wanted to make a turn, a bar with red light,
would stick out from the side of the car, between the two side doors,
and swing up and down like a hand, waving, signaling for the turn. One
early, foggy morning, my dad left the house and drove his old car to
the parking lot of a small diner up the hill near a vacant lot. It was
a sand lot and had three tall palm trees that looked over it, over the
diner, and over the Casablanca highway. The fog was so thick and you
could hardly see the diner from here, if you stood fifty yards away.
My dad usually had his breakfast there, when the business was good and
his wallet was full of Dirhams. If he was broke, he would just have
breakfast with us, kids, at home.
He entered the diner now and saw his friend, Hassan, sitting at the
counter, eating scrambled eggs and drinking black coffee. He was the
only customer in the diner and my dad was happy when he saw him. Hassan
and my dad were good friends, very good friends indeed. My dad sat up
on a stool next to Hassan and a fat cook boosted himself along the counter,
towards my dad.
"Good morning, Cherkawi," the fat cook said.
"Morning," my dad responded, wearing a long coat.
My dad sat down next to Hassan and put his arm around him to show an
"How are you," he said, looking happy.
"Okay," lied Hassan.
Hassan wasnt okay. He felt funny this morning. He couldnt
breathe as well. He was short of breath even though the air this morning
was clean and fresh.
"Two eggs and a bowl of barley soup," my dad ordered the fat
"How do you want your eggs?" the fat cook asked.
"Sunny side up," my dad said and pulled a cigarette from the
side pocket of his long coat.
The two men at the diner talked, the fat man cooked eggs on the plate,
and a truck rumbled nearby. The Casablanca highway wasnt that
far from the diner. A black dog walked into the vacant lot and stood
in the fog to look around for a moment. He then went to the foot of
one of the palm trees and took a leak. He held his head high and from
the look on his face you could tell he was enjoying that leak.
"Well, I have to go," said Hassan. "We are expecting
some customers this morning."
Hassan was a mechanic. He worked for a French man in a shop at the Boudarbala
Avenue of the sea shore. He had a wife, five kids, and a mom; all living
together under the same roof. Hassan stood up from the stool and put
his right hand on my dads shoulder.
"See you, Buddy," he said and walked lazily out.
"See you," my dad said and plunged back onto his dish of eggs.
He almost finished. He was about to leave too.
After a minute or so, my dad and the fat cook could hear Hassan turning
the crank, trying to start the car. Back then all cars needed a crank
to start. Keys were only used to lock cars. Outside, you could see Hassan
in the thick fog, bent over in front of his old car, turning the crank
clockwise. The car didnt want to start and Hassan didnt
want to stop from cranking. My dad walked out of the diner to offer
help. He walked into the fog and approached Hassan. Hassan slowly stood
up and turned around to talk to my dad. Suddenly he dropped the crank
and held his chest and made a painful face. He wanted to speak but no
word came out. My dad knew it was a heart attack.
"Whats going on?" my dad asked.
Hassan made more of a painful face, holding his chest, leaning back
against his old car. The fat cook got out and jumped from the steps
of the diner and bounced like a ball onto the parking lot. He had probably
looked through the window and the fog and could make out what had been
happening. He came running while Hassan was lowering himself to the
My dad was confused. All he could do was, stick out his arms for help.
Meanwhile Hassan was going down.
"Heart attack," my dad said to the fat cook.
Hassan was now lying on his back and on the wet concrete of the parking
lot. He looked up into the fog and looked at my dads face and
my dad knew that look. It was the look of the final goodbye.
"Say the final statement for him," the fat cook told my dad.
"He cant speak."
My dad stuck out his index from his right hand and said, "There
is no god but God, and Mohamed is his prophet."
Hassan closed his eyes and died quietly.
The black dog walked out the sand lot and ran a little to a house nearby.
That time there was no phone you can use to call the police or the Paramedics.
The nearest police station was downtown.
"What should we do?" my dad looked at the fat cook.
"Notify the authority," the fat cook said primly.
My dad took off his coat and lay it down on Hassan, covering his face.
Hassans face was now covered by a coat and by the thick fog of
that gray morning. My dad and the fat cook stood over Hassans
body looking down, thinking, and sucking the morrow of reality.
When my dad came home, my mom went up to him and asked, "Where
is your coat?"
My dad sat down on a chair by the door and began to cry.
© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra - July 2005
sbenzahr at calpoly.edu
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