Michael Moskos was sufficiently passionate about contemporary art that it caused him something like anguish to attend exhibition openings.  There were only a few galleries for which he had any respect anyhow.  On this particular Thursday night, he had made his way to one of them, impelled there by a long-standing friendship with the artist, a swaggering, amusingly arrogant, fiercely defensive painter named Rubel Force.
     By the time Michael got to the Lucy Crater Gallery, there were already a couple of hundred absurdly young people milling about—none of whom Michael knew—all of them laughing too loud, leaning out like starving baby birds for more wine, fiercely jabbing toothpicks into tiny cubes of putty-coloured cheese and exerting great care not to be caught gazing, even for an outlaw moment, upon any of Rubel’s pictures.
     Which consisted, for this exhibition, of exhaustingly detailed paintings of crumpled balls of cellophane, which, in the course of their crumpling, had come to look sort of like various creatures—a frog, a fish, a deer, a spermatozoa—and were therefore painted that way.  The name of each cello-creature, just in case its shape didn’t tell the story, was neatly lettered in black paint across the bottom of each painting.
     Michael spotted Rubel at the far side of the room, deep in conversation—or, more likely—deep in a desperate avoidance of conversation, with a massive young woman in overalls and nothing else who, ignoring all gallery remonstrances to the contrary, was dragging around with her, on a leash, an ugly little dog, shaped like a bottle brush. 
     “Michael the Big Writer!” shouted Bliss Carmen—for indeed it was Bliss Carmen loudly holding forth to a now considerably diminished Rubel Force—“come and meet Rubel!”
     “Hello Bliss.  Yes, I know Rubel.  We go way back,” he told her as he and the beleagered painter shook hands. 
     “Nice show,” he said to his friend.
     “Thanks,” said Rubel, looking around for some means of escape from Bliss’s volubility.  “Excuse me, I think I see Knox, and I’d better go say hello.”  And he trundled gratefully away.
     Knox Penworth was the art critic for The Globe & Mail.  He wasn’t as much a writer as he was a party animal, thought Michael, but he was sort of the only art critic in town.  Michael never read his stuff.
     “So,” boomed Bliss, “how’s Zorba?”
     “Who?” asked Michael.
     You, dummy,” laughed Bliss. 
Michael regretted ever telling her he was half Greek.
     “What are you doing here, Bliss?”
     “Me?  I love art.  And I’ve gut a lot of artist friends.  See that guy over by the wall—keeping to himself?  That’s my pal, Homer Rubik.”
     Michael looked, and was astonished to see that Homer Rubik was the guy who was sitting across from him on the subway only a few days before—the guy struggling through Angels & Demons.  The feral reader!
     “He’s an artist too?”
     “Oh sure, a really great artist,” thundered Bliss.  You want to meet him?”
     “Oh well…no…not right now….” 
But Bliss was already gesturing wildly to Homer, insisting, in unmistakably imperative sign language, that he join them.
     Homer came slouching up.  He didn’t seem to recognize Michael—for which Michael was grateful.
     “Homer is a classical artist!” Bliss announced.
     “Which means what exactly?” asked Michael.
     “It means he draws and paints like Raphael or Michelangelo!” Bliss told him.  She turned to Homer.  “Isn’t that right?”
     Homer emitted a sort of low growl and finally nodded his head.
     “How do you manage that?” Michael asked.
     “I took a course at night school.”
     “What kind of a course?”
     “Old Master Drawing and Painting,” Homer told him.
     “You like all that high renaissance material, do you?” asked Michael.
     “What?” said Homer.
     “Oh you know…frescoes and popes and….”
     “I like doing things properly,” said Homer abruptly.  “I’m reading this book right now about a bunch of renaissance guys called the Illuminati and how they kill some popes who don’t believe in them. “
     A tiny shudder ran down Michael’s spine.
     “What’s the name of the book?”
     “I don’t remember book names,” Homer replied, swaying from one foot to the other and looking increasingly uncomfortable. “Something about demons.”