Dothan, Alabama—the day before Christmas Eve. It’s a humid 74 degrees outside. I’m sweating.
Welcome to South Alabama in December.
I’m in a truck with a coonhound, a hospice nurse, and an unruly Episcopalian. My wife is our driver. We’re delivering cooked Christmas turkeys to anyone who makes eye-contact with us.
My delivery partner is Katie—nurse and highly-decorated comedian. We’re appearing on doorsteps in rough parts of town. Homes with rotten clapboards, blue tarps on roofs, and old sofas on porches.
We enter an apartment. It’s a cracker box filled with cigarette smoke and concrete floors. A nine-year-old girl named Zion lives here with her granny. Her hair is in cornrows.
Granny is on an oxygen tank, smoking a Menthol Slim.
“Hi, Zion,” I say.
So, I hand her a turkey as big as her granny. She hugs the foil-wrapped thing.
“Merry Christmas,” whispers Zion.
The purest words I have ever heard.
We deliver to an elderly man who has two teeth. He’s tall, skin like rawhide. He’s sitting on a recliner in his driveway.
We hand him a turkey; his face is a lightbulb.
“May Kissmuss,” he says.
to you, sir.
We deliver to the government housing apartments. It’s a rough neighborhood. And I mean rough.
Think: glass pipes sitting on coffee tables, and six-year-olds playing with broken toys.
“Merry Christmas,” one little girl says.
Her siblings say the same.
That’s the phrase of the day. We’ve used it a hundred times within the last few hours. But today, it doesn’t mean what it usually means. It means more.
Anyway, this turkey operation didn’t happen on its own. The past few days have been a highly orchestrated hell for those planning it. Raising money, buying supplies, training volunteers, making lists, phone calls, and of course, the cooking.
You’ve never seen so many cooked birds. There are approximately—this is only an estimate—seventeen hundred gazillion trillion turkeys.