My Stories

Salsa Book 4: The Christmas Miss-Tree

“And it’s done. Irene turn off the lights.” Mom gazed up at the tree.

Just as the lights went off, Dad plugged in the fairy lights, and the tree was illuminated. The family stared in awe at the lush green pine with decorations dangling from every branch. Silver tinsel reflected the fairy lights enveloping the tree in a golden glow . “It’s a beauty, this one is,” Dad declared.

“The tree sure is pretty,” Salsa said, making her way down the stairs with the presents. Irene turned on the lights and the family arranged the gifts.

Irene dashed into her room. She came out with two large red felt stockings to be hung up over the fireplace on the wall behind the Chirstmas tree for Santa.

Mom went to the kitchen and called, “Dinner is ready.”

“The lamb is really good,” Dad commented as he relished his dinner.

“I thought I’d try something different,” Mom replied. “I’m glad you like it.”

“Me too,” said Salsa, while Irene grinned through large mouthfuls.

After dinner, Salsa popped into her room and returned with some gingerbread men cookies. “Since we didn’t have any dessert today, I picked these up from the store near school.”

“Yay!” Irene grabbed the box, and helped herself to several cookies.

“Well, save some for me and your father, because it’s getting quite late, and we have to pick your grandparents up from the airport. We don’t want to them to wait because it’s a long journey from Chicago,” said Mom staring at the pile of cookies on Irene’s plate. “And no Irene you can’t have more than two cookies.”

Irene sadly put the third and fourth cookie she had sneaked out, back into the box. As soon as Irene had beheaded her first gingerbread man, the phone rang.

Salsa went to answer it. “Hello.”

“Hi, this is Violet’s mom,” came a voice from the telephone.

“Hi, Mrs. Walters, this is Salsa.”

“Um… I was wondering if you could do me a huge favor. Violet’s dad and I have some urgent business matter we have to take care of. So, could you ask your mom to let Violet come over to celebrate Christmas with you?” Mrs. Walters sounded worried.

“Sure, I‘ll ask. Can you hold a minute?” Salsa said glancing at her Mom.

“Yeah, sure, Dear.”

“Mrs. Walters wants to know if Violet can come over for Christmas. Her parents have some urgent business matter to take care of.”

Mom gave a thumbs up, and Salsa got back onto the phone. “Yeah, she can come over.”

“Salsa, listen, can your parents come and pick Violet up? She’s too young to come to your house alone and we have a too much to wrap up before we leave.”

“Sure,” Salsa replied.

“Thanks so much Salsa. You’re a doll. Bye.”

“Bye,” Salsa disconnected. “Mrs. Walters needs us to pick up Violet,” she told her parents.

“Okay, now Dad and I have to leave, so Irene and you go pick up Violet okay?” said Mom. “Take the keys, don’t loose them.”

As Mom and Dad shut the main door behind them, Irene asked, “Can I give Violet a cookie?”

“Sure,” Salsa replied

The two left the house chatting and laughing. Irene shut the door behind them.

When they arrived at Violet’s house, she was zipping up her overnight bag. “I know, it’s a mess. I have to clear it up before I can leave the house,” she whined pointing at the table with notes sprawled all over, and a detective game spread across the floor. Pages form a notebook were everywhere. Salsa, Irene and Violet cleared up the room together.

Finally, an hour later,when Salsa and Irene returned with Violet, Salsa jiggled her keys in the lock. “Huh, I must have forgotten to lock the door,” she said, pushing it open. After Salsa shut the door behind them, they took off their shoes in the hallway.

They entered the living room and Salsa stared. “Where did the tree go?” Irene exclaimed.

“I don’t know!” Salsa sounded frantic, as a key turned in the main door lock.

“We’re ho ..” Mom stopped mid-sentence as she stepped into the living room. “Wh-wh…” she exclaimed.

“I’m carrying, the luggage and in kind of a hurry, so – our tree!” Dad stared and accidentally dropped the suitcase on Grandma’s foot.

“Ow! Ted, that wasn’t very nice of you. Move along please. I need to nurse my foot.”

“Oh, so, sorry,” said Dad who rushed out of the way and pushed Mom to the side too. Grandma rushed into the kitchen. “Mary, your fridge doesn’t open.”

“Oops, I put the child lock on. Wait, I’ll come and help you.”

“Why didn’t you all put a tree up here? You do that every Christmas!” Grandpa stared at the corner where the Christmas tree usually stood.

“The tree is gone! It was here before we left the house, and now it’s gone!” Salsa explained.

“Okay, now where can the tree be? Let’s look a round the house,” Mom suggested.

They looked all around the house, but it seemed rather odd that someone would move the tree from one place in the house to another, especially since no one was in the house.

“Did aliens abduct the tree, Mama?” Irene asked, but everyone ignored her.

Once they had searched the verandah, kitchen, living room, french windows, attic, bedrooms, Irene said, “But why would anybody steal our Christmas tree, it doesn’t make any sense?”

“It’s a mystery. We need to solve it like the five Find-Outers. Let’s look for clues.” Violet was delighted at the prospect of her solving a mystery. On Christmas Eve too!

“Maybe, we should look in the backyard,” Mom suggested, running out of ideas. They checked the backyard in vain.

“Okay I’m going to bed,” said an exhausted Salsa.

“I’ll just fall asleep right here,” said Irene, who looked quite comfortable on the sofa.

“Maybe we should take out the fake Christmas tree. It’s better than nothing.” Dad sighed.

“Okey-Dokey,” said Irene, who had no intention of helping.

“I’ll lend a hand,” Salsa offered, reluctantly.

“Me too,” said Violet, excited for her family hadn’t got around to decorating their tree and she had been disappointed.

Once they had started decorating the fake Christmas tree, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” Mom called from the other room.

“Hello, Mary,” the next door neighbor, Sandra said.

“Hi, Sandra. Come on in. Would you like anything to drink?” Mom asked.

“No, thank you. Actually, I have a favor to ask of you.” Sandra sat down on the couch in the hall.

“Go ahead.” Mom nodded.

“You know, there is a Christmas party going on at an orphanage down town. Yesterday, when I took some toys and clothes, I noticed they had the saddest tree ever. I felt bad for the children there, and so I said they could use my Christmas tree for a party today evening. They said they would pick it up between four and five, and return it by 10:00 sharp. But the pickup has not come to take it, yet. I was wondering if I could borrow your truck to take it there. I need it for my party tomorrow. It’s really urgent, or I wouldn’t have bothered you at all.”

“They didn’t come!” Mom was shocked.

“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. I need it back soon so I can prepare for my party at home. So I want to drop it off there as soon as I can.”

“Okay, but I’ll come with you. I need to get some milk from the store and it’s on the way.” Mom.

“Alright,” Sandra replied.

“Can we come too?” Salsa asked. “We need to pick up some decorations for the new tree,” she said sadly looking at the fake tree clad with the scant decorations left over after decorating the real tree, “and we can drop off a box of ginger bread cookies for the orphanage kids.”

“Yes, please.” Violet and Irene chanted.

“Okay, but we need to leave quickly. And we’re going to the orphanage before the decorations store.” Mom helped Sandra load her tree into the truck and secure it with some straps, while Salsa ran into her room to take her pocket money and her second box of cookies.

The kids squeezed in to the backseat of the pickup.

It was around seven-thirty when Mom pulled out of their driveway .

Once they reached, Sandra noticed a receptionist at the front desk. “The name’s Sandra Robinson. I am here to deposit my Christmas tree, as no pickup arrived.”

“Ma’am the pickup was sent to your house at 5:30 PM. No one was at home. The tree was returned at 7:40 PM.” The receptionist flipped through pages of her book.

“But, I was home at till seven thirty. Oh, okay. In that case, I’d better be going. Hope the party was a success.” Sandra was puzzled.

Salsa shrugged. “These cookies are for the children,” she said, handing them to the receptionist. “I hope I am not too late.”

“Not at all, Dear. They’re opening their presents. I give it to them for supper with their milk. They’ll love it. Thanks so much, Dear.” She walked off with the cookies, as Salsa and Sandra returned to the car.

Before they drove back to Salsa’s house, they stopped at the decorations store, while Sandra told them what the receptionist had said. Everyone was bewildered.

Once they reached back, there was a series of gasps, as family saw the Christmas tree was back. Violet said, “Oh, look, a note. It says ‘Thanks for your donation.’”

“Hey,” said Irene. “Do you think it’s possible that there was a mix-up with the address and the charity got the wrong address and came to our house instead of Sandra’s. That explains our missing tree and the fact that Sandra had a tree.”

“That is a good explanation,” Violet pointed out.

“Well, we’ll never know,” Salsa said.

Dad came downstairs, amused. “It seems we have donated our Christmas tree to an orphanage under the name Sandra Robinson.”

“I knew it!” Irene shouted in contentment. Dad smiled.

“They got the address wrong,” Dad explained.

“Hey, I’d better go to sleep,” Irene said jumping with fright as she glanced at her watch, “or Santa won’t come.”

Salsa Book 3: Salsa In Siberia

“Irene, wake up! We’re going to be late. No more excuses! Don’t forget your picnic stuff.” Salsa was getting impatient. She had been pestering her sister to wake up for the past half an hour.

“I’m sleepy! You go back to sleep!” Irene yawned.

“We’re leaving,” Salsa called, noisily closing the room door.

“Fine!” Irene skipped out of bed and changed quickly, as Salsa went down the stairs. “Wait for me, I’m coming,” Irene shouted. The room door flew open, and out she popped.

Salsa was waiting on the stairs. “Irene, do you intend to freeze to death on the trek? Go wear your warm clothes! You can’t just wear a blanket.” Salsa rolled her eyes.

Irene rushed back in. She scrambled around her room emitting several ouches before racing back down the stairs. The door burst open presenting Irene bundled up in a thick fleece lined canvas jacket, flannel leggings, a woolen scarf, hat, gloves and socks.

“Boots,” Salsa reminded Irene, ignoring the riot of mismatched colors she often deliberately chose for her outfits.

Irene nodded as she slipped on her warm fur-lined beige boots before joining the rest of the family on the front yard. “Hiya Violet,” Irene waved.

“Here,” said Violet handing a gift-wrapped object to Irene. “A little something for you. Open it.”

Irene tore apart the shiny paper of the neatly wrapped package. “Oh, it’s awesome. This is exactly like the Fialka I saw on your desk that day.” Irene jumped about in glee. “So many buttons to press. I love buttons.”

“Yeah, I know,” Violet laughed, “so I figured I’d get you one. Now, we can chat in code. The code is much simpler, but it looks exactly like the real one.” Violet pressed a button to turn it on.

“Okay girls, time to go. We’re late.” Dad called. Irene unzipped her bag, and put the miniature Fialka in.

Salsa’s family was vacationing at a cottage in rural Siberia and Irene’s best friend Violet had joined them. They were all set to explore a hiking path that seemed promising.

Salsa’s family enjoyed hiking. Her father had been a professional before he had broken his ankle. Now they enjoyed tackling broad but steep paths.

They headed up a snowy path, in spite of Mom’s protests that the path was not charted. Mom did not like wandering off the marked trails.

As Mom made gloomy predictions about the outcome of her being outvoted, Irene raced ahead of everyone else.

Upon turning onto the trail, Violet turned to Mom and said, “Did you know that there were some ancient prison camps on nearby paths? Legend has it, that a some thieves in one of these camps used codes to communicate with their accomplices in a near by town and they hatched a daring and successful escape plan. These codes were later used in the Fialka and other Russian cryptography devices. I’m so glad you let me come. I researched all of Russia’s cryptography history, and it’s awesome. Their codes are so convoluted. In spite of all the developments in AI and data analysis, they remain relevant even today.”

“No, no Violet. We’re glad to have you. I hope you enjoy the trails.” Mom smiled, as Violet ran ahead looking for Irene. Mom liked the polite, well-behaved and geeky Violet. She was a good antidote to excitable and fidgety Irene, Mom thought. The girls were firm friends and balanced each other out.

About an hour later, Irene sat down, panting. Her cheeks were flushed. She needed the break.

Remembering her picnic mat, she spread it on the ground. She glanced around and noticed the turrets of a castle shrouded by trees at some distance, but chose to ignore it.

The region was known for its mysterious castles. Salsa and Violet had told her that the castles were haunted by ghosts of nasty Russian Tzars. Irene wasn’t feeling brave enough to face the ghost of a Russian king at the moment, not before breakfast, at least, she firmly decided.

Violet caught up with Irene ten minutes later, and plonked down on the mat beside her. “Looks like it’s going to snow,” she commented, panting.

Once she had caught her breath, she looked around and her eyes danced with mischief. Irene was busy looking through the contents of her picnic bag searching for something to eat. Violet rolled some snow into a ball and threw it at Irene.

“Hey!” Irene shouted and threw one back at her.

The two bombarded each other with increasingly large snowballs, until cold and exhausted, they collapsed on the mat, laughing.

When their laughter subsided, they sat up on the mat. “Oh look, here comes everyone else,” Violet pointed, squinting to make out their shapes in the distance. “Do you have water?” she asked.

Irene nodded and handed her a bottle.

From the distance, Salsa called, “There’s a storm approaching. Mom says we’ll all sit for a while and then go.”

“Oh, please can’t we stay for the whole day as we planned?” Irene and Violet asked.

“Mom says no, as it will be much colder and more dangerous to walk in the snow,” Salsa explained, sitting down next to them, as Mom and Dad approached the mat.

Irene was opening her bag to take out her a pack of mints when FLASH! She turned around to see the castle she had noted before, flashing bright colorful lights the instant Dad stepped on the mat.

“What just happened?” Salsa blinked.

“Well, the castle started flashing.” Irene pointed at it. She stood up and looked at the castle, her eyes shining with curiosity.

“Way to state the obvious!” Salsa shook her head in annoyance.

“You asked,” Irene reminded her.

Irene turned around to face Dad. “Look at that faint red line made of light that is near Dad’s head. It looks like a proximity sensor. I read about them somewhere. It probably set an alarm off,” Irene declared with pride in her voice.

“Hey, focus on the flashing lights.” Violet’s eyes danced as she bounced around.

“It’s a pattern,” Salsa said.

“It’s probably code,” Irene said.

“Time to head back,” Mom said, eager to get away from the strange happenings.

But Irene had already waltzed into the castle, with Salsa in pursuit, and Violet was mulling over the code. Mom was trying to convince Dad to leave.

Violet couldn’t believe her luck, a real life situation where she had to solve a code was a lifelong fantasy come true. She was obsessed with codes and secret messages and even had an ASCII table as her computer wallpaper. Her parents used to get her miniature code making and breaking machines, like a model of the German Enigma and the Russian Fialka.

“It’s morse code for do not enter!” Violet called.

“See? We should not be meddling here! Let’s go!” Mom nodded enthusiastically, to no effect.

Irene, who was busily playing with little square buttons on a console in the enormous entrance chamber of the castle shouted, “Come on in, and check out this stuff!”

Mom sighed.

Salsa peeked inside. “Violet said not to enter,” Salsa informed.

Irene was too excited to care. Salsa stepped in to grab Irene’s arm and drag her out, when an entire wall turned red.

“Oops! Oops! What did I do? Oh no! It’s red alert, like on Star Trek. Is that good? Maybe it’s good. I have no idea. All this stuff is so weird.” Irene continued to meddle only slightly disturbed by the fact that there was a flashing red wall.

“Irene,…” Salsa began.

“Oh look green writing on the flashing red wall! Nah, it’s useless. What language is that? Salsa you study so many languages, come and read this.” Irene continued with her rant.

Salsa sighed and walked towards where Irene was pointing.

“Apparently, not enough. It lookes like Morse code or something. Ask Violet.” Salsa was squinting at the dots and dashes with a raised eyebrow. She exited the palace to check up on Violet.

“The code has changed. It says you have been w-warned.” Violet stammered. “Salsa l-let’s g-get out of here.”

“See? Let’s go!” Mom said, wishing her own daughters were sensible like Violet.

“But come and look at this,” Salsa pulled Violet by her arm.

“Okay,” Violet agreed, feeling flustered.

Salsa guided Violet to the writing Irene had seen.

“It says: Outpost 54 for operation ‘No Dead Men’. Functional since 1997. Insert entry code to turn off alarm. Current status: Calling Aero Modern Military. ” Salsa watched in awe as Violet read fluently, like the text was written in English

Violet frowned. “Salsa look up Operation ‘No Dead Men’ on I think I’ve heard of it. We got data on it three days ago. The password is apegkrez, all small.”

After Salsa tapped away at her phone screen. Violet added, “Select c-r-database and click intercept frequency. The password is kemprix.”

“Got it. Operation ‘No Dead Men’ is a Russian military operation set up during the cold war. It was founded in 1997 to attack the USA. It was also known as operation building blocks, because it consisted of robots that could assemble themselves into several different structures. These robots would fight wars instead of Russian soldiers, thereby minimizing casualties. However, the operation was canceled for unknown reasons. The Russians would send a random group of civilians to send messages. The civilians were given an identifier corresponding to the outpost number, but the robots only accepted alphabetical messages in Morse code- Damn! I lost internet. But why do you know of this website anyway?” Salsa jabbed the retry button on her phone in vain.

“Every person interested in code and spies knows this website! It’s called!” Violet explained.

Salsa shrugged. It all seemed totally bizarre to her, but hey, Violet seemed to know what she was doing.

Irene had been staring out of the castle window imagining herself to be a beautiful Russian princess dressed in a pink satin gown embroidered with lavender flowers, when suddenly she noticed something that made her jump with fright. “Look! Look! Look at that funny flying thing emerging from the cloud! Why is it a cube?”

“I guess it’s one of the shapes the robots can make,” Salsa said, putting the pieces together.

“Yeah, but why a cube?” Violet asked.

“It looks like a lander, like the ones that we land on the moon. They are squarish.” Irene pointed out as the cube gently touched the ground.

“Anyways, I downloaded the morse code chart before I lost the network.” Salsa was busy checking her files.

“Aha! I know what we can do. We can pretend that we are civilians the government sent to give a message.” Violet looked around the castle nervously.

Salsa nodded, “But, what does that have to do with anything?”

“You’ll see.”

Salsa ran outside to tell her parents the plan. A few minutes later she peeked her head in. “I told Mom and Dad. They don’t know if it’s going to work or not, but they agreed to nod along.”

Irene said, “Look at the lander disassembling into robots. They’re so big.”

Violet, Irene and Salsa ran outside.

Violet turned around to the robot-like things. She tapped her knee a few times to say hello, I am Violet.” “Friends” she added pointing to Irene and Salsa.. Are you the RAMM?

“We are the RAMM. We have been monitoring your activity form the castle through CCTV footage. You activated us by setting off the alarm. Is there an adult with you?” was the robot’s morse code reply.

Violet tapped her knee to say “Yes we have a message.”

“Kindly state your message.”

Knowing what the robots wanted, Violet tapped “The government wants reinstate you. We were sent here to inform you three days left before the first test run.”

“Is that the truth? Whats the password?” The robots demanded.

Violet took a deep breath. “LIV,” she tapped without hesitating. “We were to tell you, so you could prepare,” she added.

“Very well. Kindly leave. Do not interfere with the RAMM again.”

Violet tapped, “We will leave in five minutes once we have collected our belongings.”

“That is acceptable,” the giant robots nodded.

Violet, Salsa and Irene gathered the stuff on Irene’s picnic mat, folded it up and left quickly with Mom and Dad. They walked back to the cottage without a word.

“Whew, what a day,” said Violet once they returned to the cottage. She collapsed on her bed.

“How did you know the password?” Salsa asked.

Violet explained, “It was in the article that the robots could only interpret alphabets in Morse code and the only way that I knew to convert numbers to alphabetical sequences was through roman numerals. So I gave it a shot.” Violet looked sheepish.

“And you bet our lives on this guess?” Salsa raised her eyebrows.

Violet nodded, her eyes wide with fear. “Please don’t tell the rest of your family.”

“Sure. But you’re pretty badass, you know. Thanks for saving us all Geek Girl.” Salsa winked.

“Anytime.” Violet smiled. What an amazing adventure it had been!

Salsa Book 2: The Curse Of The Little Sister

Cover created using photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

It was the first day of the summer holidays, and Salsa and her parents had just returned from the parent teacher meeting at her school.

“So, you wanna come over?” Salsa asked. “Then we can plan the project in detail.” She was in the middle of a phone call.

“Sure,” was the enthusiastic response, and then with some hesitation followed, “Oh, and how much did you get in english language?”

“Ninety-nine,” Salsa whined. “She insisted on deducting one mark for creative writing, even though she loved my essay. What about you?”

“Ninety-three. I thought I’d finally beaten you at something,” was Sam’s slightly envious response.

“I’m sure you did better than me in Art, music and PE,” Salsa countered.

“I got A+s in all three.” Sam sounded more cheerful.

Salsa sighed. “I got A in art, but B+ in music and PE. Non-academics are not my forte.” She shrugged.

“Speaking of music, how’re your guitar lessons going?” Salsa inquired.

“Quite well, actually…” Sam started.

“Sam, you’re seriously too modest.” Salsa protested. “I was there at your last concert, and your solo performance in Come On Baby Light My Fire was awesome.” Salsa was deeply impressed.

Sam had let Salsa check out his guitar the previous week. Only when she actually tried her hand at the instrument, did she realize just how skillful Sam was. His smooth execution of the the intricate finger movements, had made them seem deceptively easy. “Anyway, I’ve gotta go to for lunch and stuff, so see you soon?” Salsa said.

“Yeah, me too. Anyways, see you later,” Sam’s voice was soft but pleased.

“Sam’s coming over,” Salsa informed her mother.

“Only to your room, right? For your project?” asked Mom. Salsa nodded.

About an hour later, Sam arrived. Salsa dragged him to her room by his arm. Sam had brought his guitar. As soon as they entered her room, Salsa shut the door.

“You brought your guitar!” Salsa remarked. “Cool! What song did you learn with your band this year?”

“Not very many,” Sam shrugged, but Salsa noticed he was beaming. “Jingle Bells, I Wanna Wish You A Merry Christmas, Birthday a song by The Beatles, Come on Baby Light My Fire and Walk Like An Egyptian,” he rattled off, in response to Salsa’s pressing glance.

“Wow! In one year, you learnt all of these songs?” Salsa asked, amazed.

“Yeah, but my Mom has been teaching to play, since I was four.”

“I had no idea she knew how to play?” Salsa raised an eyebrow.

“Not very well, but she plays on occasion.”

“Okay, play Walk Like An Egyptian, I love that song,” said Salsa. Sam was caught off guard. “Go ahead,” she added impatiently.

Sam opened his guitar case, positioned his guitar and started playing. Salsa tapped her toes and hummed along.

“That was awesome!” she said, after he finished.

“Almost as good as the Bangles,” Sam winked, growing in confidence under Salsa’s admiring gaze, and they laughed.

Suddenly, Salsa jumped out of her seat. “I have an awesome idea! Why don’t you play Walk Like an Egyptian for our Egypt project? You don’t even need to practice! You’re already perfect!” Her eyes lit up.

“Yeah! It’ll totally work! And it’ll be pretty unique. But we’d better get to work now.”

“We should finish that sphinx today, if we want to finish the pyramids, the pharaohs, the temples, the statues, the mastaba and bla, bla, bla on time.” She pinned the list up onto her soft-board and continued, “We can call our project: Egyptopedia: A comprehensive tour of Egyptian culture.”

“Okay, boss,” Sam saluted.

Salsa shook her head half-amused, half-annoyed.

She reached up to the overhead cabinet and pulled out some ochre play-dough. She took out some clay, a plastic sheet, and a sheet of aluminum foil. She then opened a draw and pulled out a bottle of gold glitter.

They placed the plastic sheet on a table and set to work. “So, what’s going on in your division, nowadays?” asked Salsa as she kneaded clay.

“Nothing, much, Zara’s creating a lot of trouble with Tim,” Sam replied. He sucked some water into a dropper and sprinkled it onto his share of the clay. Salsa was busy making a foam base for the sphinx.

“I know! She’s mad-hatter crazy. She, like actually, punched him in the face and two of his front teeth fell out!” exclaimed Salsa.

Sam dried his hands on a napkin, opened a zip-lock bag containing sand and spread the contents on the hot granite windowsill to let it dry, while Salsa started making the clay body.

Just then, Irene, Salsa’s little sister barged in. “Ooooooh! What’s my big sister up to? How’s the project going? Can I break it yet?” She rubbed her hands in glee, and her eyes twinkled with mischief.

“Irene! Go away!” yelled Salsa. She had built the stomach of the sphinx and was beating it down, so the clay would stay firm. Sam was shaping the head.

“Can I help at least?” Irene asked, as Sam attached the head.

“Why don’t you read for a while?” Salsa suggested, as she concentrated on making the tail.

“Fine, I’ll go, but I’ll be back.” Irene skipped out of the room.

Once Sam and Salsa finished molding the sphinx, they used toothpicks to sculpt lines of erosion and finally covered it in glitter. “Looks awesome,” said Sam.

Salsa said, “Wait till you see it when it’s baked. It’ll be all crusty and look really real.”

“Really?” Sam raised both his eyebrows, and they laughed.

They covered the sphinx in aluminum foil, and Mom put it to bake. That way it would be hard and hold it’s shape over time.

Ten minutes later, after Mom and Dad, left for a meeting with their accountant, Irene waltzed in. “Hiya people, what are you up to? Where’s the Sphinx? Did it get cooked in the hot Egyptian sun, A.K.A, the oven?” She waggled her eyebrows and then giggled uncontrollably at her own joke.

Exasperated as Salsa was with her little sister, a half-smile escaped her lips. Irene could be quite funny, she thought grudgingly.

Sam ignored Irene and went about his business, hoping that she would get bored and leave. “So, now we need to map out the surface area for the project,” Sam said, as if there had been no interruptions.

Salsa stifled her giggles and began making notes in her rough-book. “I’m guessing we need about one square meter, but that’s very big, so we need to think about how we’re going to carry it.”

Sam pointed out, “School’s a two-minute walking distance, the gate is about three meters wide and the door to auditorium is about a meter and a half wide, so we’ll be fine.”

“But we need to carry the guitar, too! I guess you can strap the case on.”

“Do you ever say anything fun?” Irene demanded.

“Okay, so we’ll make the base tomorrow, because it’ll require extensive planning. But I’ll stick around for a while, until your mom comes back,” said Sam, looking at Irene from the corner of his eyes.

Just then, the oven pinged. Salsa gently set the hot tray on the dining table. She took off the oven mitts and peeled the aluminum foil off the sphinx. Then she scanned the room searching for a safe place to leave the sphinx to cool. “Ah, right here!” Salsa exclaimed, knowing Irene wouldn’t dare venture near the glass vase on the dining table, thus ensuring the safety of the sphinx.

Pleased with her brilliant idea, she joined Sam in her room and they began a game of guess who, to pass the time while the sphinx cooled.

Bored, Irene watched them. She did not take kindly to being repeatedly ignored and threw a pillow at Sam. Sam threw it back.

Soon the two of them were pillow-fighting. Sam rushed at Irene, and she got knocked off her feet. Salsa desperately waved her arms about and tried to stop them without success. She tried to wrench a pillow out of Irene’s hands, and it ripped sending feathers everywhere. Coughing and sputtering, Irene rushed back at Sam, who caught by surprise, toppled off the bed and got bruised. Triumphant, Irene hurled her biggest teddy bear at Sam. He ducked just in time, and the teddy shot through the door and slammed into the glass vase on the dining table.

Salsa gasped, her hands cupped over her mouth, and her eyes wide. Sam stared in horror. Irene trembled with fear.

The glass vase had toppled, and hit the sphinx next to it. The sphinx cracked and the glass vase broke into two.

Salsa was almost reduced to tears. Sam let out a long mourn. Irene’s eyes widened in disbelief, and she started crying.

“Irene, calm down,” Salsa said, bitting back the angry I told you so that was forming on her lips.

Irene scrambled off the bed and started picking up the pieces. As she did so, she apologized, “I’m really, really, really sorry. But I must make it clear, that in my opinion, this was all, Sam’s fault! He’s older. I’m just a little kid.”

“My fault!” Sam began, furiously. But then he stopped abruptly, and his eyes focused on Irene. “Do you know what you have done?”

“Of course, I do, dummy.” Irene rolled her eyes. “Can’t you see? I broke the vase.”

“You didn’t just break the vase. You broke the sphinx!” he hissed. “Do you know what that means?” He asked, sounding ominous.

Irene shook her head, as her eyes widened in fear.

“It means, that if you can’t answer this riddle, the curse of the sphinx will fall upon you.” Sam’s voice was chilling. He nudged Salsa to play along.

“Oh, of course, you’re right.” Salsa gasped. “It’s in the fourth chapter of our Egyptian history book, the curse of the sphinx.” She bit her lip.

“What rubbish!” Irene declared, but trembled all the same.

“Rubbish, is it? That’s what the skeptic at the pharaoh’s court thought, until the eagle came and swooped him away.”

“Wh- wha at ha-ha-ppen-ed to him?” Irene stammered.

“Only the Sphinx knows.” Sam sighed.

“Oh yes,” Salsa nodded gravely. “Sorry Irene, but you must answer the riddle correctly or the eagle will take you away. The riddle is: What is heavy forwards and not backwards?”

Irene scratched her head as beads of sweat trickled down the side of her face. “Hmm… I… I don’t really… no wait… okay, I give up.”

She then ran off and hide in the cupboard hoping the sphinx’s eagle wouldn’t be able to get to her, there.

Salsa high-fived Sam and they got back to work on their project.

“So what’s the answer to the riddle?” Sam asked, as they worked.

“Oh, I could tell you, but then the eagle might take you away,” Salsa winked.

Adventure In Aarey

In Aarey I see many big and beautiful trees. Also, I see many animals around me. Many a time there are sheds, farms or even houses popping out of the trees. People are doing jobs or having fun as they come along the path.

When I was about to leave I heard a scream for help, and after that a fierce roar. I followed the sound to scene of cow being attacked by a leopard. There was a man near who asked for help.

I also got freaked out and climbed up a coconut tree. Just as I started climbing up I dodged a branch which landed near the leopard and scared it away. Now it was getting very late, so I said bye to the man and went home.

Salsa And The Peculiar Park

One morning, when Salsa woke up for school and was eating her breakfast, her mother announced, it was a rain holiday. Her sister, Irene, was staying with a freind for the weekend.

What fun, a rain holiday, she thought. She went to the balcony and noticed it had just stopped raining. Excited, she asked her parents if they could all go to the park next door.

In the park, Salsa collected a bunch of flowers. She made a collage with them. Then she went for a run. She stopped when she spotted the top of a pomegranate. She added it to the middle of her collage and then she decorated it with pomegranate seeds.

Suddenly, it became very dark and started pouring. Salsa was frightened. Suddenly the foliage became thick and then thicker and still thicker. There were strange animal and bird noises everywhere.

Salsa realized that the park was turning into an amazon forest, she had learned about in school. She looked around, but there was no way home. She found a tree stub she sat there for a while, wondering what she should do next.

A little later some animals popped up. One of them said “I am a Jesus lizard. But I like to call myself, Rapid Sea-monster. Cool name, eh? I can run on water. I know, Jesus H Christ, right?”

Salsa heard another voice from somewhere, but she could not figure out who was speaking. She was confused.

The voice said, “I am a glass frog. They call me Mr. Glassman. I can camouflage easily, because I am transparent.”

Salsa peered at the leaf from which she thought the sound was coming and finally found the glass frog.
“Oh there you are …” She said, but another voice interrupted.

“ I am a river dolphin. They call me Pinky. My blood vessels are very close to my skin, so I look pink.”

The three curious creatures started to fight about who was the best. Then the decided to have a race upon a river, which had lotus leaves for Mr. Glassmen. Pinky could swim and Rapid Sea-Monster could run. They asked Salsa to judge. But before they could start it became sunny again and the forest turned back into a garden.

Salsa was relieved to see her parents again and they all went home. But she wished she could have witnessed the amazing race. It would have been something to tell her friends about.

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