They pushed through the door of the diner where Homer worked —which bore the unprepossessing name of Nick’s—paused by the cash register so that Michael, at Bliss’s urging and against his better judgment, could buy the incontinent Fish his favourite Crispy Crunch bar, and spotted Homer in the kitchen, presiding over his sweaty grill, laconically frying up a dozen eggs, a rasher of bacon and, to one side of the grill, a hillock-like mound of home fries and onions.
     “Yo, Homer!” yelled Bliss at the top of her substantial lungs, a greeting forceful enough to cause three customers to look up from their newspapers.  Homer waved.
     One of the now dislodged customers was the inevitable Officer Brice Sweetman, who was carving the final scrapings of red jam from its little plastic coffin and carefully spreading it on a slice of cold whole wheat toast.
     “Honest to god, I think you actually live here, Brice!” boomed Bliss.
     He smiled wearily. 
     “I drop in,” he replied.
     Bliss introduced him to Michael.
     You know,” Officer Sweetman said to him, looking sadly at his toast, “this jam actually tastes red.” 
     “Red?” asked Michael.
     “Yeh, red.  Not strawberry.  I wonder if an actual strawberry ever came close to it?”
     “And if it did, how long ago,” added Michael.
     “Hey Homer,” Officer Sweetman yelled in the direction of the kitchen, “why don’t you get some real jam?  Put it in a little pot on the table.”
     “Ask Nick,” said Homer, suddenly flipping the bacon so its violent new hiss drowned out everything else.
     “I’m asking you,” said Officer Sweetman.
     Homer shrugged.
     “Homer,” said Bliss suddenly, “Come out here a minute.  I what you to meet my big deal writer friend, Michael.  You can call him Zorba!”
     “No you can’t,” Michael told them both.
     “Who’s Zorba?” Homer asked, striding from the kitchen and wiping his hands on his apron.  
     “A Greek writer,” said Bliss.
     “He’s not a Greek writer, he’s a character in a novel by a Greek writer.  Damn it, Bliss, I’ve told you this a dozen times now!”
     “Weird name,” muttered Homer.
     “So is Homer,” countered Bliss.
     “I wanted to talk to you some more,” Michael explained to Homer,  speaking loudly  enough to be heard over Homer’s sizzling grease-fire, “because of what Bliss has told me about your love of Renaissance painting—and about how good you are at painting in that manner.”
     “What manner?” said Homer, walking back to his spitting grill where now lay the inert oval patty for the cheeseburger someone had ordered ten minute ago.
     “Your Old Master manner,” Michael replied.
     “I don’t know what that is,” Homer shouted, over the sizzle of the still frosty hamburger patty.
     Michael glanced at Bliss.
     “He really doesn’t.” She told him.
     “He’s just a cook,” interjected Office Sweetman.  “And not a very good one at that.”
     Bliss lumbered out into the kitchen.
     “But he’s my sweet babybaby,” she cooed affectionately, snaking her heavy arms around Homer’s apron’d waist.
     “He is?” said Michael, surprised.
     “Oh sure,” replied Officer Sweetmam taking a final sip of his cold coffee, “they’ve been at it for some time now—six months maybe.”
     “Bliss and Homer?”
     “Right.  Homer and Bliss.  Homer and Bliss and Fish.  Hard to figure, huh?”
     “Quite hard, yes,” Michael replied.
     Hearing the sound of his name, Fish padded over to Officer Sweetman’s stool and pissed against his leg.
     “Goddammit, Bliss!” howled Office Sweetman, “can’t you teach this stupid mutt some manners?”
     Homer came hustling back into the restaurant. 
     “Watch it, Sweetman,” he said, with what Michael took to be unusual menace.
     “Or else what?” said Officer Sweetman.
     “Just don’t call Fish stupid,” Homer replied.  “He’s not stupid at all.”
     “No, in fact he’s just as smart as Homer is,” added Bliss.
     Michael and Officer Brice Sweetman looked at each other and grinned.
     “Do you want the punchline?” Michael asked him.
     “Oh no, you go right ahead.   Be my guest!”