Feb 14, 2006


The Tides Above Agadir

Salim Bouhadi, who used to be the police chief in Tiznit until he left in disgrace, hurried up the dirt road away from the bluffs, waving his hands like a mad man. “Here, here,” he shouted at the black car coming up the coast road. The car saw him, turned and came down the narrow bumpy road slowly and deliberately. Finally, the car reached Mr. Bouhadi, the tinted window lowered and the general prosecutor’s face dropped down like an old projection screen. “Where are they?” the face asked. Salim couldn’t catch his breath. He saw that the prosecutor was alone. “Down there,” he said, pointing to the ocean. “The tide is coming in.”
“I’ll take care of it,” said the prosecutor and drove on. Salim had meant to mention the three boys perched on the sand dune that ends in the cliff above the cove. Salim had sent the boys away earlier but when they saw him running up the access road they returned. No matter. Having spent a lifetime in the interior ministry during les annees noirs, Salim made sure to find out where the boys lived and the names of their fathers.
The general prosecutor drove to the bluff and remained in his car. He had not been to this place in many years. To his left, he could just make out the dark smoke of the electricity plant on the outskirts of Agadir, from where he had come. In front of him a white fishing trawler pitched and rolled through the white caps. To his right he noticed three boys several hundred meters away. The boys sat on the cliffs, below a towering sand dune. They were looking down into a cove and now they were looking at him. He got out of the car and leaning into the wind walked toward them. After a moment two boys took off like egrets and flew up and over the dune.
The prosecutor passed a shallow gorge and noticed a narrow foot path winding down through the rock, presumably to the cove below. The path was steep and littered with old water bottles, yogurt containers and shredded black plastic bags. He could hear waves breaking in the cove, but he could not see them. He walked along the edge of the gorge toward the boy who had not run off. He looked to be 11 or 12 and held a shepherd’s stick. He was stringy and wall-eyed and didn’t seem intimidated by the prosecutor who was unusually tall and in his black sharkskin suit suggested an official to be feared.
“Water?” asked the boy, putting his thumb in his mouth and throwing back his head.
The prosecutor shook his head. “Is there someone down there?” he asked.
The boy nodded and held up two fingers.
“Have they been down there long?”
“All day,” said the boy who then held out his hand.
The prosecutor reached into his pocket and gave the boy two dihrams. “A man and a woman?”
The boy nodded.
“Are they trapped?”
The boy looked down into the cove but didn’t reply.
“Are they’re trapped?”
“They can’t come up.”
“They can’t reach the rope.”
“What rope?”
“There’s a rope.”
“Why can’t they reach the rope?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders. “They were yelling for someone to help them.”
“Not for a while.”
“I want you to go down and see where they are,” said the prosecutor. “Go.”
The boy jumped up, but then hesitated. “They’re not wearing any clothes,” he said.
“I don’t care,” said the prosecutor. “Go.”
The boy ran back 50 meters to where the gorge began and disappeared. The prosecutor moved closer to the cliff edge hoping to see more of the crescent shpaed cove, but much of it was tucked back under the rock and he could see only a sliver at the far end of the crescent. That was awash in breaking waves. He crouched down the way policeman do when they look for clues. He wondered when the tide would be highest and if there was another way out. Perhaps, they could swim out of the cove and around to the beach on either side. But then it occurred to him that his daughter could not swim.....

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