Mobile, Alabama—a bed and breakfast. It’s early morning. I am not a morning person. On a good day, it takes me a full sixteen hours to wake up.
There are two girls at the breakfast table. They are from France. Sisters.
They are young. Talkative. They speak English, with accents. They are eating triple the food I eat.
This is their first visit to Alabama.
“We NEVER visit this Deep South before,” says the girl who wears a camellia in her hair. “There is so much beauty. But it is SO hot.”
Hot. It’s only eighty-six outside. I could wear a wool sweater and jump rope in the attic without breaking a sweat.
They tell me their mother passed away a month ago. The girls are taking this trip—which their mother always wanted to take.
They’re here to honor her memory.
They flew into New York City first. They rented a car and set off for the Yellowhammer State—home of Spanish moss, live oaks, boiled-peanut stands, cotton fields, and mosquitoes big enough to kill most medium-sized house cats.
Yesterday, they hired a
guide to take them fishing in Mobile Bay. It was everything they’d hoped it would be.
“I catch my FIRST fish!” she says. “A beeg, beeg one! It was THIS beeg.”
She holds her hands out as far as she can.
“We even eat GRITS!” says her sister. “With cheese, they are so weird, these grits.”
If they were weird, they were instant, sister.
The girls traveled to Tuscumbia, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuskeegee, Selma, and Mobile.
They got their first American sunburns, they drank Ko-Kolas from glass bottles. They ate tomato sandwiches.
They just left Birmingham recently, where they spent two days. They were nervous in the big city.
“Our friends in France warn us that Birmingham is dangerous city,” she says. “That we must be VERY careful, or we get shot.”
I inform her that her friends…