Supermodel of the Roman Empire

Maria McLeod's absurdly weird little fable turns an arched eyebrow at media spectacle in the latter-day Rome that is America.

When the blue velvet stage curtains parted, the supermodel entered, turned toward the crowd, and waved like a woman on a parade float—a slow, open-handed fan. Her face was round like an apple: a red delicious, a pink lady. The supermodel was really super.

When she made her talk show appearance, the audience hooted and whistled and clapped. She had dimples and a slight cleft in her chin. She had mint-leaf green eyes and curly, caramel blonde hair that cascaded over her shoulders. The host stood grinning, holding his unbuttoned jacket together as she approached. He had a habit of hiding his belly.

He was portly, but his heft wasn’t obvious because of the way his suit jacket made his torso appear nearly perfectly square.

The supermodel was dressed in the attire of ancient Rome, a fashion popularized by the collective fantasy of the gladiator’s lover: sultry women awaiting their warriors’ return from bloody battle. As if to signify her status in the Roman Empire, the supermodel wore a large, bronze necklace, linking together a series of identically shaped metallic fig leaves.

On her upper right arm, she wore a bronze Cleopatra bracelet, the gleaming head of a snake sucking on its tail.  Her dress was creamy silk, sleeveless, with a wide-neck yoke. The hem rested about four inches above her knees, and the dress was darted at the waist and breasts, a sexy toga.

She wore high heels designed as leather Roman sandals, open toed and with thick straps wrapped around her ankles, a hint of bondage. If she wasn’t so slight of build, one might get the impression she was fierce, ready for an arena battle alongside her beloved.

The talk show host bent forward and kissed her gleaming cheek, a fatherly gesture executed with a twinkle in his hyena eye, like he might like to eat her. He pointed to a chair, and she looked back at the audience again, waving once more before seating herself amidst wild applause. The host sat behind a big desk, like an executive, opening his jacket while keeping his belly strategically below the desktop.

“Well, whoa,” said the host, greeting the supermodel. “Super to see you, apparently. They’re jazzed up,” referring to the audience.

“Yes, same here,” she said, running her hands across her hem, straightening her Roman attire.

The host had an extraordinarily large football-shaped head, no neck, the point of his chin meeting his clavicles. His hair, which had once been black and slick, was now poofy and white and came to a point on top like a Kewpie doll.

On either side of his oblong head he had flappy, fat ears. As king of late night TV, he was oblivious to his homeliness, a condition that, due to his status, went largely ignored by one and all.

The supermodel sat opposite him, but with her body facing forward, toward the audience, crossing her legs and clasping her hands in her lap. In order to look at him without repositioning herself, it appeared she had to crane her neck and turn her head to the left, unnaturally. It looked more awkward than it was, a bit of a camera trick.

Beyond them, the set included a fake window out of which appeared a fake city skyline, as if the interview were taking place in a network producers’ skyscraper office that brushed against a hem of clouds.

It was in this setting that she, the supermodel, sat waiting for the first question, which she could predict would have something to do with lingerie. She was the face, and body, of a world-famous lingerie company.

The company had recently earned a bad name because their “Bijou Bra” had caused a series of severe skin rashes due to the toxic components contained within the bras’ padding, a problem the company had yet to confirm or deny even though women all across the globe had photographed their afflicted, blistering breasts and posted them on the internet.

There was a class action suit pending.

In a rush for positive PR, the makers of the Bijou Bra had sent their most famous model on the talk-show circuit. Although recent appearances included wearing clothes, she was more familiar to the public as a scantily clad runway waif who modeled only modest amounts of material over her most private parts, exposing exquisitely unblemished skin of such beauty one might be led to believe she’d only recently liberated herself from the kingdom of hypoallergenic cotton balls where she’d been born and raised.

“Heard you were in France,” said the host. “An incident with the angel wings?”

“Emm,” she said. “I took a tumble,” she smiled then frowned to the audience.

The host looked off set and asked an unseen person if he could roll the clip. A flat screen rose up from the cityscape behind them. The supermodel rolled her eyes. “Oh, no, you wouldn’t,” she said. The audience tittered.

The supermodel appeared on screen wearing sequined red bikini underpants, trimmed in white with a bow centered four inches beneath her perfectly puckered belly button. Up top, she wore a matching brassiere and a giant pair of red wings.

She smiled widely and walked confidently, sexily, into the camera’s lens. The wings were embedded with tiny white LED lights, which blinked in time with pulsating techno music. The wingspan was six feet across, and the wingtips rose two feet over her head. She appeared as a super-sized sparkly bug.

The runway, which was lit from underneath, was covered with chunks of what looked like see-through stones. It was the lingerie company’s Valentine’s Day show. Plump dwarves holding miniature bows and arrows padded up and down the sides of the catwalk, careful to stay out of the models’ path. On the clip, the supermodel was still smiling, still looking directly at the camera, when she took a wrong step and her left knee turned at an unnatural angle, and she collapsed sideways.

“Ouch,” said the host.

“I know,” said the supermodel. “That was glass. They had covered the runway in crushed glass.”

“Double ouch,” said the host, wiggling his eyebrows and looking out to the audience, which tittered on cue.

“Those wings weighed over 30 pounds,” she said. “When you start to fall, you can’t right yourself. You go down.”

The host didn’t acknowledge the angel wing difficulties. Instead a new image appeared on a screen. The supermodel appeared in a tiger-striped bra and matching panties, half straddling and half lying across the back of a live elephant. The photo was taken from the right side of the elephant.

The elephant’s luminous right eye, as big as a softball, was turned toward the camera, warily. The supermodel appeared to be stroking the elephant’s neck wearing an expression of sexual ecstasy.

“Lucky elephant,” said the host, smirking and flipping his pencil in the air.

“It was hairy,” she said. “Prickly,” she added, trying to make him understand. “It smelled.”

The host asked her if, on a dangerous shoot, she ever carried a good luck charm. He’d been informed by his producers that she did.

The supermodel reached into the cityscape behind her where it appeared she had hid some of her belongings in the neon lit city streets. She pulled out a small sack about the size and shape of a man’s scrotum.

“You want to see my secret?”

“Well, that depends,” said the host. “What would my wife think?” Off camera was a quick drum roll and single smack of a bass drum followed by the smash of a riding cymbal.

She spilled the contents across his desk.

“My God,” he said, drawing back in mock revulsion. “What’s all this?”

“Teeth,” she said. “Every tooth that was ever pulled from my mouth, plus the ones that fell out naturally.”

“And what are these crumbles? Can we get a tight of this?” The camera closed in to show a stained molar, roots attached, and what appeared to be specks of dirt mixed in with the yellowed baby teeth.

“Decomposition,” she offered. “Perhaps old fillings?”

“Can you do me a favor?” he asked. “Can you get this off my desk?”

She turned and winked at the audience, who laughed. And then she scooped up her teeth.

“Eeesh,” he said. “What about exotic locales? Do you get to go to secret hidden places for shoots?”

“I got stuck in the desert in a broken down Land Rover last month, me and five crew.  We’d been driving six hours. I had to go the bathroom so badly. There weren’t any trees.”

The host groaned. “Trees. What’s with the trees?”

“Privacy,” she said. “There wasn’t any.”

“Well, how about another place?” The host was trying change the subject. “Somewhere less arid, did you ever find yourself—”

“I had to go,” she said. “So, I just squatted down and took a shit.” She laughed. She knew they’d have to bleep that. The host looked horrified. She wasn’t supposed to talk about that. They hadn’t rehearsed that. He wasn’t sure where she was going with this. People wanted to hear about exotic locales with a beautiful woman. They weren’t tuning in to hear about defecating in the desert.

“We’ll be back, after a break, with our musical guest,” the host said, hurried.

“I really had to go,” she said, “so I went.”

Offstage, a producer drew a forefinger across his neck, signaling to the film crew who were already counting backward, “five, four, three…”

The supermodel held tight to her lucky sack of teeth, her beautiful bag of bones.

If you like what we're doing, please support The Fabulist on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!

Reader Interactions


Leave a Reply

Maria McLeod

Maria McLeod

Maria McLeod writes and publishes poetry, fiction, monologues and plays. Honors include three Pushcart Prize nominations and the Indiana Review Poetry Prize. During her formative years, she was a bartender in Ypsilanti, Michigan, next to a porn shop featuring mannequins in edible underwear. She now resides in Bellingham, Washington, where she teaches journalism to unsuspecting undergraduates at Western Washington University.

%d bloggers like this: