Allister never assumed Boots was anything more than he was. A man who wore Boots. A man who wore a tattered shirt and pants and a remarkably clean cravat. A man whose beard had long ago tangled. A man whose eyes beamed and whose teeth had been left behind in a trail throughout the city's many alleys. If followed the discarded molars and incisors would lead to Boots and his tangled beard and his boots, a poor hygienic version of Hansel and Gretel.
And, if you followed the teeth, you would be led to the determination of Boots' foraging as Allister was. You would probably find yourself digging furiously, as well, without first even knowing what you were digging for. After a time (no doubt after you had touched various fruits in various stages of rot and stench and various objects of indescribable nature save their mutual mushy repulsiveness), you would ask Boots for what he was searching. And Boots would, no doubt, answer toothless, "something shiny."
And the search would continue. Perhaps the sun would set and perhaps it would not-though it would eventually. And perhaps you would do as Allister did. You would go home after a long day of foraging and find something shiny for Boots in your home. Perhaps you would also tuck this into a trash can in Boots' current alley for him to find. And, no doubt, Boots would find it and, no doubt once more, he would toss it aside. Be the shiny object a gleamingly polished hinge or a gleamingly polished diamond, it was not what Boots was looking for. And you would continue.
And perhaps you would find, as Allister found, that Boots was a smart man. That he had always been a smart man. That Boots had scoured through books and research and touched thoughts that no one dared to think. He had wanted to gather it all. Understand the blanks. And he came close. He saw the end. He saw the answer. And what it exactly it was that made Boots snap, is not known anymore. Not even to Boots. Not anymore.
But, perhaps we are not meant to dwell so long in an answer. Not a final one anyway. It seemed simple that one should always want to know more, but that in learning more, one should always see more that one does not know. The threat for a genius is that they see the end, that they-in their tangled strands of wisdom-see the answer without avenues. And Boots saw this. And he closed his eyes and wanted it back. To know how far one can go, where the fault line between wanting it and losing it is, is something perhaps we will never know. And to say that is to underestimate the human spirit. So, perhaps, someone will someday know. But, even then, one should pray for the avenues, for the branches to the side. If one could see where it ends, it would be an end.
And one could, no doubt, look at Boots as someone who lost something too great. Someone who stepped too close. But, one should come, too, to understand the fine and blurry line that separates tragedy and comedy. The fine and blurry line of the start and the finish. And one would understand (though, hopefully, not fully), as Allister eventually did, that once Boots opened his eyelids after shutting them so tightly, he smiled wide and began a search for which the end he would never find.