High Fashion

The famous designer was hidden from the audience by a heavy, tasseled curtain.   The host ran a hand though his green spiked hair and smiled widely. “Madame Chaussure, please tell us a little bit about your fall collection,” the host said. He held the microphone up to the curtain.

Madame Chaussure spoke in a high-pitched, raspy voice through the curtain.   “Darling, my collection is all about growing up. Children dress up in high heels and power suits as though they were wearing symbols of responsibility and talent. Bah, anybody could balance their weight on three-inch heels or tie a half-windsor.   Fashion has to be earned.”

The host looked down at his lavender tie and well-cut charcoal pin-striped suit. “Right,” he said. “I’m looking forward to your vision of fashion for the truly talented.”

“Of course you are,” Madame said. “Start the music.”

A choir began to sing something about rain and stars. “Is this the right music?” the host asked.

“Of course it is,” the designer said.

“Right. Carry on,” the host said.   He ran his hand through his hair again and smiled. The lights dimmed, and the first model came out. She sashayed down the catwalk on three-foot stilts, while wearing a pencil skirt that went past her knees. Her wrap-around tunic was tied with complex celtic knots.

“Are those stilts attached to her shoes?” the host asked.

“Of course they are,” Madame said. “Where would the challenge be otherwise? You can’t take the heels off high-heels either.”

“How long does it take to tie those knots?” the host asked.

“It depends on your talent,” Madame said.

More models on stilts came through, each walking down the catwalk as though they were wearing flats. “How much practice did it take for them to learn to walk like that?” the host asked.

“It depends on the model,” Madame said.

“What was the average amount of time?”

“Two months. Practically nothing, really.” Madame chuckled. “Those truly dedicated to fashion could probably master it in an evening.”

Bagpipes started to join the choir. “Does that mean it’s time for your men’s collection?”

“Indeed.”

The first model came out hopping gracefully. He was wearing two neckties that were woven into the lacing of his suit coat. The weaving and knotwork was complex and lovely.

“Why are they hopping like that?” the host asked.

“Because their shoes are connected,” Madame said. “I’ll probably add springs for my next collection.”

“In the spring?” the host asked. “Is that a joke?”

“I never joke about fashion,” Madame said. “That would be irresponsible.”

“But who would want their shoes connected like that? It’s not safe,” the host said.

“Well, if you want to be safe, I’m sure you can find something practical at your local department store,” Madame said.

“Right. What was I thinking?” the host said.

Several more models hopped by. The host ran his hand through his hair. Half of it was lying flat now. He sighed.   “It was another innovative and beautiful collection,” he said.

“I know. I’m a genius,” Madame said.

The models all came out for a last round of applause.   “Madame, would you like to come out and join them?” the host asked.

There was no response.

“Madame?” the host said. The models filed through the doors at the back of the stage.

“Madame?”

The host peeked around the curtain and then pulled it back. There was no one there. “She couldn’t have left without anyone seeing her,” the host said.   “Right?”

Grandfather and George: The Hat

George helped his grandfather clean out the closet in his guest room.   They’d filled a garbage can with old papers and clothes with holes in them. They’d filled a box with things to donate. Then George put everything else back into the closet.

Grandfather sat on a chair and told George where everything should go. At last, all that was left was a jaunty black hat. “Do you like that hat?” Grandfather asked.

“I like it a lot,” George said.

“You can keep it,” Grandfather said. He leaned forward and plucked the hat out of George’s hands and dropped it on his head.

“Thank you,” George said.

Grandfather thanked him for his help and sent him home with a handful of cookies. George lived around the corner, so it wasn’t far to walk.

He waved to Grandfather, who was watching out the window, and jumped down the front steps. A strong breeze rustled the tree branches behind him. George turned around.

A fluffy black cat with a long blue scarf and golden eyes was flying through the air. It snatched the hat off George’s head as it flew past. “Hey, that’s mine!” George said. He started running.

The cat paused. It spun the hat between its paws. The breeze turned and twisted, making the leaves dance. A woman on a phone stopped walking and stared.

“Hey, kid, do you see that?” She asked.

“The cat?” George asked.

“No, the hat. The hat! What cat?” She said.

The cat gripped the spinning hat tightly between its paws and flew off. George waved to the woman and ran off to follow it. He caught up to the cat in the park on the corner.

The cat held the hat between its teeth and was flying in and out of a tree, darting around branches at the last minute. The breeze followed, weaving itself among the leafless branches, back and forth. The cat’s scarf brushed the branches behind it.

Two small children stood there watching with their mouths hanging open. “Do you see the cat?” George asked.

One of the children turned to look at him. “Did you lose a cat? We haven’t seen one. Did you see that hat? Look!”   The child pointed to the tree.

“Uh, thanks,” George said. The cat flew around the corner and George followed.

The cat bit firmly on the brim of the hat and began flying upside down loop-de-loops down the sidewalk. George chased after it. “Is that your hat, kid?” A man yelled as George ran by. “Is it a trick hat? How does it do that?”

“I don’t know,” George yelled over his shoulder and kept running.

The cat stopped right in front of George’s house.   It was flipping the hat into the air when he arrived. He watched it fly upward, spinning like a quarter, then dropping into the cat’s waiting paws.

“Do you want to play?” George asked. The cat kept flipping the hat. It didn’t look at him.

“Do you like the hat?” George asked. The cat looked down at him and caught the hat without looking and pulled it into its chest. The breeze swirled, lifting the edge of the cat’s scarf.

“You can keep it,” George said. “But it might be too big.”

The cat’s golden eyes narrowed. It put the hat on its head. Somehow, the hat fit perfectly. It nodded at George and flew away, breeze and scarf trailing behind.

George told his mother he was home and called his grandfather on the phone. “Grandfather,” he said, “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“Was it that cat? I’ve never seen anything like it. A flying cat!” Grandfather said.

“You saw?” George asked.

“Of course I did. I was looking out the window,” Grandfather said. “This window right here, and…” Grandfather paused. “Oh no, I need to go. A monkey just stole my best shovel and is climbing the neighbor’s fence. Where did the monkey come from?”   Grandfather hung up.

“Huh,” George said. “At least I still have the cookies.” He pulled one out of his pocket and took a bite. “Ew, they’re pickle flavored.”

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A Hat Fit for a Queen

Queen Matilda needed a new hat. She often attended parades and festivals and speeches and so many, many things. They were nearly always outdoors and lasted for hours.

It was her job to smile and nod and listen closely so that she could answer questions later. Her whole life was a pop quiz. Everyone was always watching her. She couldn’t scratch her nose when it itched, because that wasn’t ladylike.   Neither was frowning or slouching or rubbing her eyes.

Applying sunscreen after being outdoors for an hour wasn’t allowed either, even though it would be a good example for the citizens. So, she wore hats rather than burn an unladylike red.   Because she would have to wear a hat for hours in all sorts of weather, she was rather picky about what she wanted.

However, no one really listened to her order. It used to be the same for her clothes until she’d found her current tailor. Everyone had wanted to dress her in big frothy things that weighed forty pounds and were armored in jewels and embroidery. So impractical.

The current milliner was yet another disappointment. However, now that she’d made an order, she couldn’t back out without seeming rude. “I do prefer something light and sophisticated. Something simple, really,” she said again.

“Oh yes, your majesty, I know just the thing. Something mauve maybe with a spray of ostrich feathers and a little jeweled button and some embroidery right there?” The milliner said.

“No, I’d like gray. It would match more of my wardrobe. And I’d like a wider brim on the hat and fewer decorations,” the queen said.

“I suppose,” the milliner said. She looked skeptical. “I’ll see what I can whip up. Come back in two days at the same time.”

“Very well,” the queen said. “Thank you.”

The very next day, the milliner’s website was advertising the queen’s new hat.   The hat was buried in roses and hydrangeas. By noon, the milliner had added a fake nest and some cherries. That evening there was a plastic bird perched on top. It all looked like it was a centerpiece for a May Day celebration.

The queen sighed. It could be worse. Her assistant shut down the computer with a giggle. “I think you should wear it just like that,” the assistant said.

“Nonsense,” the queen said. “No one would take me seriously.”

“They’d be too busy staring at your hat,” the assistant agreed.

The next morning, the queen checked in on her hat. There were two fake kittens nestled in among the flowers.   They looked like they were carved out of wood. That must be ridiculously heavy.

At noon, the hat had bunny ears poking up from the back. It had to be some sort of joke. There was also a large red bow front and center. The ends of the ribbon hung down from the brim, where they’d surely dangle in front of her eyes.

The queen was horrified. She would never put this hat on her head. It was out of the question. Her assistant was snorting in laughter. This was the worst hat yet.

The rest of the milliner’s hats seemed normal. Why had she gone crazy with this hat? Why did people think she wanted flashy hats and dresses? It’s not what she normally wore. It’s not what anyone she knew wore.

So, her assistant picked up the hat with a smile and paid the exorbitant price tag. When she’d brought it back to the palace, the queen unpacked it and sighed. Together, they carefully peeled off all the decorations. The basic hat underneath was actually quite nice.

They kept a rose and added a ribbon. Not bad. She wore it the next day to a charity luncheon and accepted many compliments on her new hat. The milliner’s website had a picture of her at the event by evening.

The website claimed that the other hat was of course a joke to keep the real hat a secret until the queen wore it for the first time. The milliner sent her two more hats in the same simple style as the hat she wore to the luncheon with the milliner’s compliments and an apology.

Perhaps she’d finally found a milliner she could work with? She’d find out with her next order.

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Heavy is the Crown

King Lamorak returned from his month-long trip feeling annoyed. Annoyed and envious. He’d been visiting the nearby kingdoms and discovered to his dismay that their best crowns were all fancier than his best crown.

That was not acceptable. He told them that the crown he’d brought was just a traveling crown and they’d been suitably impressed. However, it actually was his best crown. It just wouldn’t do.

It was time for a new crown. It had to be the best one ever. He’d design it himself. Swirls of diamonds, arcs of gold filigree. He’d send off for rubies as big as his fist and opals that were even bigger. There would be lines of sapphires all through it tying everything together. It would drip diamonds and embroidered silk at the edges. And it would have a silk pillow hidden on the inside so that it wasn’t too uncomfortable.

He drew up the plans and consulted with his treasurers and the nation’s best jewelers. He’d be eating beans and potatoes in-between state dinners for the rest of his life, but that would surely just help him stay fashionably trim.   He took a deep breath and started signing all the paperwork.

King Lamorak announced his new crown on all the news stations and in every newspaper. He did dozens of interviews and finally released the designs. The nation counted down with him. He would hold a special VIP event a week after the crown came, where he would wear it in public for the first time. Tickets were on sale for ridiculous prices.

The day finally came and the crown arrived. It was beautiful, dazzling, better than he’d imagined. It was also very, very big.   Nervously, he lifted it up. It was very, very heavy. He put it on. Ouch. He tipped it into his hands and dropped it on his lap.

He massaged his neck. This wasn’t going to work. What could he do? At this point, not wearing the crown would mean losing a lot of face. He couldn’t really afford to do that. He groaned.

Luckily, he’d tried it on when he was alone.   Well, relatively alone. His best friend and personal advisor Ralph was there too. Ralph might say, “I told you so,” because he had. However, he wouldn’t tell anyone else.

“Ralph,” King Lamorak said, “you were right. I can’t wear this. What do I do?”

Ralph laughed. “I told you so.” He laughed some more.

The king waited patiently for the laughter to stop. Then he repeated his question.

“Hmmmm,” Ralph said. “Did you know that there are reproduction crowns that look just like the real thing? They’re hollow of course, and made of less expensive everything, but who’s going to take a jeweler’s glass to your head?”

“I could lock it in the treasury and no one has to know. Is it too late to order one?” King Lamorak asked. This could work.

“They were sold out months ago,” Ralph said.

“There must be some way to find one,” the king said.   “Perhaps an anonymous advertisement or a personal visit to the manufacturer?”

“Don’t worry,” Ralph said. “It’s taken care of. I ordered one the moment I saw the advertisement. I’ll be right back.”

Ralph returned a few minutes later with a cardboard box. It had been opened and retaped shut. King Lamorak retrieved his silver scissors and cut through the tape with a shaky hand.

He pulled aside the bubble wrap. There it was. If he didn’t know better, he would have assumed that it was the real thing.   He lifted it out. It was heavy, but no more so than any of his other crowns.

He put it on and looked in the mirror. Very nice. No one would be able to top this. He turned all the way around and studied it from every angle. Yes, this would do.

“Thank you, Ralph,” he said. “You’ve saved me once again.”

“What are friends for?” Ralph said.

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The Travelling Shirt

John was innocently sitting on the couch reading, when suddenly he couldn’t see.   He pulled the…shirt? off his head.   “Michelle!” He yelled. His older sister laughed.

“You should have seen your face! It looked like the sky had fallen,” she said. She snorted and laughed some more.

“That wasn’t very nice,” John said. He balled up the shirt and threw it back at her.

Michelle caught the shirt and threw it back at his head. “It’s a gift,” she said. “There, see, it was nice after all.”

John set his book down and smoothed out the shirt on his knees. “Did you tie-dye this? It looks like you messed up. The colors are muddy.”

“Yeah, some of the ties came loose. It’s a perfect shirt for you, though. You don’t care how you look,” Michelle said.

“I do, too,” John said.

“You have a ketchup stain right there,” Michelle said. She pointed and John looked down. She was right. He scowled and Michelle laughed again. “You’re welcome,” she said.

John looked down at the shirt again. It wasn’t so bad. It was kind of interesting looking, anyways. And right there in the center, it looked like there was a face. That was actually kind of cool. He’d wear it tomorrow.

The next day, John wore his face shirt. “You’re getting crumbs on me,” it said at breakfast. John jumped and looked around. Then he looked down. The face looked like it was frowning.

“Did you say something?” John asked.

“Yes. Eat more neatly,” the shirt said. The face didn’t move, but the voice seemed to be coming from the shirt. John looked around again. No one was there. Right. So, he now had a talking shirt.

“Are you any good at math?” he asked.

“What a silly question,” the shirt said. “I was born yesterday. You need to teach me math first. Then, of course I will be marvelous at math.”

Luckily the shirt was quiet at school. “Are you okay?” John whispered once.

“Shhhh. I’m listening,” the shirt whispered back.

It learned quickly. It was really good at checking John’s homework and telling him which things he’d gotten wrong. It wouldn’t tell him the answers though. “That’s cheating,” the shirt said.

The shirt’s favorite thing to do was look at photos of places around the world.   “How are there so many different places and people? How is the world so big?” the shirt asked one day.

“I don’t know. It just is,” John said.

“Do you know anybody who lives far away somewhere?” The shirt asked.

“I have an aunt who lives in Hawaii,” John said.

The shirt shivered a little. It felt strange. “I must go and see it! Please send me there. Please!   Please!” The shirt said.

It asked him everyday. Finally he did. He sent the shirt to his aunt with a note asking her to take the shirt around to see the sights in his place and send it back when she was done.

“Hey! You’re not carrying around that shirt I made,” Michelle said the next day.   “Decided you don’t need a lovey anymore?” She laughed. “No, really, I’m flattered you liked it so much.”

John scowled and went to his room to read.   He missed having a friend around to talk to. Hopefully the shirt wouldn’t be gone long.

Weeks later, John found a package on the counter from his aunt. He ripped it open. Inside was a fake flower lei, a package of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, a note from his aunt, and the shirt.

“I missed you,” John said.

“Shhh. I’m thinking about what I saw,” the shirt said.

John read the note from his aunt. She said that she thought it was a fun idea to take a virtual vacation. She also said she’d send the pictures she took of the shirt seeing the sights later to his mom’s email.

The shirt didn’t talk for a week. Finally, one morning at breakfast, the shirt spoke again.   “John,” it said.

“Finally you say something,” John said. “Are you done thinking about Hawaii?”

“Yes,” the shirt said. “Do you know anyone in Paris?”

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