You've heard the term "it skipped a generation." Well, that's true of the green thumb element in my family. It skipped me and went straight from my mother to my daughter. Almost from the day she was able to walk, Dana has loved flowers and plants.
So it wasn't a surprise when she called me recently. "Mama, you won't believe what an interesting little plant shop I found. And guess what - the owner knows a couple of your friends, Tarantella and Ghouliana."
"No kidding," I said. "Who is this person?"
"Well, her name is Pernicia and she has some of the most interesting plants I have seen. She sells potions and stuff, kind of like in those little out-of-the-way herbal places you used to bumble into in Mexico, way back there when you were young ..."
"Well, I wouldn't call it exactly bumbling; sometimes I knew where I was going. Anyway, did you buy anything?"
"Um, yes, but I am not sure if Lee will want it in the house. You know how he is about "catching" something. Well, this plant might literally catch somebody just walking by. It probably better go in the back yard somewhere." A pause. "I better put it up on top of the rock wall or my highest pedestal so the dogs won't get caught by it. You know how inquisitive they are."
At this point, I was really intrigued, so when she offered to take me to this interesting little place a few days later, I put on my makeup and grabbed my hat and was ready when she pulled into the driveway.
I knew I would like the place as soon as I saw the sign. "Pernicia's Plants and Potions: We Either Fix You Or You Give Up The Ghost."
"Oh mercy," I breathed silently, as I first saw Pernicia.
Dana whispered, "My first thought was to tell you not to be alarmed at how she looks, but then I remembered who all your friends are, and well, I figured you wouldn't even notice." My daughter has a great sense of humor.
She walked quickly ahead. "Hello, Pernicia. I'm Dana. I was in your shop recently and was so interested in everything that I told my mother about you."
"Oh yes, Dana. I remember you. You're the one who bought the Sinuous Seeker. How do you like it?"
"Well," my daughter said. "It's doing great, but the dogs have been wanting to stay in the house ever since the first new runners came out, I have to say." She turned to me. "I'd like you to meet my mother, Wanna Newman."
"Really nice to meet you, Wanna. We have mutual acquaintances, Tarantella and Ghouliana, both excellent plant persons, as you know. Not surprising we would be acquainted, either, because for such a large place, El Paso is really just a collection of small towns, isn't it? And plant people do seem to find each other eventually. "
"So true," I said. "Miniaturists are like that, too. And yes, we have all the benefits of a big city with a small town atmosphere and a view of the mountains from almost every neighborhood."
"Come in. I don't want to be inhospitable, girls, and I would love to visit with you, but I have a few things I need to get done before closing. Just look around and let me know if you need anything. Just watch your step."
She looked down at my feet in the heavy sandals I wear year round, and lifted her skirt. "I wear boots."
She moved past a stack of books. "I will leave you to your devices. Some of my plants are persnickety if they aren't pruned before sundown and I better get to it."
Reaching for the shears, she added, "By the way, all wrapped and bagged herbs are reduced. We have some clearance pieces, as well, including some of The Crone's Friend potions. I need to get rid of inventory because I came into some very nice seeds and cuttings recently from my friend Afraida Thedark recently and she says they really grow fast, so I need to clear out some space before I get them started."
"Thanks," I said. "I do enjoy being able to see unusual plants. The only green thing I have these days is an ivy plant that my eye doctor gave me when I had my cataract surgery."
"Look, Dana," I said. "Don't you like that stein?"
"Oh, look here, Mama, you can get a potion made to order." She smiled. "Need anything?"
"Well, right now, things are going pretty well," I said. "But it's good to know, just in case..."
"Looks like some kind of interesting squash or gourds or something on the shelf below that tray with the pitcher and bottle," Dana said, pointing. "And some kind of notebook," bending down to peer in the dim recesses of the shelf below.
"Interesting iron basket. Wow! I had no idea anyone actually used quill pens and ink pots any more. She keeps a cutting board down there, too. "
"Look at that all-seeing eye," I said. "I think Bonerella had one of those at her house, except I don't recall that it was bloodshot."
Dana murmured, "Kind of dark down there; wish I could see the titles on those books. Interesting bookend, too ..."
At that point, I felt a slight chill, as if someone had opened an unseen door.
I read the sign stuck next to an interesting little jar: "Essence of Ghost! Who knew! Very cool," I said, "literally," as a ghostly plant in a vase moved back and forth.
Pernicia called from the back of the room. "That's a Ghostly Bonsai. Probably the only one in the Southwest."
"Well, I have heard that people who have had had experiences with ghosts report a chill in the area," I said. "Do you remember Lloyd and Charlene, our neighbors when you were little, Dana? They used to tell the most interesting stories about a place where they lived in Southern Colorado ..."
Dana interrupted, "I do remember. Well, Pernicia certainly is well studied in her craft; just look at all these books and documents tucked everywhere," moving us along. Sometimes I think my children believe I go on too much ...
"She apparently has a subscription to a monthly, too,"she added.
"Oh, here's something I might could use," I said. "Apparently our friend makes memory charms. These days I can't remember why I came into a room!"
"These must be the clearance items she's talking about. Oh look, Dana. Is that a little mummy standing there? I swear I saw him move!"
"Oh, he's probably some stuffed toy. Maybe one of those felting pieces so popular now."
"I knew I kept hearing strange little noises, so I thought it might be him. Must have been the bird," I said.
"And oh my, looks like he and Mousie there are either friends or just checking each other out."
"Looks like his buddy is going to explore somewhere else. Did you ever see a mouse that looked like a cat? "
"There's another critter," I said. "See that turtle behind the bench?"
I walked around to check it out.
Woo! What is this?"
At that point, Pernicia came over to join us, the various keys and other implements hanging from her waist jangling nosily.
"Finding anything you need, ladies?"
"Well, we are - I am - curious about this ..." and I gestured to a figure in a wooden basket.
"Oh, you mean Herbert," she said. "He uses a special organic compost and grows bone stuff for us. See, there's some, spilling out of that cornucopia, there next to my Looks Like a Green Chili plant."
I blinked, trying to phrase a question without sounding rude. I mean, who needs "bone stuff"? Maybe Bonerella might. I wonder ....
However, I just moved on around the corner past the mushroom log and the long knife used to cut off specimens.
I saw several other mushrooms on the work table, too.
There was a sssing sound from a yellow fellow nestled in his prickly bed. "Wonder what she uses him for?"
"That plant on the left is a Yellow Freckle," Dana whispered. "Last time I was here, I heard her telling someone that with one of her potions, the freckles and warts leave the person and hop onto the plant. And that black furry pompom plant by the watering can provides spare fur for tarantulas who've been in accidents."
"Wow! Who knew?" I asked, as I examined a strange striped vegetable or fruit or something lying on the table.
Dana said, "Careful, Mama. Some big slug like thing is crawling toward you."
"Well, you better watch your step, too, Dana. Something is moving or slithering down below us, too! Surely she wouldn't be selling anything deadly."
I peered under the table. Pernicia is like a lot of us, I thought; she manages to get a lot of stuff in a relatively small space. "Hmm," I said. "I wonder what is in that bucket visible past the pink basket?
Pernicia walked in from the back room at that point, still holding her shears. "Oh, that?" she asked.
"It's a Bat Bloomer. Always fun to see it come into full flower. I won a prize at the Dona Ana County Fair with this plant," Pernicia confided.
"I can certainly see why," I replied, as one of the blooms gave me a toothy grin and winked.
"Matter of fact, those plants go 'way back," Pernicia said. "I think one is mentioned in this old volume."
"Whoops!" she said, looking at the table. "That Monkey's Paw plant just keeps escaping and trying to push over things on that table. I would hate to see my stein spill. The potion in it is quite expensive. Excuse me while I trim it back." And she whacked one end of the sluglike plant and tossed it back toward Herbert in his basket behind the potting bench.
And as the other end tried to get away, Dana said, "Oh look, a bird beak plant! That's probably what I should have gotten. It probably wouldn't scare the dogs like the Sinuous Seeker; they are used to seeing birds all the time."
I saw what Pernicia meant about the Monkey's Paw; that darn heavy vine/stalk thing seemed to grow while Pernicia reached toward it with her shears. SNIP!
"That's a Great Ghastly," Dana said. "I think she said it blooms rarely, sort of like a century plant, so we are really fortunate to see it blooming."
Some mighty strange plants on that table! "There's a Snake Eyer. Wow, I've read about those! I think Tarantella has something similar. She keeps having to prune it, too," I recalled.
I wanted to ask Pernicia about the strange stump on the garden bench holding the tray of potion bottles, and the interesting candle that kept twisting while we looked at it, but she had already moved on to toss the other piece of the Monkey's Paw over to Herbert.
At that point I swear I heard wee voices singing You Are My Sunshine!
"There's what you need, Dana; some hand painted stones for your garden."
By then I was feeling quite tired and in need of coffee so I said, "Hon, I really need to get on home, and I am sure Pernicia is ready to close for the day, too."
I turned to our hostess. "It's been such a pleasure meeting you and touring your shop, Pernicia. I hope to come back one of these days. I have a feeling I may need one of your potions as I get older."
"No doubt you will," she said. "I will be here."
As Dana and I got in her car, I said, "I am so glad you called me, hon. I wouldn't have missed this for the world."
We looked back as Pernicia disappeared into her shop. "You know, she is quite striking. Her hair, especially."
"Oh yes. She told me she stores stuff in there until she needs it."
"Oh, okay," I said. "Well, that explains a lot." And with that, we went to Starbucks before heading home.
NOTE: To see how I created Pernica and this setting, look here.