HAVE YOU EVER LOST A HAT?
By Barbara Silkstone
I lost everything including my home, my car, and even my retirement accounts. I was physically attacked inside and outside a court building. My daughter and baby granddaughter were threatened. I came at the bad guys like a mother tiger.
A few years earlier I had agreed to testify against a real estate developer in a civil racketeering case. He was obscenely rich and could afford a hanger full of Lear jets, four sneering lawyers, and a greedy judge. In an effort to discredit my testimony in his upcoming trial and to frighten me out of appearing against him, his team of legal manipulators pasted together a bogus suit against me designed to keep me tied up in court and unable to function. They underestimated my sense of justice.
I’d been sitting on the witness stand for the better part of a day… one of many in my five-year “trial.” The judge, forgetting her microphone was on, had just proclaimed me “a pretty tough cookie.” I’d given up expecting justice. It was much too late for fairness. I was in an out-of-body state observing my own funeral and laughing about it.
When the four-hundred pound lawyer asked me if I’d ever lost a hat, I thought one of us had lost our minds. I was pretty sure it wasn’t me. He blinked as if he realized the absurdity of what he asked and dropped the line of inquiry. The question struck my funny bone and sent me into giggle-fits. And that was the moment when The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters was born.
Within a few months the lawyers I hired to help me sucked up every penny I could muster. When I was broke, they walked off the case. Unlike in criminal cases, defendants in civil litigation must pay for their own attorneys. No money – no lawyers. I was on my own. I needed to defend myself. But how when the case was nonsense? How do you fight silly? The lost hat question was a perfect example of the charges brought against me. But the more ridiculous their charges, the stronger and feistier I grew. For each thing they threw at me, I came back that much harder, roaring and taking notes for my someday book.
Since I was a child my driving passion has been to write. In Catholic grade school I started an underground newspaper. When our nun forbade me to continue, I carried the paper further underground. While I continued to write as an adult, life eventually got in the way of living and my writing took a backseat. But now as I sat in the courtroom I was inspired and chomping at the bit to get this real-life fairytale on paper.
Anger boiled in me as I saw the precious time I had carved out for writing being eaten up as I defended myself in bizarre proceedings. I was spending all my time in the law library studying the Rules of Civil Procedure in order to write Motions and Pleadings and filing them against the court in such rapid fire I would have made Rambo back off.
Earning a living on commission sales is impossible when you are spending 14 hours a day fighting a pack of legal sharks. I had to take the creepiest part-time jobs… things that still give me nightmares. Things like working for a gold broker who brought us the teeth from dead people. We were expected to separate the gold from the molars – not unlike the lawyers I was dealing with. I needed the money but not that badly. I ran to the nearest exit.
Locked in a deadly struggle with the notorious real estate developer, I chose that time to become romantically involved with a Brit who, it turned out was not what he seemed to be. I stepped into the perfect storm. The Brit’s upper-class accent and polished manners hid a not-too-clever conman, but clever enough to fool my starry eyes. The developer and the conman clashed in a rage of wicked deeds. I was sandwiched between them.
Is The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters true? Would Lewis Carroll say Alice in Wonderland was true? The emotions are real and still raw, but the journey was worth the results. Would I do it again? You bet your tushie. My sense of justice would not permit otherwise. But I would not be quite so naïve. I would expect slimy tricks and dirty pool. Merely because someone wears a robe and speaks of the law does not mean they abide by the law.
“The Hail Mary Pass” refers to any very long forward pass made in desperation with only a small chance of success. It’s used in football and occasionally courtrooms.
My Hail Mary Pass knocked the bad guys on their butts. I filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, which is a request to the United States Supreme Court asking that Court to review the decision of a lower court. I cast a spotlight on their dark shenanigans.
And as my Petition worked its way along the queue in the United States Supreme Court, making it almost to the finish line, the judge on my case went strangely silent, the notorious developer disappeared, and the Brit wandered off. I had become a writer but not in the way I had envisioned. I was a self-taught legal guerrilla who had managed to land her petition to be heard by the highest court in the United States… right through the goal post. Unfortunately, in the end corruption won and I barely escaped with a toothbrush and a change of clothes.
Were those five years tough? Yes. But I fought because I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I rolled into a ball. I fought with the wit and sarcasm of Alice in the original Alice in Wonderland. Standing on the outside watching the Jabberwocky operate on the inside. I knew that someday my story, fictionalized with absolutely no resemblance to anyone living or dead and the names changed to protect the corrupt, would make a darn good yarn. And each step of the way, like Lewis Carroll and my out-of-body ordeal, I would allow the action to the skate on the edge of logic.
In The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters, a few murders have been thrown in for comic relief, and the characters have been shaken and stirred, then presented in a Pythonesque light. Any similarities to the jerks I dealt with are purely coincidental.
Have I ever lost a hat? Probably.
But did I retain my passion for writing, and even kick it up a notch? Absolutely.
Every adventure contains a novel.
Sometime you have to pay dearly for it.
Quoting the Cheshire Cat:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” (Alice)
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—So long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
This is one story from Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To read all the stories buy your copy today. All proceeds go to fund breast cancer research.
About the Author
Barbara Silkstone is the best-selling author of The Fractured Fairy Tales series that currently includes: The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters; Wendy and the Lost Boys; and London Broil.
Silkstone’s writing has been described as “perfectly paced and pitched – shades of Janet Evanovich and Carl Hiaasen – without seeming remotely derivative. Fast moving action that shoots from the hip with bullet-proof characterization.”
Wendy and the Lost Boys topped the charts in comedy, climbing over Tina Fey, Sophie Kinsella, and Ellen DeGeneres. The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters has been a consistent best seller in comedy. Both Wendy and Alice have been in the top 20 Amazon comedies at the same time. Silkstone has been fortunate enough to take part in writing workshops with Stephen King, Robert B. Parker, and James Michener. She lives in South Florida but has no time to visit the beach.
Fractured Fairy Tales by Silkstone
Criminally Funny Fables
The Secret Diary of Alice in Wonderland, Age 42 and Three-Quarters
This author has a unique narrative voice, and reading the story is like taking a smooth slide into Alice’s surreal world. The premise is outstanding – a classic we all love, with a contemporary, intelligent twist. ~ Elizabeth Lindberg, author Upper West Side Stories
Purchase for your Kindle at: Amazon
Wendy and the Lost Boys
Be aware, this is not the Peter Pan story you want your kids reading. It is clearly intended for adult readers. Yet it appeals to the childlike part of us that loved the classic original stories. Combine that childlike love with modern politics and technology, and you get this smart, snarky, hilarious mystery. The story is richly developed and leaves you guessing until the very end. I am liking this grown-up version of Peter Pan even more than the original. ~ Tiffany Harkleroad for Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Purchase for your Kindle at: Amazon
London Broil — the sequel to Wendy and the Lost Boys
The snarky Python sequel to Wendy and the Lost Boys. A murderous rollercoaster ride through London during a killer heat wave. ~ Ravan Reviews
Purchase for your Kindle at: Amazon
Zo White – coming Summer 2012