IN THE PROUDEST COUNTRY BY MICHAEL WASHBURN 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 33
Claude studied the American for a moment with a look neither warm nor cold. When Bryan had another round of drinks ready on a tray, the young man broke the silence, in the type of voice a shopkeeper uses toward a vagrant loitering outside. He asked whether Bryan was a Canadian. Bryan gave curt answers: American, writer, Les Cerqueux, et cetera.
The calm face studied Bryan for a moment. Then Claude stated his name and said that he lived a mile outside Vihiers, and that it was not common to see Americans, who took little interest in the town even when studying in Les Cerqueux.
“But then,” added Claude, “if you don’t care about those who go through life as amputees thanks to you, then who cares about a little place like Vihiers?”
Bryan smiled by default at his interlocutor. Now the music shifted to a snappier, more danceable song and the throng in the center of the place swelled. Bryan could not see his friends.
“Relax, I’m just making a joke with you,” said Claude. It was one of the solecisms that result from literal translation.
“Glad you told me, because I’m not sure what’s funny,” said Bryan.
“I’m not saying you would blow up houses full of people in Afghanistan,” Claude continued. “I don’t know, you might be a good guy.”