“What do you mean, about Ovitch?”


“Day and night Ovitch filled Misha’s ears with fantastic stories of the artist’s life, setting fire to the loins of Temkin’s vainglory and touting it as artistic compulsion.  He told Misha stories of the Czar’s court, and also the Tsar’s court, and made it so Misha Temkin would not be happy as a simple honey man.  Nor even a fairly complex one.”


“But was Misha an artist?”


“He wrote a couplet here and there.  Silly trifles, nothing more.”


“Mikhail Papavich, do you recall at any time smoke coming from young Temkin’s ears?”


“What do you mean smoke?  Like a tea kettle billows?”




Dzhugashvili shifted his considerable bulk atop a sturdy chair and began cutting an apple into slices.  “You must understand, it is difficult to tell in an environment such as ours.  The plant floor covers five dessiatins and almost constantly smoke is wafting somewhere.”


“But surely not from a man’s ears!”


The hefty Georgian was startled, but did not speak.


“One would notice, would one not, if the smoke on the floor were coming from Temkin’s ears and not from his smoking apparatus, yes?”


“His bee smoker, you mean.”