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In SECRET OF THE SEVENTH GATE, hostility toward Americans intensifies with anonymous notes, phone calls, and street protests. When Jandy and Cracker investigate strange goings-on at the mosque, Nasser the school gardener stones their dog, Meshki. They run home, but continue to work on the case with Maryam at school. Then a religious holiday turns violent; Jandy summons help for an injured man, who turns out to be Nasser. The school play goes ahead with a number of kids missing because ex-pats are leaving Iran.

Next day, Dad's boss instructs engineers and their families to take a bus to Abadan airport; but Dad's passport is stolen. On the way to Maryam's house with Meshki, whom she has agreed to foster, Jandy distracts two soldiers by drawing their portrait, while Cracker sneaks into the empty house on the corner and emerges with the passport. Now they have missed the bus! Dr. Darabi offers a ride and they head south down the desert road, chased by local revolutionaries. One hazard leads to another, until all the family is safe inside their plane.

Jandy reads a Persian proverb in the book Maryam gave her for Christmas: "The best thing you can bring back from your travels is yourself unharmed." Will Hickory Bend, Texas, feel like a haven of peace after escaping such danger? Or will it seem too tame, especially for mystery-loving Cracker? They worry about the friends - and dog - they left behind. According to news reports, the Shah has been deposed; Ayatollah Khomeini has returned from exile. For moderate Iranians, the Revolution is not going as hoped.

Will the kids decipher the cryptic note hidden in a samovar? Why does Maryam sound upset when Jandy speaks to her on the phone? Will they ever meet again, as she prayed at the airport last December? Has Meshki been shot, or did he run off, only to roam the streets again?

Like Cracker puzzling over his codes, I can't yet see how to shape a sequel around another play (ALICE); the trials of transferring grades from Iran while catching up on Texas curriculum; plus Jandy's challenge of helping Maryam fit in at HB High, when no longer sure of her own place there. I trust it will all work itself out as I write. Read More 
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The Prairie Writers assignment for this month was a memory of an animal. After brainstorming a host of pets past and present, I cheated and submitted a poem I'd already written and published.
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There's a feeling in my stomach
That will not go away.
I moved into this big, strange town,
And I start school today.

What if no one lies me?
What if the work's too hard?
What if there are bullies
Who fight and leave you scarred?

The doorbell rings. It's Brandon,
My neighbor, strong and cool.
He'll walk with me. He'll help me
Feel at home in my new school.

copyright Hazel Spire

(based on a news item in England)

When Claire took Buttons on the bus
The driver said, "50p."
Claire thought class pets could get a pass.
She thought they'd travel free.

"That can't be right. It isn't fair,"
She told that stingy bloke.
"If I have to do this twice a week
I'll end up going broke!"

copyright Hazel Spire

(OK, I know it's not PC)

I'm starting school. I'm making friends.
My teacher's nice, But I am not
Looking forward to lunch. Mom said
When she was my age, all they got
Was watery cabbage, gristly stew,
Mushy peas and battered Spam.
Lumpy custard, apple stodge,
Or semolina with a blob of jam.
I wish I'd brought a PB & J.

We're headed for the lunchroom now.
Oh, look! A feast I can't refuse,
All laid out in rows, and friendly
Ladies with ladles who'll help us choose.
Stegosaurus chicken bites,
Pepperoni pizza, fries,
Ice cream, cake--it's like a party.
Mom would not believe her eyes!
I'm glad I didn't bring a PB & J.

copyright Hazel Spire


Rain hits the window. Children moan.
Teacher's voice has a tetchy tone.
We can't go out. So what to do?
Play with the gerbil? He's upset too
By the deafening din. Then comes a shout:
"Look, everyone. The sun is out!"

Rush to locker. Pull on coats.
Teats a paper boat. Will it float?
Form teams. Kick a ball around.
But all too soon, the whole playground
Is brought to a stop by one shrill blow
Of a whistle. Back inside we go.

copyright Hazel Spire Read More 
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