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GREAT SATAN MEETS THE AXIS OF EVIL--An excerpt from the short story by Elaine Barnard.

It's slow season in Tehran, cold and rainy, freezing my bones even though I'm dressed in a thick blue roopoosh that covers my butt, and my favorite pink roosari crocheted by my mother in hope that the hot pink head scarf would attract a future husband. So much for that.

Most tourists go to some tropical paradise. I'd rather be in some bikini clime as well. But my job is to guide Great Satan around Tehran. I'm a government guide, one of the few authorized to guide Americans, the only woman, and at twenty seven, the youngest. I take pride in my knowledge of our former glory. Ask me anything about our World Heritage sites, and I will answer truthfully not like some other guides who fabricate answers to entertain the tourists. But if you ask me political questions I will only smile feigning ignorance.

Great Satan is here on the cheap. My tour costs double in high season, April or May. The flowers bloom in Tehran then. It is pleasantly warm, not burning hot like July and August when I long to tear the roosari off my head but dare not for fear of the religious police....