MONDAY: You Will Forever Be My Always


This is a novel excerpt. Copyright is held by the author.

BRAHIM PICKED him up from Casablanca airport. Charlie gritted his teeth when they came to the roundabout at the city’s edge. It was Friday and cars bumped and scratched each other coming into Casablanca. A lot of yelling and gesticulating was involved. Two drivers seemed very heated.

“What are they saying?” he asked his friend.

“Very politely one says, ‘Excuse me, I do believe I had the right-of-way, but I could be mistaken.’ The other says, ‘You may be right. Let us confer with a police officer.’”

“Yeah, right,” Charlie scoffed. They both burst out laughing. 

“Where is Margo?” asked Brahim.

“Who’s Margo?”

The rest of the trip to Rabat should have been spent in silence, but Brahim’s phone buzzed constantly and when he answered the conversation was conducted loudly in hostile tones.

After one such exchange, Charlie asked, “What was that all about?”

“What was what all about?”

“Point taken.”

“Charlie, are you hungry?”

“I could eat a horse.”

“Will camel meat be all right?”

“I was joking.”

“So was I. Though you shouldn’t knock it till you try it.”

“Noura has prepared dinner for us.”

Oh good, Noura was a great cook.

They arrived and Brahim dropped Charlie and his luggage in front of his building. It could take him five minutes or a half hour to find street parking in this area. Noura buzzed him up and he climbed the three flights to be greeted by Brahim’s girlfriend and the smells of freshly prepared tagine.

In a lot of ways, Noura was old-fashioned. No big hugs, but kisses delivered on both cheeks and a warm, welcoming smile. But she wore western jeans and a colorful blouse.

Brahim came in panting.

“How far away did you have to park?” Charlie asked.

“Not too far. Four blocks.”

“My god! You’re practically at the beach.”

“My car has a very pleasant view. Perhaps tomorrow morning we can take our coffee to my parking place and watch the sun rise together.”

Brahim showed him to his room, narrow with sofas lining both sides of the room, with large, intricate artwork incorporating words from the Quran and a large window that opened to shout at street vendors as they passed below.

Charlie wanted to call his wife, but it was 4:00 am in New York and he wasn’t sure he was ready.

They ate the tagine in traditional style; Charlie sat on his left hand to force himself to eat only with his right. They gave you a pass when you weren’t from there, but he always went total Moroccan. He already looked at his left hand with disdain, but it was the right one that really betrayed him, shaking when he wasn’t looking.

He breathed in the ingredients of the tagine: chicken surrounded by slices of potato, onion, carrots, tomatoes, herbs, bay leaf, ginger, garlic, drops of lemon and olive oil and saffron. This smell, to him, was the essence of Morocco. They finished the meal with Moroccan “whiskey,” a mint tea that was usually much too sweet and pieces of fruit.

It wasn’t until then that Brahim brought out the hash and the hookah. The hookah looked like a child’s toy. Is it a child’s toy? “Happy birthday, son. Here’s your starter hookah!”

“No, my friend. This water pipe is for serious business. Adults only.”

 Brahim turned to Noura and said something in Arabic. She left the room.

“She doesn’t partake. I told her I would see her tomorrow.”

He was really stoned, eyes red and at half-mast.

“What time is it?”

“10:56 PM.”

“What time would that be in L.A.?”

He really wanted to know, but he didn’t want to turn on his long-distance plan to find out from Siri what time it was in L.A. Besides, he had to save his minutes for actual conversations when he did reach her.

He already knew he was too stoned to talk to her. He and Brahim mumbled at each other, their limbs heavy. He would deal with that shit in the brilliance and promise of a new day. Yeah, right.

He woke at 10 am ready to make that phone call. He really wanted to make some peace with her. When he left his advertising job to write the next great novel, she supported them both, never complaining about how he locked himself away to chase his muse. Or that it took him two years and he was still at it. In his travels he had neglected to put anything to paper.

“Hi, Peggy. It’s me again.”

“She’s not here, Charlie.”

“I’ll keep trying.”

“It has only been three weeks. The doctor said six to eight to heal. That means I’m going to be here a while.”

“OK. Thanks, Peggy.”

“What, no smartass comeback?”

“Not today. See ya.”

He hadn’t realized he had dropped off again till Brahim woke him an hour later.

“Come on, my friend. You need a cleanse.”

You Will Forever Be My Always                                                                                Dan McCrory

The neighborhood hammam was just two blocks away. As usual, there were two entrances, one per gender. Cold water, lots of it, was thrown against the tiles that covered every surface of the hammam. The cold water made the heat of the hammam tolerable, but it still threatened to suffocate him if he stayed in one room took long. He lay his face, left cheek pressed to the floor, to feel the tiny breeze as the caretaker scrubbed every inch of exposed skin with black soap till it was raw.

This was a local hammam rarely frequented by strangers, especially by a chunky 60-year-old Jewish guy in his bathing suit.

A year before on his first trip to the hammam, he had stripped off all his clothes and wrapped his towel around his waist. The older guys threw stern frowns his way. Others avoided looking in his general direction.

“Don’t leave that thing wagging about,” Brahim hissed at him. “You’re embarrassing me.”

Funny people. Guys will hold hands, kiss each other, but don’t you dare show your putz!

Charlie left the hammam, as always, feeling as though his pores were wide open. He felt every whisper of air pass over his body.

“Let’s get breakfast,” suggested Brahim. “You’re buying.”

They sat eating khlea, the nearest thing to bacon in a Muslim country, and fried eggs. The restaurant was small and loud passionate conversations flooded the place with noise.

“What brings you to Morocco this time, my friend?”

“I wasn’t welcome at home.”

“You know you are always welcome here.”

Charlie nodded.

“But you should go home at your earliest convenience.”

“My wife got her tits chopped off!”


“OK. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little.”

“Oh my. Please explain.”

Brahim ordered more tea. “Strong.”

His strong reaction made Charlie see Margo’s surgery in a new light.

“Margo’s back was always hurting so she lightened the load, so to speak.”

“Allah put those there, my friend, for you to enjoy.  Of course, she asked your permission?”

“Yes, but she didn’t really need it. She wanted my support.”

“Did she have it?”


“My friend, your problems are minor.”

“Did I mention I’m dying?”

Concern etched Brahim’s face. “What? Now? Are you in pain?”

“No. It’s nothing right now.  A little stiffness, muscle aches. Later. It’s incurable.”

“So, we have some time, yes? What would you like to do today? Where would you like to go?”

“I would like to understand what your religion says of dying. Do you think there’s something in that book of yours? Or should I go find a religious leader? Can you refer me to somebody?”

“If you would like to ask me the questions, you may. Or we could find somebody who knows a bit more. More tea?”

“But you’re not actually a holy man, right?”

“No, but I have studied. You might consider me before pursuing the answers from strangers.”

“OK,” Charlie decided. “You’re obviously a devout Muslim. Let’s give it a shot:  What happens when I die?”

“Ah! Good one!” Brahim collected his thoughts. “Death isn’t ‘The End.’ Life continues in another form.”

“Like Buddhism?”

“No. This life is a test.”

“Oh. Shit.”

“The life is just a gateway to the afterlife when you will be judged.”

“I’m screwed according to Islam.”

“The good news is you’re still alive. You can still do good deeds.”

“OK, I’m lying there, I’ve accomplished way more good deeds than bad. Then what?”

“Your last words in this world should be, ‘I testify that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

“What if I’m zonked, out of it due to the painkillers?”

“If I am there, I promise I will whisper those words in your ear.”

Charlie looks at Brahim’s sincere smile. “Thank you, my friend. But what about my 17 virgins?”



“Plus, all the women you ever married here on earth. All with appetizing vaginas. And you will have an eternal erection.”

“Not if all my exes are around.”

“Pray that the quantity of your good deeds is sufficient, or your soul will be ripped from your body and cast into hell until Judgment Day. I’m afraid that will be your fate because you have not surrendered to Allah!”

His cell phone suddenly announced itself.


“Charlie, it’s Margo. Peggy said you were trying to reach me. Is this important?”

“Oh God, yes. We have to talk.”

“Go ahead.”

“Face to face. I’m in Morocco. I can be home in two days.”

“Just a minute.” She muffled the phone and had a brief conversation with her sister.

“Make it a week. Peggy’s not leaving till next Saturday. And she would rather not see you.”

The feeling’s mutual.

“All right. I understand. I love you.”

There was silence and a deep sigh from the other end then a longer silence that meant she had hung up without saying “I love you” back.

“Brahim, how far away is Tiznit? I’d like to buy some jewelry.”

“Only six hours as the camel flies.”

Charlie gave the obligatory chuckle. Everybody’s a comedian.

Charlie watched as the scenery outside the car rolled by. The view changed from rolling, craggy hills and people everywhere to dusty roads and countryside which gave way to more gentle plains. Groves of argan trees dotted the landscape. Up ahead a solitary figure headed toward them. Brahim pulled over.

He wore a ragged djellaba that marked him as a farmer, but the smell of livestock identified him as a shepherd. He leaned in the car window to speak with Brahim in a slower, less heated exchange than the conversations Charlie heard in Rabat. Charlie took in the shepherd’s dirt-encrusted fingernails, his tobacco-stained teeth. He could have been 30 or 50.

“Salaam Aleichem!” Charlie’s Moroccan vocabulary was limited, less then Thai, even.

 “Aleichem salaam.”

“He says he is going to Chefchaouen, the Blue City. He humbly asks for a ride.”

“Is he bringing his goats with him?”

“He is a sheep herder.”

“Sorry. My mistake. Where is the Blue City from here?”

“About one hour that way.” Brahim pointed back the way they had come. He saw Charlie’s brow start to furrow.

“It would be a great kindness, a very good deed.”

“Shit. OK. Hop in!”

The shepherd smiled and patted his heart in thanks.

Brahim said something to him in Arabic.

The shepherd gave Charlie a sidelong glance and the two laughed, obviously sharing a joke.

“What was that about?” he asked Brahim.

“Uh, he was surprised you have never been to Chefchaouen.”

“Yeah, right.”

The silence was dissipated by animated conversation. Charlie didn’t pretend to follow the conversation. After Thailand, he didn’t care.

“So why are you going to Chefchaouen?” Charlie realized he was asking the wrong person.  “Why is he going to Chefchaouen?”

Brahim caught the eye of the shepherd in the rearview mirror and exchanged a couple sentences in another language. It wasn’t Arabic or French.

“My Berber is a little rusty, but I think he said his name is Omar and he’s going to get his wife.”

Charlie couldn’t tell if he was looking for a wife or had misplaced his. He didn’t bother to ask further.

They were climbing the steep Rif Mountains now, almost there. The temperature outside had plummeted enough to chill him.

Omar directed them to a modern looking hospital.

Brahim said, “He says his wife is here.”

Brahim and Charlie followed the shepherd as he frantically looked about for someone in charge. Family members, a middle-aged woman, another shepherd who was her apparent husband, and a man who appeared to be in his 20s, came running over to console him. The young man seemed interested in who they were. He and Brahim exchanged a few words before Brahim turned to Charlie with a shocked expression.

“His wife is dead! He’s here to pick up her body.”

“Oh my God! The family probably wants to be alone to grieve. Shouldn’t we go?”

Another short intense conversation, this time with the sheepherder, Omar.

“The family would be honored if we stayed for the funeral. Omar is very grateful because we got him here so quickly.”

“I guess it’s OK,” Charlie replied. “Is it OK? I mean, I’m not Muslim.”

“In Morocco you are now family. We will follow them and the body to his wife’s sister’s home where they will prepare her for burial.”

The family loaded Omar’s wife’s body, covered in a simple white sheet, gently into a cart pulled by a donkey. Omar, his brother-in-law and his nephew, followed by his quietly sobbing sister-in-law, kept pace with the cart.

An older woman and a younger one, the only person in the family he had seen in western garb, followed the men inside as they reverently carried the body into the house. Only Omar stayed inside with the women to prepare the body. The other men stayed outside, nervously smoking and murmuring to each other.

A few minutes later, the younger woman came out with a large carafe of hot mint tea, and a dozen small cups for the men.

“What is happening inside?” Charlie asked Brahim.

“They are washing the body, preparing her for burial.”

Another half-hour passed before the men were called back in to pick up the shepherd’s wife.

The women clustered at one side of the courtyard while the men gathered a few yards away. As they stood awaiting the imam, more men and women joined the gathering. Charlie was surprised to see a small handful of Orthodox Jews garbed in black. The original group of men carried the shepherd’s wife out solemnly, silently, and deposited her body, shrouded in white, back onto the cart without the donkey. The crowd turned eastward en masse.

“That way lies Mecca.”

The ceremony, recitations of the Quran, lasted about an hour. Friends and relatives spoke in Arabic and Berber, each using the language they were most comfortable with. Afterward, the Jews paid their respects to the shepherd and introduced themselves to Charlie.

A young Jewish man in his twenties asked, “Are you American?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I’ve always wanted to go. I have a cousin in New Jersey.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m from Israel here on pilgrimage.”

An older gentleman spoke up. “For some of us this is our home.”

“I thought this was a Muslim country.”

“Now we go to the cemetery,” interrupted Brahim.

The cart was re-hitched and the procession headed up the dirt road. The only sounds as they climbed were the creaking of the cart and the quiet sobs of the women who trailed the cart from several yards behind.

“Why are the women back there?” Charlie asked.

“This is a very modern Muslim family. Usually it is only the men who go to the cemetery.”

Brahim motioned for his silence. They reached an old wrought iron gate.

“Stay here. Only Muslims may enter.”

The men unhitched the donkey from the cart. One turned and muttered something to Brahim in Arabic.

“They are asking for you to please watch the donkey.”

“My pleasure.”

They rolled the cart into the cemetery with Brahim in the group.

Charlie watched the procession until they were lost among the crypts. He stared at the donkey who ignored a fly on his eyelash. The animal smelled earthy and worn. Charlie looked over his shoulder and realized the countryside was green, verdant, abundant with signs of Spring. Some of the city stood out against the mountainside in various hues of blue. A fog was rolling in. This, he realized, was as good a place as any to lie in repose.

The empty cart was rolled out a few minutes later and the donkey was hitched up once again.

The Jews were waiting, and other townspeople had arrived and set up tables of food and carafes of warm Moroccan “whiskey.”

Charlie was drawn to the Jews and wanted to know their story.

“We are all over Morocco and welcomed,” the older man explained. “I am of the Tovashim. My family has lived peacefully among our Muslim brethren since ancient times.”

Brahim brought Charlie a plate of food. “The lamb is especially fresh.”

“I see you have met the Jews,” he said. “Have they told you the legend of the Blue City?”

The elder Jew admonished him in Berber.

“I don’t speak Berber very well. Arabic or French, please,” Brahim asked.

The old Jew turned to Charlie. “The legend is a fairy tale.”

“During and after the Inquisition in Spain, the Jews fled to this country,” Brahim began.

“Some of us were already here,” insisted the old Jew.

“The new Jews . . .”

“The Megorashim . . .”

“They asked if they could stay. Moroccans said they could, but they would have to paint their houses blue to be easily identified,” continued Brahim.

“Then came World War Two and the Nazi Desert Rat, Rommel.”

“Everyone painted their houses blue to hide the Jews in plain sight.”

“A fairy tale!” said the old man.

“You’re welcome!” Brahim cried.

The shepherd, his late wife’s brother-in-law, and his son approached them. The old Jew and Omar embraced and traded kisses. Omar, his face glistening from recent tears, wrapped Charlie in a warm hug and kissed both cheeks then, through Brahim, introduced his in-laws.

“My wife’s brother, Hassan and his son, Mohammed.” They, too, embraced Charlie and Brahim.

“Come,” said the old Jew to Charlie. “Walk with me.”

The waning moon cast a hazy glow as they strolled away from the light of the funeral feast.

“My name is Isaac. You, too, are Jewish if I’m not mistaken?”

“Charlie Wise. Yes. Yes, I am.”

“What’s troubling you, Charlie?”

“What do you mean?”

“You seem very nervous, restless. And your hand trembles with a life of its own.”

“It’s Parkinson’s.”

“Ah, but there’s more!”

“I’m looking for, I don’t know . . .”

“Absolution?” Isaac offered.

“Forgiveness? That’s part of it. I want to make amends. As a good Jew, how do I do that? Mitzvah? Or is my fate sealed?”

Isaac shrugged. “You would have to ask the younger ones from Israel. They have all the answers. Me? Our people have been shoulder to shoulder with the Muslims for so many generations, I don’t know the difference between hallal and kosher!”

He registered the look on Charlie’s face.

“Have I offended you?”

“No, but it doesn’t give me hope.”

“I’ll tell you a secret, Charles. The secret is . . .” he leaned forward conspiratorially. “Don’t be a schmuck. Especially at first when you’re trying to make a good impression.”

“That’s how I always start out. I show them my true self so they’re not surprised later.”

“Do you think people are inherently good or evil?”

“Do you mean are they born that way? I think we lean one way or the other. From then on, it’s a toss-up based on environment and happenstance.”

“Did you know Aadil, the shepherd’s wife?”


“She was the most devout woman I ever met. A beautiful woman in her youth. She left the journey from Marrakech to Chefchaouen a long time ago to live with her sister here. She hated the time apart from Omar, but she hated the hardscrabble existence that women have on the trail. The women climb the hillsides to round up the sheep who have strayed.”

In the distance they saw the casbah lit up for the tourists and heard a donkey’s bray on the wind.

“I, too, will die here someday among these gentle people. But no one must ever know that she was my friend.”

“Is that some sort of euphemism, Isaac?”

“Don’t you dare sully her reputation! Would you deny her Paradise?”

“Calm down! It was just the way you were carrying on . . .”

“You don’t understand the culture, Charles. Just spending time with me one on one.”

“Interesting choice of words.”

“Aadil was a good Muslim! She could never give Omar children and it made her sad and lonely. She went to school when she was young and her thirst for knowledge never left her.”

“We could never have kids. I don’t think it ever bothered Margo.”

Isaac dug into the pockets of his overcoat, pulling out a sheaf of papers.

“She was a gifted poet. Here!” He shoved a page at Charlie.

“It’s in French, I can’t read it.”

“Ah, yes. You Americans, clinging to one language, the one true God English.” Isaac looked down at the page in the faint light, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. “It’s titled, ‘One woman.’”

Une femme seule
Son ventre un desert aride.
Sa famille disparue, defaite
Moutons perdus dans le desert.

“It sounds pretty.”

“Listen to what it’s saying. It speaks to what Aadil felt was the true purpose of women!”

“One woman alone
Her womb a barren desert
Her family gone, undone
Lost sheep in the desert.”

“Wow. Kinda bleak.”

“She felt she had been denied her purpose for living.”

Not Margo. One miscarriage, the bad news, and she carried on as though nothing had happened.

And suddenly the floodgates opened.

Charlie leaned against Isaac and the tears surprised him with their volume and ferocity. He could not not cry. He felt Aadil’s overwhelming sadness as if it was his own. It was his own. He cried for the lost opportunity to create a family, the miracle of birth, holding a giggling toddler is his arms, wiping away preschool tears, awkward father/daughter dances, sending her off to college, a bittersweet wedding, the birth of his first grandchild, the whole circle of life as he and Margo forged an unbreakable bond that would carry them through the years. That was what they had lost.

We stopped feeling because it hurt too damn much.


Image of Daniel McCrory

Daniel McCrory’s first book, Capitalism Killed the Middle Class, was a finalist in the U.K.’s Page Turner Awards. You Will Forever Be My Always won an award in the 2022 Los Angeles Book Festival. In the last two years he has had two scripts achieve quarter finalist status in the NY International Screenplay Awards and was published in the 2020 anthology of California’s Best Emerging Poets.  He’s working to finish and publish four books this year: a romance called Moroccan Sunset, an action-packed novel, Worst Case Scenario: Election Night 2020, and two nonfiction projects: The Family He Left Behind written with the daughter of Leonard Peltier who was wrongly convicted in 1977 of the murder of two FBI agents and a legacy project titled ReBuilding Union. He has over 60 videos on TikTok (@danmccrory) and about 50 interviews on podcasts domestically and in Australia, UK, India, and Nigeria.