Mad-Hatted Courtroom

This is my first attempt at writing a children’s story based off the characters from “Alice in Wonderland”. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Reading time: 10 minutes

“Order! Order! Order in the court,” yells the restless judge with the rainbow colored robe and the purple top hat. “Mr. Rabbit, please, can you explain why we’re all here.”

“Yes, sir. Right away, sir,” says the jumpy lawyer with the white fur and pocket watch. “We are here today, your honor,” he states, as his hand sweeps over the courtroom, revealing all the people of Wonderland, “we are here to charge the Cheshire Cat as being an absolute failure.”

“Failure?” asks the mad judge, as if it is a word he’s never heard before. “Prey tell, what is a failure?”

“It is someone who has not contributed any meaningful words or actions to society. Someone who hasn’t amounted to anything, and never will.” The prosecutor’s tone is firm. He glances at his watch, as if he has another important meeting to attend.

“Can you please be a little more specific, Mr Rabbit?” the judge asks, looking displeased. “Is someone who is not as smart as everyone else a failure? Or someone who is not as rich as everybody else? And, I suppose, while we’re at it, you might as well tell us what it means to win, too?”

The White Rabbit is oddly at a loss for words. He didn’t expect the Mad Hatter to have so many questions. He thinks for a moment before speaking. 

“A failure, your Honor, is someone who is a waste of space. He does nothing to advance his story. You win when you play an important role in the story, and you lose when nobody can understand why you even exist.”

The people in the courtroom start gossipping in hushed tones, discussing the value of various characters from Wonderland, while silently weighing the worth of their own words and actions in the story.

“How,” the judge begins, after a few thuds of his gavel, “how can you be a waste of space when your role doesn’t simply revolve around what you do, but also upon who you are. Everybody has worth, Mr. Rabbit. At least, the author of our story certainly thought so. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have existed in the first place.” The Mad Hatter sits back in his chair looking unusually wise, hands interlocked, index fingers tapping together.

“So do you mean to say, your Honor, that the Cheshire Cat can just go on giving that silly smile while still not DOING anything?” Rabbit looks aghast.

“Who knows?” says the judge, shrugging his rainbow-colored shoulders. “Only the author knows what the cat – indeed, what any of us – will do.”

The room is silent, half the people of Wonderland thinking about the judge’s words, while the other half wonder how the Mad Hatter has suddenly become so smart. As if in response to their thoughts, the judge suddenly bursts into nervous laughter. Throughout the proceedings, he had noticed Rabbit kept glancing at his watch.

“Do you have somewhere you need to be, Mr. Rabbit? Please don’t let us keep you.” The Hatter smiles, without a trace of sarcasm in his voice.

“Your honor, forgive me. I’m in quite a rush. I have another client to represent soon.”

“Of course, of course,” says the genial judge. “We wouldn’t want you to be late, now would we?”

The rabbit hops off his seat and trots down the aisle of the courtroom towards the exit. The residents of Wonderland erupt in confused murmurs.

“Order! Order, please,” says the judge, as if he is inviting everyone over for tea. “Well, now, Mr. Cat,” says the judge with a mischievous smile, looking in the general direction of the accused. “How do you plead?”

Suddenly, the cat, who up until now had been invisible, appears in his bright pink glory with a self-satisfied smile arching across his face.

“My lawyer will represent me, your honor.”

Suddenly, the doors of the courtroom slam wide open, as the Cheshire Cat’s lawyer makes a grand entrance. It is none other than the White Rabbit, making his way down the aisle, as if he is a very important man of heft. One foot pounds the floor, then the other, like a cowboy ready to start a shoot-out. When he makes it to the seat beside the cat, he hops on and says, “We plead Not Guilty, sir.”

“Well, I never…,” chuckles the judge. “What is going on here? You cannot fight the case for AND against Cheshire Cat, Mr. Rabbit.”

The courtroom can tell the judge is trying very hard to sound serious, but is really more tickled than tart.

“Why are you presenting both sides of the case, Rabbit? This is really not how the whole courtroom thing works – at least, I don’t think it is. I have only been judge for a day now.” The Hatter looks highly perplexed, indeed.

“Because, your honor,” begins Rabbit, “it is entirely possible to have two different ways of looking at the same issue. Whereas I personally DO believe Cheshire is a useless character indeed…no offense, to you,” Rabbit nods towards Cheshire, who shrugs his shoulders as if no offense has been taken, “the readers still seem to love him. They want to play with his pink fur and mirror his unholy smile. They giggle when he suddenly pops up out of nowhere, and wish they could vanish just as stealthily as he.” Upon hearing of all the cat’s virtues, the people of Wonderland start nodding in agreement, thinking, yes, it’s quite true, Cheshire IS a cool cat. Cheshire’s smile seems to widen, indeed, beyond even the confines of his furry face.    

“And to have the love of the people,” Rabbit continues, “well…there is really nothing like it…” As his voice trails off, Rabbit starts looking more and more unhappy. Barely audible, he says, “I believe even I have never felt a love like that. It makes me wonder.” Rabbit gets lost in his own reverie.

“It makes you wonder what, Rabbit?” The judge is on the edge of his seat.

“Well, it makes me wonder,” Rabbit responds, “if Cheshire is a winner for being so loved, well then, am I the one who’s a failure?”

The crowd draws in a collective gasp.

“Half my mind says yes, I have failed in so many things,” continues Rabbit, “like how I failed to guide Alice properly, or to be a cute and cuddly rabbit because I preferred to, well…be myself.” Rabbit kept talking, as if to no one in particular. “The other half says no, the things I do still matter. But if someone can accuse Cheshire Cat of failing, certainly they might do the same to me one day, as well.”

Rabbit continues to look downcast, as Cheshire remains silent and gleeful as ever.

“I’m sorry, your honor. I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”

“Nonsense, Rabbit!” The judge swats his hand from side to side as if shooing away a pesky fly. “The mind is quite a silly thing, isn’t it? You must learn to give it a rest from time to time. Just turn it off, like I do.”

At this, the Mad Hatter jumps up from his seat and starts to dance. “See? Once you start moving, your body will tell your mind to be quiet.” The judge stumbles and bumbles around in what seems to be his version of a dance, receiving curious stares from the audience. Eventually, he exhausts himself, and slumps back into his chair, breathing heavily. 

“Oh me, oh my!” he says, wiping the sweat off his forehead with a bright pink handkerchief that magically materializes from the folds of his cape. “Where were we? Oh yes. You were apologizing for wasting my time. Well, Rabbit,” the Hatter leans forward, as if he is about to share a big secret. “If there is no such thing as a waste of space, there is certainly no such thing as a waste of time.” 

The Hatter stands up again with a flourish of his hand, as if ready to perform a magic trick.

“What time is it, you ask?” he cocks his ear up, as if hearing an invisible voice. Upon receiving nothing but a blank look from Rabbit, he repeats, more firmly this time, “What time is it, you ask?”

Rabbit nervously looks at his pocket watch. “Y-y-your honor,” he stammers. “It’s 3:15 in the afternoon.”

“Wrong!” the Hatter bellows, shocking the entire room, even waking up those people who’d begun to doze off.

“The time,” he says, more gently, “is now.”

“S-s-sir? But it’s 3:15, your honor. Just look at my watch.” Rabbit holds it up for inspection.

“Rabbit,” the judge begins, as if talking to a little child. “If you had asked me what time it was this morning, I would have said, the time is now. If you ask me again in the evening, I’ll say, the time is now. My answer will always be the same – the time is now.”

“Tell me, Rabbit?” asks the judge. “Are you done making your case for and against Cheshire Cat?”

“Yes, sir. I have nothing more to add. Except, maybe, that now it’s 3:16.” He holds up his watch again, nervously.

The Mad Hatter glares at Rabbit, then ignores him completely, getting ready to address the entire courtroom.

“Then I am ready with my verdict.”

Many of the attendees inch closer to the edge of their seats, in anticipation of the judge’s pronouncement.

“Here is my judgment – I find Cheshire Cat not guilty of being a failure. He is, and he is, and he is. And for that, he is loved. That is all that matters.” The judge is emphatic. “At the same time,” he says, loudly, in order to be heard over both the booing and cheering of the crowd, “at the same time, I find him, and all the people of Wonderland, very, very guilty.”

The crowd gasps. 

“Of what, your honor?” asks the Rabbit in surprise. 

The Mad Hatter looks serious for a moment, the way he imagines a judge should look, before breaking out into a mischievous grin.

“Why, of being such wonderful people, of course!”

The crowd is stunned. Some people hesitantly smile, while others remain quizzical.

“Yes, that’s right!” Hatter continues. “Even you, your Highness,” pointing to a very unhappy Queen of Hearts, sitting at the front of those people who were against Cheshire Cat. “And you, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum,” pointing to the twin brothers sitting in support of Cheshire Cat. “Even you are wonderful, White Rabbit. And might I say, quite beloved. Why, I am very lucky to know you.” The Hatter bows in Rabbit’s direction, as Rabbit blushes.

The people’s confusion suddenly transforms into joy and they erupt into cheers. What an utterly marvelous verdict!

“You see? You see?” The Hatter claps, merrily. “When you learn the truth, you feel so happy. You forget why you were upset to begin with. I mean, I can’t even remember what this trial was for.”

“A-a-actually…,” Rabbit raises his hand and starts to remind him, but the whooping and back-slapping elation of the crowd drowns him out.

Once things have quieted down, the Hatter hammers his gavel to get everyone’s attention. 

“Order! Order in the court!” The expression on his face has gone back to being serious. “I must admit something to you all,” he says, looking a tad bit nervous. “I, too, am guilty.”

“Of being a wonderful person, your honor?” someone shouts from the benches.

“Yes, that, too,” Hatter says, as if it is the most obvious fact in the world. “But mainly, I’m guilty…” he says in an exaggeratedly forlorn voice that slowly transitions into a joyful exclamation, “of forgetting to invite you all to tea!” He jumps up, clapping his hands in excitement, then dramatically rips off his rainbow-colored cape, only to reveal a rainbow-colored suit beneath it.

“What time exactly, sir?” asks the Rabbit, unsure of how to respond to this rather unusual turn of events. “What time is tea time?”

“The time is now, Rabbit,” Hatter winks. “The time is always now.”

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