Westside: Royal Court

by Tim Gilmore, 6/16/2012

In the subdivision platted Oak Hill Unit 12A, dusk came, and teenaged boys who slept all day would sit on lawn chairs on the roof by 103rd Street and read horror novels and books about shamanism. The streetlights came on in the street in front of the house and the lights by the concrete swimming pool came on in back of the house.

The boy read books about shamanism in the middle of the night by the backyard pool and wanted to be a poet, like Jim Morrison.

The doors of the small ranch-style house never seemed to be locked, and teenagers, mostly boys, always moved through the house. Some of them wondered where the adults were. Someone was always home, but often that someone wasn’t someone who actually lived there.

Something had gone wrong. When they drove up to the trailer in the Royal Court Mobile Home Park off Timuquana Road to buy some LSD, something had gone very wrong.

Timuquana Road contained, on either side, trailer parks, strip malls, and prefab apartment buildings. It was named after the Timucuan Indians, who lived along the coasts of what is now Jacksonville for thousands of years. When the Spanish came with their guns and their religion and their disease, the Timucuans began to disappear. The last of them were shipped to the Caribbean, and Juan Alonso Cavale, the last Timucuan, though by now more Spanish than Indian, died in Guanabacoa, in eastern Havana, Cuba, in 1767. Unless, of course, you reject Romantic indigenous “lastings” and recognize the Seminoles recognize today the Timucua among their ancestors.

The road off Timuquana into the Royal Court is narrow, ugly, constantly punctuated with lovely longleaf pines. The office building lies squat on the right, a corpse-blue concrete block building built in 1949. American flags and 10 MPH speed limit signs are nailed to trees. The mobile homes that checker the roads on either side of the grid throughout the Royal Court, rusting, with their Frigidaire window unit air conditioners hanging limply out their windows, have sat sagging and rusting and wilting and fragmenting since 1965 and 1971 and 1973.

Everything in the Royal Court is an ugly shade of beautiful blue. Even the pine trees seem blue. Even the air seems blue.

Something had gone terribly wrong. When the kids stepped through the front door into the trailer to pick up their tabs of acid, people hit them in the face from behind.

When the friends of an older brother of a friend (and the brother was not a friend) used the incident at the Royal Court as cause for a fight, and three cars of kids entered the Royal Court later that night, the ugly shade of two a.m. blue in the pine trees grew brutal.

They flew out of the cars and knocked through the mobile home doors. They knocked down anonymous figures in the shadows. They kicked young longhaired boys to the ground, kicked people down and under the trailer. As soon as they had come, they were gone.

When a friend shot a friend and killed him, there in the house beneath the roof where they had read books about shamanism above the lights by the swimming pool late at night, it came as a surprise that was not a surprise.

1991 was only twenty years after the death of Jim Morrison and three years before the death of Kurt Cobain. There were lawn chairs on the roof, old Volkswagen Bugs in the driveway. The doors of the house were never locked. Somebody first kissed a girl there, somebody first read Baudelaire.

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