The tipstaff

When I read the entrepreneur died,

I thought of the tall bluff man with a moustache, face reddened by the sun.

He said he hadn’t been to the City before.

He took his Akubra off before the judge.

I led him to the witness box, and swore him in.

His hands were big and blunt. Round and round, he wrung that hat.


“They owe me twenty thousand,” said the big man.

The hat was a life preserver in rough seas, the way he held it.
“That’s a lot for a man like me. They never paid for the stuff they bought.”

His eyes shone, but his spine was straight. “We haven’t recovered still.”


Later, the entrepreneur scoffed at the debts he’d owed.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked the judge.


Decades on,

I read the glowing obituaries for the entrepreneur.

The hat turned in the farmer’s hands, still.

Katy Barnett lives on the outskirts of Melbourne with her husband and three children. By day she is a law professor specialising in remedies law. By night she writes other works, including a dystopian young adult novel, The Earth Below (which was highly commented in the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Unpublished Manuscript Award). The story of her life (and her battle to learn how to walk with cerebral palsy) is here: https://rightnow.org.au/essay/i-dont-dance-like-the-other-cats/ . It was the most read piece on Right Now for 2020. Her book with Jeremy Gans, Guilty Pigs: the weird and wonderful history of animal law has just been published by Black Inc, and features, among other things, medieval pig prosecutions.


Fiction website: http://www.katybarnett.com.au/ Author twitter: @katy_barnett_au Academic twitter: @drkatybarnett Instagram: @legaleagle777

Author bio