> THE TOILET IN THE FIELD | jessica elliott

My mom wanted to name my little brother Ozzy, after Ozzy Osbourne of course. His father refused, so, instead, she settled with Austin. To this day, she calls him Ozzy, or Oz, on occasion.

She used to put me to sleep as an infant by blasting Pink Floyd music. To this day, I can't hear Pink Floyd without feeling drowsy.

She wasn't always so eclectic, I suppose. She married my devout Roman Catholic father. They've been divorced for almost 20 years now, and not once in those 20 years have I ever been able to imagine them together. And I don't have any pictures as proof because, after my dad moved out, my mom ripped his face out of all of our photo albums.

Once, she tried to write her life story, but the computer crashed and she lost it all. "Don't worry," I told her, "I'll write it for you one day."

"But you always tell the stories that make me look crazy." She hates it when I introduce her to new people. I tell them about the house she didn't buy.

There was a house she wanted to buy before she bought the one she lives in now. She put in an offer they refused, and then it went into foreclosure. For months, she attempted contact the bank that owned it, and, finally, someone told her that banks often take years to put a house back on the market. Disappointed, she had to make a decision -- wait for that house or look for another one.

"I just wish I could look at it again," she said. "I want to be sure I like it as much as I remember."

"So go look at it," I told her.

"I tried, but the door is locked."

"You could open it with a credit card." For the record, I was joking. But, the next day she called me and asked to borrow my shovel.

"I decided to wait for the house," she said. "I like it as much as I remember, but there's a dead rabbit in the bathroom. It's bad feng shui. I need your shovel to get it out." I agreed to let her borrow my shovel but told her that I wasn't bailing her out of jail when they arrested her for breaking and entering.

It went on that way for months. She'd go over to the house to check on it, even had a special credit card she used to unlock the door. She started reading about squatter laws on the internet, concocting elaborate schemes that involved mailing rent checks to a fake P.O. Box and living in the house until someone realized what was going on. Though I frequently attempted to dissuade her plans by explaining the many reasons they could arrest her, she never changed her position. Finally, I discovered the one thing that would convince her to just look for another house. "Even if it worked and they believed that you really believed you were renting the house, they'd probably just make you move out."

"Yeah, you're right," she said. "I'd hate to move twice." She eventually found another house, hung crystals in adjacent bedroom doorways to prevent animosity between the occupants.

In the new house, she painted the walls lavender, and then sponged UofL red on top. The first guests to see it claimed that it looked like she'd committed some sort of violent murders and never cleaned up the blood.

She and my brother were constantly stopping up the toilet in the new house. Finally, she broke down and bought an industrial-flushing toilet. But the trash company wouldn't dispose of the old one, so she decided to leave it in the backyard of the house she didn't buy. They took pictures of my brother pretending to take a shit on a toilet in the middle of an overgrown field.

Though I love to see him sitting on that toilet in the middle of a field, my favorite digital image of my brother, Austin, is of the day he broke his ankle. It was the first snow of the season, and Austin and his friend were videotaping each other snowboarding down a hill in the backyard. In the video, you see a clown snowboarding down a hill. I say a clown because this was during his ICP obsession, and he had his face painted in his best rendition of Violent J. So, you see him slide down the hill, you see him reach the bottom, and you see his leg twist into an impossible angle. This is where the video cuts out.

I lived next door at the time, and my mom calls me, both high and panicked, and asks me to help her get him back up the hill. When I arrived, she was crying and swearing off weed, and Austin was lying in the snow at the bottom of the hill telling her to shut the fuck up. When we got him to the car, he asked me to get him a rag so he could wipe off the face paint, but I refused. He only had enough energy to flip me off as they drove away, which I believed was a characteristically Violent J thing to do.

People think I'm crazy when I talk about my family, but I think we're actually fairly sane considering what we've been through. My mom's second husband, Austin's father Mark, played a major role in making us who we are now.

As a child, I was naive, and it wasn't until I grew older and relived so many of my childhood memories that I realized just how na´ve I really was. My mom and Mark sold jewelry for a while, and, during that time, there was a section of our basement that was blocked off by what I believed was aluminum foil. We used to go down to the basement to roller-skate across its smooth concrete floors, and, naturally, I was curious as to what occupied the secret basement room. When I asked, Mark told me that it was his jewelry-making workshop. I never questioned his assertion, but, to prove his point, he gave me a loose cubic zirconium that I believed for years was a diamond. Apparently, he was growing diamonds in the basement.

One day, I was chasing our cat around the house. He ran into the jewelry-making workshop, and I followed. To my surprise, there were plants in there. I'd later deduce that they were pot plants, but I had no idea what they were back then. I remember asking Mark about it, but I can't remember his answer. I like to think that maybe he claimed he was making hemp jewelry.

Once, we were driving down the street, and Mark knocked the passenger side-view mirror off on a mailbox. It wasn't his fault, of course, because the mailbox was too close to the road that we'd driven down a thousand times before without losing any car parts. On the way back, he pointed out that the mailbox was crooked, but that had nothing to do with the fact that it had been hit by a car.

There were other things too, things that weren't so funny. When I think about them, I like to remember the woman who moved in with Mark after we left. She was a giant, and, according to Austin, she beat the hell out of him right before she left him too.

I'd like to say that my mom took their divorce in stride, but I'd be lying. However, she did back over his motorcycle twice with her car. She did throw a cinderblock through the windshield of his truck. And then she took me to the mechanic after-hours to see the damage. The cinderblock sat inside the broken shards of the windshield like a baby sunk into its cradle.

Once, my mom claimed she was going to kill herself, and, once, I almost killed her. We were moving, and she, my brother, and I were attempting to carry the 400 pound glass top of our dining room table out to the U-Haul. We made it to the concrete steps of our porch when she rolled over into the grass, literally in slow motion, and said in the most pitiful voice I've ever heard, "I can't go any further."

The problem was that she and I had been carrying one side of the table, and, when she fell, the table came dangerously close to crushing her. I couldn't hold it by myself, not to mention that I was crying with laughter.

I don't intentionally attempt to make her look ridiculous; it's just that there things are what make her unique. I could tell people about her divorces, about her abusive relationships, but then she could be anyone else. Those things don't explain her existence; they simply show that she did exist.

Once, I dreamed that she died. I was at the funeral showing people a slideshow of pictures of the many hairstyles she wore over the years. I wasn't speaking of her strength or her survival skills; rather, I was laughing at the mullet she wore for the greater part of the eighties. And, in that moment, I went from laughing to crying so hard that I remained paralyzed even after I awoke.

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

She's part Scottish.