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Two Ghosts of the Christian Cemetery
specialty was rock throwing. He could throw a rock at you and
hit you no matter how fast you ran or how quick you dodged.
was a very sad day for us, the Cherkawi family, to move back from our
sunny neighborhood, Douar Rjafallah of Rabat, Morocco, to our old, moldy
district of Akkari, which was a couple of miles away. I always preferred
to stay in this poor, sunny neighborhood because it was located in the
outskirts of town, and had plenty of vacant lots, train tracks, and
Anyway, the outskirts of our sunny neighborhood contained plenty of
dumpsters and shit piles, like I said. We used to rummage through them
and look for copper wires and broken pieces of glass to sell to Father
Mustapha Junkyard, and if the price wasnt good, we would walk
a long distance to Bugarba gas station for a better offer.
Our sunny neighborhood had two slightly crazed people. Their names were
Mhimzat and Leily. They were both polarized in their minds. Mhimzats
specialty was rock throwing. He could throw a rock at you and hit you
no matter how fast you ran or how quick you dodged. It had been claimed
by older kids that once a kid made a turn around the corner of a block,
running away from Mhimzats rock, and the rock also made the turn
to follow him. Mhimzat shouldve been a sharp shooter at the Regragui
Military compound, which was located by the back road and the high cliff.
He walked fast, and his head was always bent to one side, against his
shoulder, like if some invisible person was standing on top of his shoulders,
pushing his head to one side. Whenever we saw him, we threw rocks at
him and he would right away look for a rock to throw back at us. But
by the time he had found a rock, we would have already found a place
to hide. We had experience with him at hiding, but his rocks would always
hit the un-experienced kids.
Leily was the opposite of Mhimzat. He was a peaceful man even though
he always wore black. He had the body of an older man but the brains
of a child. He liked playing marbles with us and he always had many
marbles in his pocket, which you could hear jiggling whenever he approached
us to play. He also had this special marble that was made of steel and
he would play with it and hold it with his big, dirty hand, fascinated
by it, as though it was the only steel marble in the whole world. He
would be playing with us when all of sudden he would collapse on the
ground and start to shake convulsively like if he was possessed by a
devil. Kids would gather around to watch, looking at him shaking like
a dying person, but one of us, experienced kids, who had witnessed this
event time and time again, would exactly know what to do. We would shake
a set of keys next to his big head, thinking the sound would thwart
the devil out of him. He would keep on moving and shaking, white foam
oozing out from the corner of his mouth. But then after a moment or
so, he would rise up like a phoenix from the dust of the playground,
and he would dust off his black pants, and start to play marbles with
We left all these memories when we had to leave our sunny neighborhood
and move back to Akkari. This neighborhood was totally different from
the sunny one. There was not much dust in it, but there were many people
shopping around and plenty of kids running about, not knowing what to
do with their lives. I befriended some of the kids, of course, but it
was not like the good friendship of the poor, sunny neighborhood.
Akkari was a neighborhood that has power. I was born there. My father
grew up in Akkari. He was proud of his Arabic heritage. He participated
in booting out the French from Morocco. We caught them and punish them
and kicked their ass out to overseas, my father had told me. My father,
in these Akkari streets, had told me that we are number one. We are
great people, he said. We have a great religion. We invaded Europe,
Asia, and Africa all in one shot, he said proudly. He told me to always
stand up and deliver. I think my father forgot about his drinking problem
when he was telling me this. I wish I knew what to deliver at that time.
So far the only thing that comes in my mind is Pizza.
There was a set of buildings in Akkari neighborhood. And there were
a few old trees between these buildings and an old Christian cemetery.
There was hardly any grass on the ground below the old trees, except
for some rusted cans, old dusty pipes, and a few garbage piles careless
neighbors would dump at night when nobody was watching. A high wall
was erected to separate between the Christian cemetery and the old trees
and the neighborhood. This cemetery once stood alone in the wilderness,
but because of population explosion, the neighborhood came up to it
to push it around. Now this cemetery is engulfed by the neighborhood.
Every once in a while kids would monkey up its walls and steel a vase
of flowers, an ornament, or a baby angel. If the ornaments were cemented
to the grave, they would break them off with a rock and take them. I
had never climbed these walls, but I had once gotten inside through
the gate and saw the graves and read the names on the epitaphs.
But one afternoon, my sister, Boushra, was playing with her friends
next to the street that goes along the set of buildings. She was playing
under the trees, close to the cemetery wall, but since it had gotten
dark, she moved to the other side of the buildings, to the lighted area
by the street. The sun was coming down slowly and the neighborhood was
getting dark and the crowd of people was thinning. It was time for my
sister to go home. We always gathered in the evening to drink coffee
and eat bread with butter. Sometimes if we were lucky we would eat apricot
jam instead of butter. But when my sister was ready to go, she heard
people saying something and pointing to the direction of the old trees
and the cemetery wall. She could see a line of people, looking and gathering.
My sister ran to them with her friends and saw two women wrapped in
white sheets. These women were walking and sliding and hugging the cemetery
wall. They were moving in such a weird way that is not typical of our
culture. One arm would hug the wall and push against it for the body
to move. Both women were doing the same thing, as they were moving and
squirming down against the wall. Nobody could approach them even though
they were many tough guys watching. Everybody knew that those women
werent human, and everybody was scared of them. The women kept
on walking and squirming against the wall when all of sudden they went
through the wall and disappeared. My sister saw that and she ran away.
She came home scared green to tell us the story. I still remember the
look on her face when she was telling us the story.
© Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
Nov 17, 2001
Sidi C. Benzahra
I decided to confront my fear and go to the white shack - see all that
blood and gore.
CHILD MOLESTER AND THE SEA
Sidi Cherkawi Benzahra
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