Apr 25, 2005


We walked up the side of the volcano. The ferns are just coming back. We got almost to the radar station; two dogs came running down the hill, out through the trees. Barking like we were the devils. We scared 'em back up the hill, turned off, and sat on a rock.

He told me again about the makhzen, the system, how it used to work. The bottom dweller was the mokaddam. The sheikh. He was the tracker. He gave up to the Khalifa or the Kayad, who in turn went to the pasha, who went to the governor, who might, if something was up, call a friend in the palace. Everyone new in town, the mokaddam found out who they were, where they were from.

Still now, you go to town to get a housing permit. They tell you to come back while the mokaddam finds out your particulars. He asks the guards at the residence, or at one of the corporate retreat centers. The guards always know. You don't think they're watching. After all, it's a peephole of a window in the guardhouse at the residence, and what do they do all day? They sit in flimsy card table chairs talking about nothing. Sometimes, you'll see them pray. But they're working all the time. they talk to the cabbies, they watch like hawks at night. American girl has indiscriminate taste for Moroccan men, brings the cabbies up for some inshallah. It all goes to the mokaddam. And then you're a dossier down on the second floor of the police station behind the Cookie Cracque. I still can't figure out the name.

He tells me these things and, of course, what to believe. He's just a student. Still, he seems to know. He tells me people still disappear. Yea, but how do you KNOW that, I ask. Because the place is so matthair thick with rumors, I never quite believe. "I can't tell you," he says. "But they took someone in our family."

"I don't believe it," I say.

"Believe it," he says. And just then two kids passed below us carrying stolen firewood. "All I can tell you is that nothing has really changed except the appearance.

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