[dropcap]I [/dropcap]met Carl at a Freeport gas station. He was driving a Ford truck, same year, make, and model as mine. The same color, too; I call it, cold sore red. We were twins. The only difference between our vehicles was that Carl’s sat loaded with a metric ton of fresh hickory. He had so many logs, it looked like his axel was going to buckle under the weight.

“Nice truck,” I said.

He gave me a grin. “Not half as cute as yours.”

I looked back at my vehicle. It looked like last year’s runner-up in the ugly contest.

“Why so much wood?” I asked.

“Hickory,” he answered. “It’s for my dad. I drove four hours to get all this free wood. Craigslist.”

Carl and his father own a barbecue joint in middle Georgia. A small one. Nearly a decade ago, they were barbecue gods. They did battle in slow cook-offs all over the Southeast with nothing but an iron smoker, a few pork shoulders, and sass. Not only did they win contests, they helped pork addicts like me expand waistlines one mouthful at a time.

“Dad will go nuts over all this free hickory,” Carl explained. Then, his face grew solemn. “He’s got Alzheimers now. It makes every day a challenge.”

Carl showed me an old photograph of his father. The two of them stood before a big smoker with medals dangling from their necks. Arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. Then, Carl bid me goodbye. Because middle Georgia is a long way from Freeport.

And Carl had a special delivery to make.

Illustration by Golly Bard 

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