Read an Excerpt
“My name is Kiley but my friends call me Krazy, with a K.”
Kiley McCann could tell by the way her interviewer had said “wow” that she was impressed. Perfect. She crossed her miniskirt clad legs and shook chestnut hair off her face with a practiced gesture. From the corner of her eye, she could see the red light of the video camera that was recording every word.
“I’m totally wild,” Kiley declared.
“Really.” The multiply-pierced interviewer leaned forward in her orange director’s chair. “So, Krazy, what kind of music are you into?”
“Classic rock, totally,” Kiley assured her. “Platinum, of course. ‘Coy Miss Interruptus’ is my fave. And Hendrix. Hendrix is the best.”
“Are you experienced?”
“Very,” Kiley dropped her eyes to half-mast. “I’m up for anything. Anytime. Anywhere.”
“Well, ‘wow’ all over again.” The woman stood, put down her clipboard and stretched, exposing two taut inches of stomach above her how-low-can-you-go jeans. Then she dead-eyed Kiley. “You’re totally full of shit.”
Kiley blushed — blushed! — which was not at all the look she was going for. “No I’m not,” she insisted.
“Please. You’re a goddamn seventeen-year-old poser. Don’t yank my chain.”
Face burning, totally busted; Kiley slumped back onto her stool. So much for passing herself off as a girl hot enough to get selected for a new reality TV show.
When her best friend Nina had picked her up at three A.M. to drive to Milwaukee for this interview, Kiley had felt so hopeful. Halfway there, they’d made a pit stop, where Nina had applied smudgy black eyeliner, three coats of mascara, ditto lip gloss, to Kiley’s face. Then Kiley donned the micro-mini skirt, stiletto boots, and sheer camisole that Nina had swiped from her slutty sister Heather. Infused with donuts and truck stop coffee, they returned to the car; Kiley rehearsed her wild child act the rest of the way to Milwaukee.
At first, the ruse seemed brilliant. When they arrived at the Milwaukee Center for the Performing Arts, where the interviews were to take place, there was already a four-deep line that snaked around the building. They joined it, though it was still before dawn. Over the next hour, while the sun rose, cute guy after cute guy chatted them up. That never happened in La Crosse, where Kiley’s hair was invariably in a messy ponytail and the rest of her in the Gap chinos/T-shirt/Converse All-Stars combo she favored.
And then, a miracle. One of the show’s associate producers canvassing the line singled her out and handed her a card that allowed her to be interviewed immediately. The producer escorted Kiley past the long line of glaring stares and right through the glass doors of the Center.
It had all seemed too perfect. Apparently, it was. Damn.
The young woman peered over rhinestone kitten glasses. “So Kiley, oh, I mean Krazy,” she sneered. When I asked ‘Are You Experienced?’ I wasn’t referring to your sex life. It’s the name of a — no, the — seminal Jimi Hendrix album.”
All around the rehearsal hall that had been converted to an interview room, the show’s staff chuckled at Kiley’s gaffe.
“Let’s cut to the chase here, Miss Susie Cream Cheese. You’re from . . .” She scanned Kiley’s application.
“La Crosse,” Kiley offered meekly.
“Where the hell is La Crosse?”
“Down the river from Eau Claire.”
“Oh well, isn’t that soooo helpful.” The staff exploded in laughter again.
Kiley cleared her throat. “Okay. I may have embellished my application a little.”
“A little?” The producer ran three fingers through her day glow red punk hair as she glanced down at her clipboard. “Starred in Girls Gone Wild video. Hitchhiked solo around Southeast Asia. Snuck into Eminem’s hotel room.” Her eyes flicked back to Kiley. “This would be at his big La Crosse concert?”
Kiley stood, slutty Heather’s too-tight boots biting into her toes. She faced the chubby cameraman who was still filming her humiliation. “You can turn that off now,” Kiley said with as much dignity as she could muster. She headed for the door. “Sorry to have wasted everyone’s time.”
“Excuse me, sit please!” the producer called. “We’re not done.”
“What’s the point?”
“I said sit.” The producer stabbed a finger at the chair. Kiley stopped. Turned. Walked back to her chair. Folded her arms and stood there, as the producer went to confer quietly with two middle-aged men.
Kiley couldn’t hear them. She felt ridiculous, on display in Heather’s stupid “do me” outfit. What ever had made her think she could bluff her way onto Platinum Nanny? In the tradition of The Apprentice, the show would feature an on-air competition–to become the live-in nanny to aging superstar rock ‘n roller, Platinum.
Prior to the announcement of auditions, Kiley had barely heard of Platinum. That’s when Kiley did what Kiley did best: her homework. Research revealed that Platinum was a vintage rocker whose outrageous behavior had made tabloid headlines through the late eighties and early nineties. Now, the aging rock star had supposedly reformed and was the mother of three children by three different fathers. Her who’s-my-daddy? family lived in Beverly Hills, California on an estate she’d purchased from David Bowie.
As part of her research, Kiley had borrowed every Platinum CD she could find; Nina even burned some bootleg recordings from Kazaa. Of course, now that Kiley had blown the interview, it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d memorized Platinum’s entire catalogue.
The whole thing had been the longest of long shots anyway. It wasn’t as if Kiley had a sudden urge for her fifteen minutes of TV fame, or to enjoy the lifestyle of the rich and infamous by proxy. What Kiley wanted–needed, was desperate for–was to live in California and become a Californian.
When Kiley was in fifth grade, her parents had brought her to San Diego for an uncle’s wedding. Between her dad’s job at the La Crosse Brewery Company, and her mom’s job as a waitress, money was always tight. In fact, that trip had been their first–and only–family vacation that hadn’t involved the car, multiple six packs for Dad, and self-prescribed herbal anxiety medication for Mom.
The San Diego trip was a once in a lifetime thing. Maybe that’s why Kiley found it so magical. Her father had stayed sober. Well, mostly. Her mother chilled out on kava-kava. Well, mostly. They’d gotten along like The Brady Bunch.
Best of all, they stayed in an apartment that overlooked the ocean. That first evening, when Kiley watched the setting sun paint a canvas of cirrus clouds red and purple as it slid into the Pacific, she felt a magical sense of calm. The smell of the sea, the way the salty air felt in her lungs . . . everything was clean and new and possible.
Her family was not the type to go on educational outings. Or any kind of outings for that matter. But in San Diego, they went to Sea World. And drove up to the Long Beach Aquarium. They were supposed to go on the visitors’ tour of the Scripps Institute for Oceanographic Research, but Dad decided to see the Padres play a home game. So Mom took Kiley alone.
Disaster struck in the parking lot, when Mrs. McCann had a panic attack. Kiley could often talk her mother down from the worst of these incidents. But that day, no way would her mother even leave the car. So mom stayed behind while Kiley joined a large tour group — every assuming that the ten year old with the ponytail belonged to one of the grownups.
If that first night on the apartment balcony had been the courtship, the tour of the Scripps Institute sealed the romance. Kiley fell in love with the sea the way other girls fall in love with horses or boy bands. She made up her mind: she’d become an oceanographer or a marine biologist. It would be a career so far removed from La Crosse and the brewery and her mother’s panic disorder as to be another planet. It was perfect.
Back in La Crosse, Kiley turned herself into an amateur expert on the oceans. When she was a high school sophomore, she ordered the Scripps catalogue. Reading it was bliss . . . until she reached the page that listed tuition. For California residents, the cost was reasonable. For out-of-staters, there were two numbers after the dollar sign and before the comma; they weren’t 1 and 0.
Who was she kidding? No way could her parents afford to pay for Scripps. Even with loans and a scholarship, she’d be lucky if she could afford La Crosse Community College. Her only hope was to apply to Scripps as a Californian. Which was ridiculous, since she wasn’t one, and had no way of becoming one. Until two weeks ago, that is, when Nina had raced over to Kiley’s house with the news she’d just heard on TV–Platinum Nanny was holding a regional audition in Milwaukee.
There it was: a shot at California . . . albeit the longest shot in the history of long shots. But now, not only had she blown it, she’d probably end up part of the Platinum Nanny Bloopers and Stupors Extra Special Episode, immortalized on the air for all America to see.
The boots were killing her. What the hell. She sat down and pulled them off just as the producer returned. “You’re really seventeen years old?” she asked.
“Yep.” Kiley crossed one leg over the other and rubbed a throbbing foot.
She extracted a pink plastic file card from her clipboard and offered it to Kiley. “You know what this is?”
“Parking validation?” was Kiley’s retort. Why not? She didn’t have to impress anyone.
“Take it. You’re in.”
Kiley sat there, boots in hand, certain she had misunderstood. “B-but I lied,” she stammered. “I made everything up —”
“Yuh, we kinda got that,” the producer said, her brittle laugh revealing a lethal-looking tongue-stud. “Little Miss La Crosse Virginator who tried to bluff her way into Platinum Nanny. They’ll eat it up in flyover country. Congrats.”
“You mean I’m really a finalist?”
“Not unless you take this damn card.”
Kiley grabbed it. “Oh my God. Thank you!” She jumped up and hugged the young woman, boots still in her hand. “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome. You’re on your way to Hollywood.”