CHAPTER ONE: THE GIRL WHO SMIZED
Mr. and Mrs. Catalog, of number four, Unfashionable Drive, were proud to say that they bought everything at Target, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything fashionable or stylish, because they just didn't hold with such fabulousness.
Mr. Catalog was the director of a firm called Borings, which made unflattering clothes. He was a big, beefy man who lost his neck in photographs, although he did have lots of armpit hair. Mrs. Catalog was thin and blonde but had terrible proportions, which was very useful for stirring up shit in the house. The Catalogs had a small daughter named Dreckley and in their opinion there was no finer girl anyway.
The Borings had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody might discover it. They didn't thing they could bear it if anyone found out about the Coutures. Mrs. Couture was Mrs. Catalog's sister, but they hadn't met for several years; in fact, Mrs. Catalog pretended she didn't have a sister, because her sister and her good-for-nothing husband were as unCataglogish as it was possible to be. The Catalogs shuddered to think what the neighbors would say if the Coutures arrived in the street. The Catalogs knew that the Coutures had a small daughter, too, but they had never seen her. The girl was another good reason for keeping the Coutures away; they didn't want Dreckley mixing with a child like that.
When Mr. and Mrs. Catalog woke up on the dull, Covergirlless gray but not smokey-eyed Tuesday our story starts, there was nothing about the bland sky outside to suggest that fashionable or artistic things would soon be happening all over the country. Mr. Catalog hummed as he picked out the most boring pose for his photoshoot, and Mrs. Dursley talked smack happily as she wrestled a screaming Dreckley into her high chair.
None of them noticed the large, tawny TyraMail flash across the window.
At half past eight, which was too late for a top model to make an early morning appointment, Mr. Catalog picked up his unflattering jacket, posed with Mrs. Catalog, and tried to pose with Dreckley but missed, because Dreckley had no personality and was throwing her props at the walls. "Little dyke," chortled Mr. Catalog as he left the house. He got into his car and backed out of number four's drive.
It was on the corner of the street that he noticed the first sign of something fabulous – a man in a dress. For a second, Mr. Catalog didn't realize what he had seen – then he jerked his head around to look again. There was a man standing at the corner but there wasn't a dress in sight. What could he have been thinking of? It must have been a trick of the light he could not find. Mr. Catalog blinked and stared at the man. He stared back. As Mr. Catalog drove around the corner and up the road, he watched the cat in his mirror. It was now wearing a pair of sparkly high heels – no, in boring, unflattering oxfords; men didn't wear dresses or heels. Mr. Catalog gave himself a little shake and put the man out of his mind. As he drove toward town he thought of nothing except a large order of paisley sundresses he was hoping to shoot that day.
But on the edge of town, sundresses were driven out of his mind by something else. As he sat in the usual morning traffic jam, becoming later and later, he couldn't help noticing that there seemed to be a lot of fashionably dressed people about. People in designer clothes. Mr. Catalog couldn't bear people who wore designer clothes – the getups he saw on beautiful people! He supposed this was some stupid new fashion. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and his eyes fell on a huddle of these fashionistas standing quite close by. They were whispering excitedly together. Mr. Catalog was enraged to see that a couple of them weren't young at all; why, that woman had to be as hold as he was, simply with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery! The nerve of him! Bu then it struck Mr. Catalo that this was probably some silly student – these people were obviously collecting money for a school for children's empowerment in Africa … yes, that would be it. The fraffic moved on and a few minutes later, Mr. Catalog arrived in the Borings parking lot, his mind back on paisley.
Mr. Catalog always sat with his back to the window in his office on the ninth floor, where the natural light was terrible. If he hadn't, he might have found it harder to concentrate on drills that morning. He didn't see the TyraMail swooping past in broad daylight, though people in the street did; they pointed and gazed open-mouthed as TyraMail after TyraMail sped overhead. Most of them had never seen a TyraMail even in a fashionable apartment. Mr. Catalog, however, had a perfectly normal, Tyra-free morning. He yelled at five different catalog models. He made several important advertisements and shouted a bit more. He was a very good mood until lunchtime, when he thought he'd stretch his legs and walk across the road to buy himself omg fattening food from the bakery.
He'd forgotten all about the people in designer clothes until he passed a group of them next to the baker's. He eyed them angrily as he passed, which was less beautiful than smizing. He didn't know why, but they made him uneasy. This bunch were whispering excitedly, too, and he couldn't' see a single collecting tin. It was on his way back past them, clutching a large doughnut (omg!) in a bag, that he caught a few words of what they were saying.
"The Coutures, that's right, that's what I heard–"
"-yes, their daughter, Haute-"
Mr. Catalog stopped dead. Fear flooded him. He looked back at the whisperers as if he wanted to say something to them, but thought better of it.
He dashed back across the road, hurried up to his office, snapped at his photographer not to disturb him, seized his telephone, and had almost finished dialing his home number when he changed his mind. He put the receiver back down and stroked his blemish-ridden skin, thinking… no, he was being stupid. Couture wasn't such an unusual name. He was sure there were lots of people called Couture who had a daughter named Haute. Come to think of it, he wasn't even sure his niece was called Haute. He'd never seen the girl. It might have been Janice. Or Twiggy. There was no point in worrying Mrs. Catalog; she always got so upset at any mention of her sister. He didn't blame her – if he'd had a sister like that… but all the same, those people in designer clothes…
He found it a lot harder to concentrate on modeling that afternoon and when he left the building at five o'clock, he was still so worried that he walked straight into someone just outside the door.
"Sorry," he grunted, as the stylish old man stumbled and struck a pose. It was a few seconds before Mr. Catalog realized the man was wearing Oscar de la Renta fall ready to wear. He didn't seem at all upset about forced into an uncomfortable position which showed off his amazing proportions. On the contrary, his face split into a wide smize and he said in a squeaky voice that made passersby star, "Don't be sorry, my dear sir, for nothing could upset me today! Rejoice, for You-Are-Not-America's-Next-Top-Model has gone at last! Even Mallrats like yourself should be celebrating this happy, happy day!"
And the beautiful man hugged Mr. Catalog around the middle and walked off.
Mr. Catalog stood rooted to the spot. He had been hugged by a complete stranger. He also thought he had been called a Mallrat, whatever that was. He was rattled. He hurried to his car and set off for home, hoping he was looking beyond what was in front of him to see the true essence of beauty, which he had never hoped before, because he didn't approve of looking beyond what was in front of him to see the true essence of beauty.
Seems somehow familiar, doesn't it?