A Mile In His Shoes
Milo Higginbotham worshipped Leonardo da Vinci with a zealot's passion and servitude. Each day, from sunup until sundown, he studied piles of the man's research, notes, theories and inventions, which he'd stolen from the London Library on Saint James's Square, copied and replaced.
Higginbotham had commissioned a stained glass window for the vestibule just outside his laboratory, a perfect recreation of da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Beneath this deity, every morning he placed fresh flowers and lit several cones of sandalwood incense. The Vitruvian Man was the true crucifix, he believed, man himself forming an X-shaped cross. From one side the stained glass greeted his rare visitor and from the other it gazed down on his work with approval and understanding. Deeply recessed spotlights illuminated the glass, catching in red and golden border pieces and creating a haloed effect around the hanging man/god.
He'd consecrated the window with a communion he'd labored for days to concoct: Pecorino Gran Cru, Foccacia and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. A perfect blend of tastes and aromas that might tempt this god da Vinci back from the grave.
Da Vinci's life work became Higginbotham's calling. Each test, theory and invention refigured, rethought and reborn. Even now his own version of the man's water shoes rested on a walnut altar in the front of the lab. Looking much like an artist's rendering of Noah's Ark and fraught with sacred overtones of walking on water, they took his breath away.
And so he spent his years, his life, dripping the sand of his very breath over the old papers and problems, holding da Vinci above reproach in every arena. One day a visitor, a reporter from the Times who'd heard about the window and the devotion, came to call. He wanted to do a story, he said. Humbled and yet eager to share his faith, Higginbotham asked the man to join him for communion, to sit beneath the window and review a life well-lived.
He served a small but tasty bit of Pecorino Gran Cru.
The reporter threw his head back and laughed.
"Shhhhhhhhhhhhh. Some respect," Higginbotham cautioned.
"But you're serving cheese." The man's face, still red, contorted as he seemed to struggle for composure. "Da Vinci was a vegetarian. You know that, don't you? I mean, that's like serving Jesus BBQ pork."
Higginbotham threw the man out at once. But the next day he didn't bother with the flowers.
Within a week he'd torn down the altar and by Christmas he pulverized the stained glass window with a rock.
The following year he choked on an apple while studying the truths of the great Isaac Newton.
First published: November, 2006
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