Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The day they shot Balthazar Alzax’r

The day I’ll never forget. April 19, 1999. I was ice skating with my personal assistant Piquo up on a frozen lake just outside Nome, Alaska. We had been skating and arguing, coincidentally enough, over the meaning of one of Balthazar’s poems, “Free the Otters Not War?” I was always under the impression that it referred to Balthazar’s lifelong addiction to cleaning the windows of government buildings. Piquo thought it portrayed the way mankind always started wars instead of saving otters, which in my estimation is a far too literal reading of the piece.

Anyway, we walked back to the hut to have some warm cocoa. Juan, my tambourine player, greeted us in complete silence. He pointed to the television. Piquo and I were silent. All I can remember is CNN showing that famous shot over and over again where the first bullet completely severs his right arm, and the second bullet opens a gaping, softball-sized hole in what was formerly his face. It was hard to see such a great man go out that way. Even though he said he wanted to go out in a hail of bullets, nobody ever took him seriously.

I’ve never gone back and read any of his poems or viewed any of his films. It’s much too painful. I like to think of him the way he was in such classics as “The Illiterate Cowboy From South Africa Returns” and “Beware of Alternate Earth”.

In fact, I like to think of him as the character Rop he portrayed in that old movie. On quiet nights I can still hear Sir Barry Peters’ voice saying, "I don't think Rop lives here anymore. Maybe he's on the alternate Earth."

Maybe Balthazar Alzax’r is, too.

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