Even at her most subdued, my birth-mother is hardly what you'd call conventional.
The daughter of an ancient aristocratic family fallen on hard times, she has lived a varied life that's included taking powerful men for lovers, hobnobbing with celebrities, battling drug addiction, enduring wretched poverty, and dabbling from time to time in organized crime.
Occasionally echoes of this extraordinary past will pop up in her present.
To this day her lip will curl at the mention of Robert Plant--"We dated," she offers darkly--and she still chuckles knowingly if the topic turns to Madonna. No one can quite work out what's so funny, and her explanation of "she's fun" leaves much to be desired.
There is, of course, a more insidious side to Anne's early misadventures.
She once, during a routine conversation about what a pain traffic police are, shot me an appraising look and asked, "You ever flipped a car off a bridge?"
Another time I'd been spacing out through one of her stories and snapped back when I heard, "I didn't even know it was a drug deal until my friend took a gun out and shot the guy in the head."
So we ought to know to expect the unusual from her. It's a reasonable anticipation. But still.
Powell sounded more bewildered than scared when he called me the other day.
"Dude, I fucking hate it up here," said the 21-year-old brother who's been living with Anne for the last few months. "There's nothing to do and she is just nuts."
"Yeah, I know," I said, recalling my own struggles with Anne's tempestuous personality and wild flashes of temper. "She's a huge drama queen."
"No," he said. "It's not even that. I mean she's literally fucking crazy. Like, the other day, I went out to her jeep to grab my iPod. I just grabbed the keys and walked out there without asking her."
"Yeah," I said. I was waiting to hear how our birth-mother had exploded with outrage at Powell's opening her car without permission.
"So I unlock the door and sitting there in the passenger's seat is a loaded automatic AK-47."
I stood up straight.
"Are you kidding?"
"No, I'm not kidding."
My face scrunched up into an expression of confusion.
"Is that even legal?"
"BB, of course it's not legal," Powell sighed. "I just cannot believe how insane it is up here."
"Well, what did she say about it?"
"That's the thing," he said. "She acted like it was nothing. You should have seen it. Her face went totally blank and she said, 'Antiquing is a competitive business.'"
"'Antiquing is a competitive business?'" I repeated incredulously.
"Yeah, and then she walked out of the room."
"You're telling me."
"Crazy. Hey, are you coming down for Thanksgiving?"
"Yeah, Dad's going to pick me up on Monday."
"Alright, cool. I'll see you soon then."