This, mused Galashnikov, would go a long way in explaining the smoke that all morning long had billowed from Temkin’s ears like steam from a kettle. So much smoke billowed, in fact, that it had begun bothering Galashnikov’s patients, and the nurse Verotchka’s allergies had flared, and what’s more the smoke had made difficult the reading of his patients’ bills, and so the doctor asked dear Temkin to wait outside, on the back porch. Had he known that Misha’s brain was ablaze, Galashnikov would have given treatment immediately or, if lunch were at hand, he would have at the very least crisped some pumpernickel in Misha’s head. But as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and the doctor jotted this in his notebook as well.
Being a talented physician who had graduated from the top of the Academy and worked several years in a butcher’s shop, Doctor Galashnikov had already developed suspicions as to the cause of the seemingly inexplicable conundrum posed by Misha Temkin’s ashen lobes. To investigate, he first called upon Misha Temkin’s close friend, the radical poet and painter Anton Antonovitch Ovitch.
Ovitch was famed throughout the land not only for his work, but for his beady little eyes, which lent him, as his mother proudly boasted, a mephistophelean air that sowed dread in the minds of men and lust in the thighs of women and vexation amongst livestock. So sensitive was he to these perceptions that even in his work were they reflected, as most greatly evinced by his play The Baker, the Monk, and the Devil, which explores the nuanced relationships of pastry, good, and evil.