Vida Janulaitis
I t wasn't meant to turn out this way. When the house went up for sale I was renting out the main floor with a patio that extended into a beautiful lethal garden. The previous owner had died suddenly of a heart attack. I suspected a broken heart. After 40 years she found herself unable to cope when her best friend and lover had died the previous year. Her estate put the house up for sale and it was perfect for me. I was a block away from Bourbon Street and Dixieland jazz was in my blood, although I haven't lived in New Orleans all that long. I've come to treasure walking in the French Quarter watching the fireworks above the Mississippi river.

I didn't think there would be a problem until the real estate agent showed the first couple through and I knew I had competition. Did I really have enough money? Could I afford this beautiful home? Could I afford to lose it? I knew too many of its secrets and it knew too many of mine.

Although voodoo was never mentioned, my landlady showed me the power of the dark and its advantages. This spirit of hers that still existed taught me how to use a red, juicy, ornamental plant for whatever purpose I had in mind. The climbing nightshade could produce effects from mild hallucinations to the other end of the spectrum, mortality. It's all in the brew.

When the couple came again, I was home and showed them my place. The wife gushed while the husband, for the realtor's sake, appeared nonchalant. He knew how the game was played. Or did he? I offered them some tea which they graciously accepted. They both seemed to be more the Gun and Roses type. Nothing wrong with that. I'd like ‘November Rain' to be played at my funeral. As they continued upstairs I went outside into the garden, and from extended limbs the spiny capsules presented themselves. Back in the kitchen I had choice to make.

Putting the final garnish of mint on the tea, this nice couple came downstairs for refreshments. The tea was superb and they left in good spirits, pleased with everything. I haven't heard if they put a bid on the house. In fact, I haven't heard from them at all.

Weeks later the house price dropped and I put my offer in. All those people coming through and not one bid but my own. Amazing!

First published: August 1999