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Waking Up in the Land of Glitter

Reprinted by permission by Grand Central Publishing. Copyright, 2010

by Kathy Cano-Murillo (April 5, 2010)

Hello, Arizona! Crafty Chloe Chavez here—braving the heat in front of La Pachanga Eatery with your weather update! It’s already ninety-eight degrees on this otherwise lovely Phoenix August morning, and it is time to break out the ice cubes, because we’ll hit one hundred and ten by this afternoon! Coming up after the break -- why was this beloved local business a target of vicious vandals?”

“Um, you can’t go on live TV with blood on your arm; our viewers are eating breakfast,” the cameraman said, nodding at Star’s elbow as he hoisted his equipment up on his shoulder.

“Crap!” Star whispered before she licked her finger and scrubbed off the stain. “I wish it  was blood,” she mumbled, while standing in the parking lot of her parents’ restaurant.

“Ah, don’t be so nervous. You’ll do fine,” he said.

“I’m far from fine this morning, but I’ll deal. And for the record, it’s not blood, just a smidge of spray paint.”

“Spray paint?” he repeated, his attention piqued.

“Hey!” Star chirped. “Speaking of blood, by any chance, do you knit?”

 Star set aside the current troubles on her mind to enthusiasti-cally explain the blood-to-knitting transition. “See, I’ve been working on this high-impact art project—the Victims of Violence blanket. It is dedicated to those who have been wrongly hurt all across the world. I want to get as many people as possible to help create a ginormous knitted blanket to represent our uni-fied offerings of comfort and warmth. I feel that if we all just came together in the name of peace and love-- ”

 “I don’t knit,” he deadpanned, cutting off her passionate plea. “You’re live in less than three minutes.”

 Star shoved her arm into her limited-edition Tokidoki messenger bag that was slung across her chest and fished for her cherry lipstick. “It’s totally cool if you don’t know how,” she said as she retrieved it. She whisked the color across her mouth, and then wiped the sweat from her neck with her other hand. “It’s not about technique or even knitting itself. It’s about the intention. Each stitch is original and represents that person’s energy. That’s what makes it art . Art that matters . Not silly crafts that Crafty Chloe does. The Victims of Violence Blanket project could change the world.”

 “We’re outside, sweating like pigs in a sauna, and you’re talking about knitting? At least it’s for a good cause. Almost done?”

 “Actually . . . I haven’t started. I don’t know how to knit either. I’m more of a visionary type.” She raised a fist, shrugged, and grinned. “But I have hope! All I need is to find the right person to partner with, and I’m on my way!”

 Star mentally congratulated herself for being so perky and positive, despite her current off-color condition, which consisted of a guilt-ridden hangover and eighty-seven minutes of half sleep. Who was she kidding? Every time someone cornered her, she changed the subject to an endearing topic. It served as her cutesy defense mechanism.

 The cameraman didn’t find her cute. He appeared as if he wished he had taken the evening shift, where they cover stories like trials, riots, murders, and football games -- or any combination thereof.

 “Live in one minute. Can you harness that hair?” he barked. “Chavez is territorial about her screen time, and your head’ll take up more than half the shot.”

 “Sure. Hey, has anyone ever told you that you look like that actor Ving Rhames?”

 He ignored her.

 Rude! Star thought. That was a compliment. Ving Rhames rocked. Hello, Pulp Fiction? Even if this man knew how to knit, she didn’t want his grumpy vibes woven into her blanket. She grabbed a stray lock that hung over her face and used it to tie back her curly mane, which hadn’t been tamed since the day before.

 Meanwhile, a concerned crowd gathered in the parking lot to witness the damage to the property. Star looked at them and bowed her head. “Oh God, this is really, truly happening.” Suddenly the magnitude of last night’s crime sank into her gut and, even worse, her conscience. She bit her lip, looked to the sky, and chanted a power prayer seconds before she would lie to thousands of TV viewers across Arizona.

 Star kept her knees in locked position as she stood in front of La Pachanga, Phoenix’s most-famed Mexican restaurant, adored by art enthusiasts, culture hounds, visiting celebrities, and wealthy folks in Hummers looking for a dash of instant culture.

 Chloe’s chubby red-haired assistant powdered the reporter’s satiny cheeks. She then whipped out a toothbrush, spritzed it with hairspray, and used it to smooth the cone-shaped crown of the reporter’s stick-straight frosty blond hair. She then gave her shoulder-length tresses a heavy coat of spray.

 The Arizona sun was beyond hard-core. Star had lived in Phoenix all her life and still couldn’t adjust to the summer temperatures, which included driver’s arm sunburn and the melting of sentimental mementos -- most recently a memory stick with all her favorite French pop songs. She inspected Crafty Chloe’s flawless appearance and wondered how, even without the touch-up, she could look so fresh in a long-sleeved suit standing in direct sunlight. There wasn’t a drop of sweat on her, whereas Star could feel her own T-shirt damp on her back. Then again, Crafty Chloe wasn’t the one in the karmic hot seat.

Chloe stepped next to Star and gave her a courtesy smile, trailed by a horrified sneer at her hair. Star bypassed the visual insult and gulped back tears of shame as Chloe began the interview.

“It’s a sad day for Phoenix’s art community,” Chloe stated, somber, as if she were covering war in the Middle East. “In the darkness of the night, vandals ruined the award-winning mosaic mural here at La Pachanga Eatery—with, of all things, spray-painted happy faces. Local artist Theo Duarte garnered national attention when he created an ornate replica of the Sonoran desert. Using only pebbles and river rocks from Arizona locations, the neighborhood-funded project that took more than a year to complete was heartlessly defaced in one night.”

Star’s head throbbed, cottonmouth set in, and she became dizzy. She focused on a tan chihuahua across the street, joyously lapping water from a lawn sprinkler. She wished she could be that dog right now.

“I have with me Star Esteban, daughter of La Pachanga’s owners,” Chloe announced to the viewers of Wake Up Arizona. “You look absolutely devastated, Star. What does your family make of this atrocity?” Chloe scrunched her brows together as all dedicated reporters do. She shoved the cordless handheld mic to Star’s mouth.  

Estrella “Star” Esteban considered herself a worldly girl. But this morning, no goddess, saint, healer, shaman, or even Nana Esteban in heaven could repair the anarchy she had ignited last night. Star cleared her throat, knowing her disappointed parents watched from home. Even worse, Theo had just walked up and stood a few feet away, his art-repair caddy in tow. Several patrons patted him on the back to show their sympathy. He shook their hands and graciously thanked them. Theo must have sensed Star’s pain because he offered her a smile and two thumbs-up for support. Poor guy had no idea about the knife sticking out of his back.

 Like a pirate on the edge of a plank, Star prepared for the death plunge. She gripped the bottom of her glittered el Corazón shirt, inhaled, and went for it.

 “No, Chloe. Unfortunately we have no idea who would have committed such a cruel act. It’s such a horrible shame,” Star replied with so much false confidence, she almost believed her own lie. “But we are a loving family, and we’ll get through it. Regardless, our award-winning menudo is still just one dollar a bowl until noon!”

 Chloe paused and tilted her head, confused, then went on.

 “As you can see, the crime hasn’t even sunk in yet to this emotionally exhausted girl,” Chloe said, yanking the microphone away. She appeared irritated by the spontaneous sales plug, though she attempted to cover it with her fake local- TV-reporter sympathy.

 “Star, there must be a surveillance tape that shows the perpetrators in action. On behalf of the artist of the mural, the community, and La Pachanga Eatery, of course, you will prosecute, correct?”  

“And Art Space,” Star blurted. “It’s La Pachanga Eatery and Art Space. You always leave off the Art Space. Aside from the restaurant, we’re a nationally respected gallery.”

 “Point taken, Star. About the mural, you will prosecute, correct?”

 “Well, my father is a firm believer in second chances. It was probably just a silly prank by some kids. At least it was just happy faces and not anything vulgar. Right?” she asked. Star shrugged innocently, then clapped her hands in front of her chest. “Well! I better go check on that menudo! Thank you, Chloe!” Star took one giant step backward out of the frame, bent down, and blew out a burst of stress.

 Chloe pursed her glossy lips and wrapped the segment.

 “If anyone has any information about the Happy Face Tagger, please call our station’s hotline. And speaking of hot—don’t forget to come see me this weekend at the twenty-fifth annual Home and Garden Show! I’ll show you how to turn your flowerpots from frumpy to fabulicious! This is Crafty Chloe Chavez, reporting to you from La Pachanga Eatery for KPDM-Channel 11 News. Amy, back to you!”

 Chloe held her supersized grin until the camera light went off—then she slapped the mic in the cameraman’s hand and ripped out her earpiece. She smoothed her taupe linen suit and approached Star with a glare wicked enough to rival any animated Disney villain.

 “Everything okay?” Star asked, batting her eyes, even though one of them twitched uncontrollably from nerves. Why, she didn’t know. This was just the silly TV craft lady who took herself way too seriously.

 “Something’s not right,” Chloe accused. “Is this some kind of sick publicity stunt?”

 “No! Not at all! How could you even think that?” Star shot back, offended at such a rude claim.

 She had never been a fan of Crafty Chloe. She loved channel 11, but changed the TV every time her face came on. Her beat was supposedly the local art scene, yet Chloe had never once covered any of La Pachanga’s exhibits. Chloe always discounted the “Art Space” part of La Pachanga’s name, just proven on live TV. As PR director of La Pachanga, Star had sent Crafty Chloe numerous press releases for events and shows, none of them featured. But right now, Star represented her parents’ business and she would do her best to be professional.

“I’m sorry if I flubbed the interview, I—I—I couldn’t think straight. I promise to fill you in if we hear anything.”

Chloe took a step closer and lowered her voice. “Look, Miss Esteban, how do I present this without sounding  disrespectful . . . I find it odd that one of our city’s most well known public landmarks has been defaced—it happens to be on your parents’ property—and you’re pushing the Sunday menudo special. All we need is to air that surveillance tape so viewers can help identify the culprits. Case solved, right?”

Star clasped her hands behind her back and rocked back and forth on her shabby Converse sneakers. “It’s not that cut-and-dry . . .”

As always, Theo stepped in to defend Star. He set down his caddy and extended his gentle, broad hand to shake Chloe’s tense, thin one. “Ms. Chavez, hey. I’m Theo Duarte. It’s no big deal. I can remove the paint with turpentine.”

Chloe recoiled her hand. Even Theo couldn’t soften the crusty exterior of her personality. “That doesn’t erase what happened. I’ll just wait for the police report,” she said. 

Star couldn’t be polite any longer. This glorified content deliverer made it impossible to be polite.

“What do you care anyway, Crafty Chloe?” she snarked. “Isn’t there, like, a pastel centerpiece crisis somewhere that needs tending to?”

Just then, the cameraman walked up to Chloe, whispered in her ear, and motioned to his elbow. They both looked Star up and down.

As if Nana Esteban found a way to intervene, Star’s iPhone rang from inside her bag, which she had set by her feet. Thank God! A reason to ditch this scene. She flashed Theo an uncomfortable “Thank you” grin, Chloe a sarcastic “Later” one, reached for her cell, and turned to walk away.

“Hey, Star,” Chloe called out. “I have one more question.”

Star stopped and looked back. “Yah?”

“Is that blood on your arm, or perhaps -- spray paint?”

Star froze, and then replied, “Speaking of blood—by any chance, do you knit?”

Moments after sneaking away from the circus in front of La Pachanga, Star slipped around to the side of the restaurant’s compound to answer her best friend Ofie’s call—or rather, to field the barrage of questions about her crafty idol.

“Sweet mother of Martha!” Ofie shrieked. “You met the Crafty Chloe face-to-face! She showed how to decorate a water bottle the other day. Did she have it on her? Did she talk about crafts? Is she as pretty in person as she is on TV?”

Star peeked around the corner to ensure Chloe or Theo didn’t follow. “Crafty Chloe is pretty, all right, pretty brutal. She totally harassed me, as if  I were the one who spray painted Theo’s mural!”

“But, Star, you did spray paint it.”

Star dropped her bag to the ground and collapsed against the hot concrete wall. “Ugh. Was it that obvious?”

“You couldn’t lie to save your favorite cat-eye sunglasses. Don’t worry. Most people won’t catch on like me. It’s because I know you so well. Oooh, I have an idea to get you off the hook! Why don’t you hit another mural tonight? It’ll throw everyone off the trail of La Pachanga! There’s a brand-new one on the I-10 freeway. It’s dark, you can do it as a drive-by, but use a waterbased paint so it’ll come off easy. I have a 40 percent-off coupon we can use to buy some!”

Star giggled at the thought, even though she knew Ofie was serious. “That’s okay, I have my hands full as it is.”

“Did you at least get her autograph for me?” Ofie asked. “Lord knows I need a pick-me-up. I think the scrapbook group I just joined is already trying to dump me, and this morning, I had a mishap with the glitter spray and ruined Larry’s new suit. Wait. Enough about me, your crisis is much bigger.”

“I doubt Chloe is kind enough to give autographs unless it’s to endorse a check. Screw the scrapbookers, and try masking tape on the suit. I never should have left the house last night,” Star stated as she started to pace back and forth between the side of the building and the thick wall of oleanders.

“Correction. You never should have left with Maria Juana,” Ofie lectured. “Every time you get in trouble, she’s there. I thought you swore her off after the cockatoo switcheroo snafu last summer?”

“She’s my cousin, Ofie. She joined that Roller Derby team. Remember? I told you. Las Bandidas del Fuego. Last night was her first bout and she invited me. I promised my dad I’d try to get along with her. We’re the only two kids left in the Esteban bloodline. I meant well.”

“Wait,” Ofie countered. “If you went to the bout, what happened to the big dinner with Theo? Oh my gosh! The wedding proposal! Did you get engaged?”

Star covered her face with her hand and muffled her mouth. “I bailed.”

Ofie sucked in a gallon of air. “No! So you not only trashed his mural, but you ditched him too? Ay, pobrecito, Theo . . .”

Star’s eye caught another paint smudge on her arm, this one green. She rubbed her elbow against her sequin-accented gypsy skirt to remove it. When it didn’t come off, she grunted at the guilty residue.

“Ofie, it gets hella worse,” Star said into her phone. “The lead jammer from Las Bandidas set me up with this irresistible rocker dude from Ireland. He had gobs of tats, and his accent was so Hollywood. He turned me on to this drink that is supposed to make you see little green fairies. You know I’m not the saucy type, so it just about killed me. I don’t remember much else except making out with him in the back of Maria Juana’s tacky convertible . . . He tasted like mint. I guess afterward I went and spray painted the mural, which I only know about because my parents made me watch the surveillance tape this morning. And then they made me come down here to do that segment on Wake Up Arizona . What was I supposed to do? Tell the truth? I’d never make it home alive! Now I have Crafty Chloe on my ass and Theo to contend with.”

"You know better than to mix cocktails and your cousin, Star.”

Star rubbed her head in disbelief, and knew Ofie was doing the same. “You know, I bet Maria Juana set me up. I have no idea. I know I screw up, like, every other day, but this is the worst. How am I going to explain this to Theo? I don’t know what he’ll be more freaked at: that I’m the one who spray painted his mural, my new tattoo, or the hickey on my neck.”

“Tattoo?” Ofie asked.

Just as Star spun around to make double sure Chloe wasn’t eavesdropping, she bumped into a buff chest.

Theo’s chest.

And the hardened expression on his face confirmed he heard the confession in its entirety.

“Ofie, uh . . . Theo’s right here. I gotta jam. Bye, love you, peace out,” Star whispered, turning off her phone and slowly slipping it into her purse.

She opened her hands and raised them to the sides of her face, as if it would help her say the right words. “Theo, from every ounce of my heart and soul, I am so sorry—I can totally, totally, totally explain this—”

“No need,” he replied. “I’m through with you.”

(Note: Waking Up in the Land of Glitter is available at Amazon.com and other outlets. Visit Grand Central Publishing at www.hbgusa.com.To learn more about Kathy, visit www.craftychica.com.)




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