“The things they teach at your petty bourgeois institutions, my good doctor.  All artistic genius comes with smoke from the ears.  Occasionally the nostrils.  It is invariably so.”


“And the cause?”


“Apoplectic schismatics.  They all must suffer it.  Even Einstein was known to have smoke billow from his ears, and while he was not an artist, he surely had the mind of one.”


“But he will not be born for twenty-two years.”


“Yes, but he is great nonetheless.  His genius is timeless, and hence is apparent even before its arrival.”


“You’ve a sharp mind.”


“And sharp teeth, but the rest is dull.  Come, shall we have some port wine?”


“But the smoke, Ovitch, the smoke!  Obviously the mark of great artistic genius, but a symptom not the cause!  The root of the matter lies in science, of this I am sure.  I mean not to be too forward, but might I peruse the inside of your head?”


Anton Antonovitch Ovitch slowly rose and in a circle he paced, casting a curious eye on Galashnikov, then made his way to his work table, where he pulled out a glass and some tonic.


“You realize it is unbecoming to ask this of a person of my stature?”


“You are tall, I admit, but I scarcely see what that has to do with it.”