Thursday, May 9

North American Journeys (Italy Division), 7

The car, which was a big Renault, a tourer, slowed down and pulled off the autostrada with Brenda asleep in back, her mouth a bit open and the daylight streaming off her cheekbones. It was near Como, they had just crossed, the border police had glanced in at her.
     "Come on, Bren, wake up," they said, "we're stopping for coffee."
     She came back from the ladies' room with her hair combed and fresh lipstick on. The boy in the white jacket behind the counter was rinsing spoons.
     "Hey, Brenda, I forget. Is it espresso or expresso?" Frank asked her.
     "Espresso," she said.
     "How do you know?"
     "I'm from New York," she said.
     "That's right," he remembered. "The Italians don't have an x, do they?"
     "They don't have a j either," Alan said.
     "Why is that?"
     "They're such careless people," Brenda said. "They just lost them."

--James Salter, "American Express"

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