{Written for Alameda Shorts: July 2017: Theme: Covfefe}

Tillie went ahead and let the number hang in the air for a moment. It kind-of spoke for itself.

Ellen blinked twice, her blue irises shifting quickly from the sparkle of anticipation to the ice of argument. “I think it’s more like 5,000,” she said.

David side-eyed Tillie. Here we go.

It was Tillie’s turn to blink. “I’m sorry, but the number of pre-orders is fifteen, as I said. There just isn’t anything to show consumers, and the initial excitement over the promise of an exciting, innovative fashion line from you just hasn’t been sustainable. And as I say, without something to point to – sketches, swatches, samples … we can’t push the line.”

Ellen didn’t speak. She appeared to be scrutinizing Tillie’s office, like a calculator assessing the value of the view, the silver picture frames, the hand-woven rugs, the Joybird chairs, even Tillie’s sleeveless dress.

Good luck with that, Tillie thought. She liked to wear undiscovered designers, and this one had no price tag.

David cleared his throat, “Ellen, we are exercising the option to back out of your contract, based on the lack of movement on your end and the failure to deliver on any part of the agreement to date. It’s been 18 months …”

Tillie jumped back in, “Ms. Covfefe. Ellen. I wanted so much for your status as a pop icon to translate to this industry, but while shock and awe works on the stage, people won’t pay for surprise clothing. The concept doesn’t work. Maybe twenty years ago, at the height of your career, but now?”

Ellen’s eyes narrowed to dangerous slits. “Let me ask you something.” She leaned forward aggressively, “If I have 5,000 pre-orders, what’s the problem? That’s a number to be proud of.

“My name is selling. They’re flying off the racks. And once the Covfefe line is in stores, you won’t be able to keep them on the racks. People are going to go in and see my outfits and feel the fabrics, and they’re going to say wow, and they’re going to buy them and they’re going to say, We want more!

Tillie shook her head, “Fifteen pre-orders, Ellen. FifteeeNNN. Not 50, not 500, and certainly not 5,000. And we’re an online retailer, so …”

But Ellen Covfefe was halfway out the door. “You clearly have no idea what you’re doing. You call yourself a risk-taker, but you have no imagination. You need imagination to take risks, lady! And you know what’s more?”

Ellen stomped back across the room to lean over the desk into Tillie’s face, “I see right through you. Sure, I was fooled at first. When I met you and I saw how you dress and looked at all this luxury, I thought, here’s a woman with good taste. This woman, she supports the up-and-coming designers, and that’s very American, and she looks good, she must be on to something.

“But you know what? You’re just playing a long con. Mother warned me about con artists like you. I’m ending our relationship. My decision is final.”

And with that, she stormed out of Tillie’s office.

“What the hell just happened here?” Tillie looked to David for a clue.

David shrugged. “You’ve been Covfefe’d.”

“What does that even mean?”

“It means you’re fucked.”

Tillie snorted. “Not for nothing, kid, but I’ve had a pretty solid reputation in this industry for decades. I earned it the old-fashioned way. If that’s a Covfefe tantrum, I’m not worried.”

“Oh, honey,” David said. “That was just the tip.”

And it was.

Within hours, Ellen Covfefe had launched an all-out assault on Tillie’s reputation, her business, her character, and her choice of eyeliner. The former pop star jumped on any radio show that would have her, and even made a drunken spectacle of herself to get on TMZ, just so she could tell the world what a fraud Tillie was.

“When I met her, I thought, this woman knows good taste. Everyone said, oh she’s a trail-blazer. And sure, I was duped. But people, you have to know, she’s a low-rent wanna-be.”

In no time at all, Ellen’s on-air diatribes went from wondering out loud if Tillie had the qualifications to do her job, to speculating about her education and awards, to outright denouncing her degrees and employment history as frauds – even though Tillie’s publicist resurrected Ellen’s own Instragram photos of the two women, selfie-style, in front of Tillie’s office wall, framed degrees and certificates in full view.

“How can an old woman judge my line? Or anyone else’s for that matter?” Ellen kept spouting. “There’s just no way. She’s so out of touch. She’s making a mess of the fashion world.

“We could have been friends, but she blew it. We could have been great friends, but she doesn’t know what she’s doing. I can’t be friends with a woman who doesn’t know what she’s doing, and I can’t let her have my business.

“It’s sad, really. Because the Covfefe line, you just wait and see. It’s going to be great.”

Tillie did her best to keep her head down, mind her own business, and work her connections until the storm passed, if only to keep her reputation hanging by the one silver thread Ellen had left her with … counting down the days when the former pop star would have to shit or get off the pot.

It took about four years – plenty of time for Ellen to undermine the entire fashion industry, working consumers into a fever pitch of angst against the established fashion houses across the United States and Europe, and crippling many brands under the weight of bankruptcy and unfounded allegations of corruption, plagiarism, and the abuse of junior designers.

“Lock them up!” became the battle cry of the disenfranchised, and Covfefe pre-orders shot past 15 right to 5,000.

50,000.

500,000.

and beyond.

“No one knew designing a revolutionary clothing line was so hard,” Ellen kept saying. “Ask anyone. No one knew.

“I’m working on the greatest collection you’ve ever seen. Remember how great my music was 25 years ago? I just re-released the 10-year anniversary compilation. You can get it on Amazon. Everything I do is great. Just you wait.”

Then, for a solid month leading up to her long-anticipated debut fashion show, Keen and Thrum, featuring winter cover-ups, Ellen filled the airwaves with reminders of how incompetent Tillie was, and what a sad, over-rated person she had been to overlook Ellen’s talents.

“I have two seats reserved just for you and your lapdog David,” she taunted. “But I don’t think you have the courage to show up.”

And so Tillie found herself seated next to David at Keen and Thrum, back straight, directly across the catwalk from a plague of photographers who drained batteries on them alone – until the lights went down, the music came up, and all eyes followed the spotlight to top of the stage.

Tillie raised a hand to her mouth. “Am I missing something? Four years to design winter coats? Does she know Ground Hog Day was last week?”

“Shhhhh …”

The first model stepped out and let the moment drape over her. Silence rose on a wave that suddenly broke into a fever of applause across the audience. The photographers scrambled and snapped and captured countless images of every movement – every swing of the arm, every jab of the hip, every angry-pouty stare thrown into the crowd.

“Oh my God,” Tillie’s jaw dropped. “It’s Mormon underwear. Do not tell me she took FOUR YEARS to design a line of Mormon underwear!”

“No.” David shook his head, not quite believing what was coming out of his mouth, “It’s what’s on top of the underwear, that’s her revolutionary design.”

“But there’s nothing there. It’s nothing.”

Tillie looked at David, who was intent on keeping a straight face. She looked at the photographers, who were intent on getting the best shots. She looked at the crowd, all of them intent on seeing what Ellen had promised, debating which to buy, the wrap or the poncho?

Should she laugh or should she cry?

Within minutes, the blogosphere erupted into praise of Ellen and her revolutionary new line of winter wear.

People who hated the idea of the old fashion-houses and their establishment rules, but also hated the idea of supporting unproven designers, who must suck or they wouldn’t need to prove themselves, finally had something to invest in.

Covfefe stock shot up to double, triple, and quadruple its value overnight. Within days, everything Covfefe was being traded across the dark web – get your bootleg cardigans here!

The old ways dead and buried, leaving no other sane place for her in the world, Tillie retired to a little cabin in the woods to quietly fade away.

Ellen grew extravagantly wealthy, even more so than before, and yet the people didn’t mind paying money to be cold and naked – it was a small price to pay for being lucky enough to have been part of the revolution that brought the old guard down.