Mad Hatters' Review Issue 10, Fall 2008
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Whatnots by
Allan Kolski Horwitz
Music by Steve Kane
Artwork by Marty Ison


“Peaceful madmen are ahead of the future”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Art by Marty IsonAbel is at a party. Men and women dance; all about laughing dancers, whirling dancers. But Abel stands to the side. He feels the beat, the pulse of the drums and bass, the flight of the flute, yet he does not move. He stands alone at the edge of the dance floor, and watches; he watches the faces, the arms, the thighs, the feet; and he smiles.

On the other side of the dance floor are two men, two rough, shaven-headed men with thick bodies. These men also stand, watching at the edge. And Abel knows that these men are preparing themselves, readying themselves, but not for the dance – the two men are preparing themselves for a journey into the world beneath the coordinated flow, the rhythm; the world beneath the music of the dance.

And he knows that the two men have sensitized themselves, conditioned themselves for a journey that many have intended, and in fact, upon which many have embarked, but from which few have returned; for the men are about to enter a dimension without borders, one with contradictory signs and hazily known laws. And knowing this, he wonders why they still stand at the side of the dance floor observing the great, almost desperate shaking of limbs, the smiles and winks, rubbing up of body against body, the fondling, the excitement. For the two men smile with some pity watching this crowd of merry-makers; they smile with some indulgence: how sad (and predictable) that the ignorant drown themselves in cheap, superficial pleasures from which they will soon grow tired, and will then seek fresh partners.

Indeed, Abel knows that they smile with the knowledge of those prepared to be totally possessed, who will be shaken to their cores, thrown up and down as the madness of those who cannot bear the falseness and disappointment of the world will rage, and then transport themselves beyond rage as they taste of the fruit of freedom from death. And to this end they have been in training; they have studied the special texts, the codes, the manuscripts composed by the few who turned away from the dance floor, and embarked upon this journey, and who did in fact return with new fire; a fire that consumes but restores itself, endlessly renewing. And Abel watches them with a mixture of suspicion (do they think themselves superior?) and affection (he does not have past memories of a shared childhood but somehow he knows them as intimately as if they had grown up together).

Then he realizes that they are his brothers, indeed, his twin brothers. No! One is his sister! And Abel is pleased to note this. It is good to have both a brother and a sister. He watches his brother and sister across the jiving bodies, the lustful eyes darting from figure to figure. And then, without warning, he feels himself drawn onto the dance floor (was he pulled or did he slip?), feels the heat of the bodies around him, the flurry, the pulse, the strong perfume of sweat and alcohol and flowery scents almost suffocating him. He becomes part of the kissing and the groping, the sighs and the groans of pleasure. And as he sees his brother and sister also pulled in, consumed by the groove, he feels himself going under, drowning with these vibrating, unthinking, quite blind, but joyful bodies.

Abel throws up his arms, cries out. Will they survive? Will they withstand the torrent of desire? Will their hours and days and years of training and meditation enable them to hold their heads above the rush, the current? But then, though he hears syrupy voices propose means of rescue, he feels himself relax, at peace. The clamminess is gone; his body is cool and fresh. Hs brother and sister seem similarly composed. He sees the others, the masses of bodies gyrate, but though they are very close, it is as if they are at a distance.

Everything is suspended and yet he is moving.

And so Abel, his brother and his sister, stand in the middle of the dance floor, hands clasped together, three motionless warriors dancing with perfect rhythm.



Art by Marty IsonA man and a woman sit facing each other. They are passengers in a carriage drawn by a team of fine, powerful horses. They are known to each other but keep a distance. Through the windows they see stars glittering in a frosty sky. The carriage enters a dark wood. Perched in a tree that hangs over the rutted track, a robber lies in wait. When the carriage passes beneath him, he dives down and knocks the coachman to the ground. The reins fly into the air and the horses rear up, then surge forward. The carriage accelerates but the robber manages to seat himself in the coachman’s place, though he fails to retrieve the reins - they are thrown about or trodden under the horses’ hoofs.

Tossing their heads high, the horses speed unchecked into the darkness. Sparks scatter from their pounding hooves. And though they maintain a perfectly synchronised rhythm, the carriage begins to sway wildly. The man and woman lurch forward in their seats. They are aware that an accident, some violent upheaval, has taken place, but they cannot see the coachman’s platform and do not know that the robber is on board. Hurtling through the forest, they become alarmed, frightened. But they adjust; when no collision takes place, they begin to relax, and at the same become aroused as the carriage seems airborne, and air rushes past in a caressing stream.

On and on the horses gallop through the night, sweeping through the forest, then out into open fields, then back again into the forest. Effortlessly, yet with sweat streaming from their flanks, they maintain their breath-taking pace till the carriage enters a small clearing in which stands a tower.

The team is taken aback. It slows down. And, as it falters, the robber is able to scoop down and sweep up the reins. He brings the horses to a stop. The man and the woman are surprised. In one way they are pleased – the ride was surely dangerous despite their exhilaration – but regret immediately replaces relief.

They peer out: the carriage stands motionless in front of a squat, conical, stone tower. The tower has a red tiled turret that rises to the level of the trees. At the base of the tower is a large black door studded with nails.

The man and woman alight from the carriage.

The man strides up to the thick wooden door and pushes it open.

He steps forward.

Behind the door is another wooden door. This one, too, he pushes open. But each time he advances, there is another door. Again and again – door, after door, after door.

Once again he faces a black door studded with nails. He opens it.

Standing on the threshold is a growling, slavering dog with sharply pointed teeth.

The man plunges a knife into the beast’s chest.



Art by Marty IsonKidnappers – a gang of Italians - seize Stella in the street, intending to transport her, send her as a slave-child to another country. But when they surround her, she persuades them to come to her home: she has special things to share with them, valuable treasures. Then, on the way to her house, the Italian men turn into young girls with hard faces who tell her how they will divide up her things.

Stella is unsure whether this switch is to her advantage. Her first thought is that it will be easier to outwit the young girls (the Italians were rough men who stank of wine), but their precociously mean expressions frighten her as much. In fact, the girls jostle and crowd her and push at her breasts. Stella is close to panicking. Do they also intend to sell her? She must outwit them! So she thinks of a new plan, a cheaper and perhaps more effective way to distract them from her prized collection; a plan that may even secure her escape. She persuades the young girls to allow her ten minutes at the neighbourhood shop - and promises to bring back whatever they like: chips, drinks, sweets, chocolate . . .

The girls now embrace her, are so excited that they forget about her other treasures. They give her orders. Stella is jubilant. But she is still fearful. There are so many things on the list, so many things to buy. Her money will be all used up! All the same, what can she do?

She runs to the shop burning with anger and resentment. Is there no way of avoiding this heavy price for her freedom? Then, on the way, she sees her mother’s lover drive by in a car. What luck! She waves and calls out. He pulls over. She explains what has happened. He nods his head, but says he is busy - he has to fetch something for her mother. Stella is shocked - there is so little time! Surely he sees the danger? Surely he sees how desperate she is? But he doggedly explains that he must first do what he has to do. Stella begins crying. He relents a little, promises to come back later and help her once he has finished. He drives off.

Stella is heart-broken. And without thinking, cries out, “Stop!”

Her heart jumps. She can hardly believe it! She smiles through her tears. Yes! He is reversing back. He has not let her down.

He throws the car door wide open and runs to her. Again she implores him to lend her money so that she can buy all the sweets the girls want, and still have money left over for herself. He feels her soft hand on his hand, her anguish. She embraces him, promises to save him some sweets.

He gives her money.

She kisses him and runs off to the shop. Everything will turn out well, everything will return to normal.

How fortunate her mother’s lover also loves sweets!

Edgy and Enlightened Literature, Art and Music in the Age of Dementia
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last update: October 14, 2008