by Tim Gilmore, 8/8/2018
Kim could talk of nothing but her granddaughter. Eight framed photos of her grandbaby set perched about her desk in a back corner office of the half-a-million-square-foot warehouse.
“You got to see my baby’s baby,” she’d say. She gushed. Overflowed. She loved.
Two years before, she’d say, “You know why they called where I live Blackbottom? It’s ’cause thass where they buried all the niggers.”
Kim’s glorious red hair fell down past her waist. When she walked, she swung her hips hard. She wore round-framed glasses and loved Ozzy Osbourne. Sitting behind her desk in her little square concrete office, she’d sometimes cup her voluminous breasts and nod her head to say hello.
“Ah cain’t wait to get home and git in the bed,” she’d say, meaning the tanning bed she’d placed in her bedroom.
She lived in a mobile home, a house trailer, in Baldwin, one of only four holdouts from county-city consolidation in 1968, in which the rest of Duval County voted to surrender government to the City of Jacksonville. Consolidation supposedly made Jacksonville “the biggest city in the world,” according to The Jacksonville Journal, though city limits contained mostly woods and swamps, and saved Jacksonville, in the minds of Southern political elites, from becoming a black political powerhouse like Atlanta or New Orleans.
Kim’s son kept getting arrested for hopping trains at the Baldwin railroad yard. She complained somebody had dug up a carpet in which was rolled up a corpse. She laughed. “You know why they called it Blackbottom, right?”
She’d installed a tanning bed in the bedroom of her house trailer. If she needed a bed, a regular mattress, she’d use the one beneath the widescreen TV in the living room. Never did home feel more like home.
Kim grew increasingly orange beneath her cataract of flowing red hair. She shook her hips wider, stepped her thighs stronger. Her Southern accent, her twang, twung harder.
Her daughter had fallen in love. Kim called him “a good man and I don’t give two goddamns anybody think otherwise.”
Kim’s granddaughter’s father was black. She had the most beautiful granddaughter in the world. Eight framed photos of her grandbaby perched about her desk in her back corner office of the half-a-million-square-foot warehouse.
From her tanning bed, installed in the bedroom of her house trailer, Kim grew more orange and more orange beneath her cascades of violent red hair. Kim was “colored.” She loved her grandchild more than herself.
“You got to see my baby’s baby,” she’d say. She gushed. Overflowed. She loved. Her grandchild was the “best thing ever happened.”