The night before the Alabama mask mandate was set to lift on 9 May 2021, a crowd of three hundred ticketholders gathered on the lawn of Montgomery, Alabama’s Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum. Whether this was technically the twenty-sixth or twenty-seventh annual gala and auction was unclear. The onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 meant that the previous year’s event had been postponed so often that no one could quite remember whether it had ever been officially canceled or merely postponed. All attendees knew that after fourteen months of either full or partial lockdown, of either the melancholy isolation of working from home or the opposing stress of being required to report to offices and classrooms with only masks, shields, and hand sanitizer for protection, congregating in a large group was a strangely foreign experience—at once slightly scary and yet casually exhilarating. Some told war stories of their bouts with...

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