Big Boss drummed his hooves on the massive mahogany desk dominating his private office. He was so used to having every aspect of his business revolve around him that waiting had become tantamount to a personal insult. Readers of Cosmare Magazine did not wait to be informed of the latest fashion trends. The printers in the basement did not wait for the plate setters to deliver their proofs. The plate setters did not wait for the editors. The editors did not wait for the writers and photographers. The writers and photographers did not wait on Big Boss to give them their next leads. And Big Boss waited for nopony.
The door swung open, revealing a twig of a stallion with hair almost as wide as his shoulders. He put on a sheepish smile and scurried inside. “Mister Big Boss! So sorry for the delay--”
Big Boss held up his hoof and counted to ten in complete silence. Once the stallion across from him was sufficiently uncomfortable, Big Boss said, “Would you tell a musician to wait when he has an idea for a symphony?”
The stallion wilted. “Uh--no sir--”
“Or tell a painter to hold off just a moment when the light trips his muse?”
“Would you put your hoof in a novelist’s typewriter? Say no again.”
“Then please do not hold me up from making my magazine. You’re a freelancer, correct?”
The stallion smiled again. All pearly whites and perfectly shaped dimples. A model’s smile. “Yes, sir. I’m hoping to build a portfolio for you, and return in a few years’ time to apply for--”
“Excellent. I admire ambition. But your life story isn’t necessary.”
Cowed, the stallion replied, “Yes, sir.”
Big Boss looked at the papers on his desk. “Mister Fashion Plate, do you work well with other ponies?”
“Oh, yes sir! I can gel with just about anyone. Some would say my gel is unparalleled.”
“And you have your own camera equipment?”
“Yes. Speaking of ambition, my personal ambitions lean more towards writing--”
“Perfect. I’m teaming you up with Fonty, our senior writer. You two will visit Fillydelphia next week for the city’s annual put-on. It’s mostly amateurs, but you two will focus on the big names.”
“Maybe I could write some articles on the up and comers?” Fashion Plate proffered, eyebrows wiggling. “Leave the heavy hitters to Mister Fonty.”
Big Boss chuckled. “I like ambition. But I like having pictures in my magazine more. Don’t pick up a quill until after we’re done paying you.”
Plate gave up the eyebrow-wiggling game with a sigh. “Yes, sir.”
“Perfect. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” He picked up a telephone in one hoof and motioned towards the door with the other. That was the end of their conversation. Such was the pace of things at Cosmare Magazine.
The door swung shut behind Fashion Plate before he even realized he was out of the office. The change in color palates shocked him out of his own head. He tried to hail the secretary, who was punching a keyboard at an absurd rate. “Excuse me? I still had some things I wanted to discuss with Mister Big Boss.”
Without slowing her typing, the secretary looked up. “Give it a few years. He’ll get around to it.”
Plate nodded and started for the door. “Uh, one more question. Is Big Boss his actual name?”
The secretary shooed him away. One hoof continued typing. Such was the pace of things at Cosmare Magazine.
Fashion Plate met up with Fonty at the train station in Fillydelphia. Fonty was a bull of a stallion, from his broad shoulders down to his massive hooves. His coat looked unusually wooly, and right in front of Plate’s eyes he seemed to unzip his fur and fold it neatly atop his suitcase. It took a moment to realize it was a vest made of wool the same color as him.
“That’s quite the accent,” Fashion Plate said over the din of the station, extending his hoof for a bump. Fonty returned the gesture, almost knocking him over.
“Got it from an alpaca down south. Ever met an alpaca?”
“No,” Plate replied, wide-eyed.
“Well, this one was the same color as me.” Without another word of context, he picked up his luggage and started off. While Fonty parted the crowd effortlessly, Fashion Plate found himself washed up somewhere behind him until they were out of the station. Trailing Fonty, there was no time to admire the architecture. Fonty had already hailed a cab and was shooting him an impatient look from inside.
As they rode to their hotel, Fashion Plate made a brave attempt at conversation. “I really like your articles.”
“Thanks,” Fonty replied.
“I’m really excited to work with you.”
“Do you have any tips for a young guy like me?”
Fonty considered the question for a moment. “Make sure the lens cap is off before you start taking pictures.”
They rode in silence the rest of the way.
Fonty seemed unfazed by their sharing a two-bed suite, so Fashion Plate decided not to be either. Once they were settled in, they readied their gear and set off to the hotel’s convention center, where the main runway events would take place. Fonty carried with him a notebook and a small pencil case in his pocket. Fashion Plate lugged a camera, lens bag, tripod, and extra film.
“Y’know,” Fashion Plate said as they made their way towards the event, “I’ve always been somewhat of a writer myself.”
“It’s a fine profession,” Fonty said with a nod. “Stories are perfection. Every other medium is a mere translation of a story. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Uh--yeah!” Plate fended off Fonty’s malaised stare with a signature impeccable smile. “I’ve always loved writing. Photography is just a means to get my foot in the door. Make myself more of a complete package.”
“Mhm. That is one way of going about it.”
“How did you go about it? Getting to where you are, I mean?”
“Writing well,” Fonty said.
“So am I. I write well. You take pictures well. That’s why you’re here.”
“Bedazzled buttons, I don’t even want to take these pictures!” Fashion Plate sighed. “Am I asking too many questions? Am I being weird? I’m sorry. I’m frazzled. This is me being frazzled. Frazzly mane, frazzly voice, frazzly everything.”
Fonty slowed to keep pace with Fashion Plate. “Don't be mad at yourself for doing this.”
“Okay, but don’t be mad at yourself all the same. This is your first gig for Cosmare. Be patient. If you can come out of this gig with one excellent picture, you’ll get the ball rolling in your favor.”
The sounds of lenses and ponies chattering filled the air as they neared the convention center. A trickle of ponies around them was quickly turning into a flood.
“One good picture... thank you. I just need something positive to think about right now.”
“Want something positive?” Fonty asked, and pointed down the hall. “The best spot for catching the designers when they leave is that service door over there. Looks like the Neightional Enquirer is trying to camp out there. You should get there first.”
Fonty was already getting lost in the crowd. Fashion Plate pushed through an ever-thickening crowd to keep up. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to find some models to talk to.”
“For the magazine?”
Fonty disappeared into the throng. For a moment, Fashion Plate felt utterly directionless. Then a path opened up in the crowd, and he dove in with hardly a second thought. After a few moments, he wound up next to another photographer from the Neightional Enquirer, eagerly awaiting the designers as they filed backstage for the show. The conversation with Fonty had gone by so fast, the wait for somepony to photograph seem endless by comparison. Such was the nature of things in Fillydelphia.
When the designers began migrating backstage, work picked up tremendously. Immersed in the bustle of work, Fashion Plate hardly noticed three hours go by. Fonty found him during a lull fiddling with some lenses in a corner. The veteran took him by surprise, and poor Plate almost dropped a lense as a result. Bobble, catch, relief, smile. The punctuation to anything Fashion Plate related was that smile.
“So, how did you make out?’
“Not as good as you. Is that a phone number?”
Fonty smiled and flipped his notebook shut. “Did you do what I told you to do?”
“Oh yes! One excellent picture. Mine’s a doozy. Candid, yet dramatic. Bold, yet personal. Hue Haul, the fabulous new dye colorist from Pearsia, had a falling out with one of his patrons, who obviously doesn’t understand the intricacies of the Pearsian dyeing process.”
“Anyway,” Fonty said.
Plate cleared his throat. “Yes. Anyway, Hue Haul took the most talked about dress in his collection and stormed out with it. Someone told me he threw it down a storm drain, but I think that source is from the Neightional Inquirer, and you know how they can be. Sassafras sequins, if he really did throw that work of art away--”
“Of course.” Plate tilted the viewing screen of his camera. “Hot. Dramatic. Dress over the shoulder, shadows of him plastered all over the wall by other cameras. Chased down the hallway by his own demons. Literally.”
“Make it black and white.”
“You can do that with these new cameras, right? Make it black and white.”
“The colors on the dress though!”
“Just try it.”
Fashion Plate grumbled and pressed a few buttons on the camera. With the color bleached and blacked, the shadows behind the haunted designer stood out in stark contrast to the pony himself.
Fashion Plate beamed. An excellent picture had been made more excellent.
“Not bad,” Fonty said. “What else do you have?”
Fashion Plate smiled that model’s smile and replied, “That’s it!”
“That’s my one!” Plate threw false confidence into every word. “That’s what you said, right?”
“You only took that one picture?”
“And I almost didn’t, mind you. I was waiting for my perfect shot and I thought this might not be it. I missed a few other decent opportunities, but this one I believe will stand out as the best picture of the night.”
Fonty closed his notebook and rubbed his temple. “Most ponies in this business are smart enough to take my advice figuratively.”
“Figuratively...” Realization rang true like a bell through Plate’s mind. “So--”
“We need more than one picture for the editors, yes.”
“You’re not done.”
“Oh! Well, that’s good. Oh, but that’s not good.” Plate frowned. “Are most new ponies as dumb as I was just there?”
Now it was Fonty’s turn to look perturbed. “Come on now, I didn’t mean it like that. You’re not sunk. You do have one good picture.” He awkwardly patted Plate’s back in just such a way to inform Plate that he was not the kind of pony to express emotions that way. “Listen,” Fonty continued, “you’ve got two more hours before we wrap it up. I want you to find the angles you like and see where they lead. Then find the angles you don’t like and see where those lead.”
“Alright.” Plate felt some of his mojo returning. His hair felt a little straighter. His back a little stronger. His lenses a little cleaner. “Alright. Alright alright alright. This is happening. Right now.”
“Hay yes it is. Now go do your job, son. They’re about to reconvene in the main hall.”
Fashion Plate strode away looking much more determined than before, but before he could open the main door he felt a hoof on his shoulder.
“Hey, Plate?” Fonty said.
“You know why everyone is being so hard on you, right? Me and Big Boss and the Cosmare ponies?”
Plate rolled his eyes. “It’s because I’m a freelancer. I’m new. I’m young. It’s the worst combination of things to have on this side of the curtain.”
Writer shook his head. “It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
For the first time, Fashion Plate ewatched Fonty falter over his thoughts. “It’s because you’re an artist contributing a piece of art to Cosmare magazine. We set a high bar and we want you to raise it.”
“I am?” Fashion Plate stood up a little straighter. Inside, he wanted to leap through the ceiling. “I never thought about it like that. I’m an artist and--and I’m gonna be in Cosmare!” He paused. Reality returned fast and hard. “Wait, that’s silly. I’m not in Cosmare. The fashionistas are in Cosmare. Hue Haul is in Cosmare.”
“Yeah?” Fonty pointed to the camera screen. “What is Hue Hall trying to say with that dress?”
“I dunno. A lot of different things. Fashion speaks its own language.”
“Then you’re their translator,” he said, and pushed him into the room. A thousand flashbulbs fired, and just like that he was back in the fray.
Two days after the Fillydelphia event, Big Boss was sitting at his desk crunching numbers when there was a knock at the door. In walked none other than Fashion Plate, impeccably dressed and two minutes early, with a manilla envelope filled with photographs floating behind him.
“Mister Fashion Plate,” Big Boss said.
“Mister Big Boss, sir,” Plate replied, and opened the envelope. In short order, five black and white pictures were laid across the massive mahogany desk. “The editor assigned to me picked these five as finalists for the Fillydelphia write-up.”
Big Boss smiled and slapped his desk. “Good! Good job. I’ll go with picture two.”
“Now, these--” Fashion Plate cut himself off. “Sir?”
“Yes, I’ll take number two. That will be all.”
“But sir, you haven’t even looked at them.”
“Nonsense. This story is going on page thirty six. By page thirty six, most readers are skimming. Picture two looked the best when I skimmed it. If I looked at them again, I wouldn’t be skimming them. Tell the editor--”
“Sir. Mister Big Boss, sir. With all due respect, I’d like to draw your attention to picture four. There is something special these other ones don’t have. It’s solid. No. Super solid.”
“You know how wasteful objections are.”
“This one is worthwhile, sir. Look at the drama in four. The candid nature of the shot. The play of shadows on the wall. Just look at it!”
The two locked eyes for a split second. Big Boss raised his eyebrow and slowly looked down to picture four. Seconds stretched far longer than seconds ought to have stretched.
Finally, he looked back up and nodded. “Four’ll do. That will be all.” Fashion Plate squealed and jumped right there in his boss’s office. “You’re lucky I’m still running ahead of schedule! Now that will be all, and I mean it this time.”
Fashion Plate nodded and collected his photos. He paused at the door with one hoof on the handle. “Uh, sir? One thing before I go?”
“Make it quick.”
“If you happen to have any writing openings in the next few issues... maybe I could get a shot?”
Big Boss sighed. “Tell you what. If your writing is as good as your photography, I’ll give you a full time gig. And if you really hate photography that much--”
“Oh no sir, I don’t hate it!”
“A lie is a waste of time. To tell you what I think of time wasters would also be a waste of time. If you write as well as you photograph, I’ll give you two cute personal assistants to do your photography for you and a yearly salary.”
“Incredible! But, one assistant with two cameras would be just as good, sir.”
Big Boss waggled his eyebrows. “Two,” he said, and pointed towards the door.
The door shut behind Fashion Plate before he realized he had left the room. His lips curled up in an uncontrollable smile so fierce he could barely stand to break it and wish the secretary good afternoon. She nodded in polite recognition and kept on typing away at her keyboard. Such was the pace of things at Cosmare Magazine.