I am a murderer.

A plant murderer.

It was actually negligent homicide, but still . . .

A few months ago, I tried to grow basil in a pot near a window in my living room. It was sickly from the get-go, and it eventually died a slow, painful death. After an appropriate period of mourning, I bought another basil plant. This one was healthy and strong, and I had high hopes.

I lovingly placed it in a pot and positioned it so it would get just the right amount of sunlight. I watered it from the bottom tray, because that’s what the instructions said to do. Every day I talked to my plant and coaxed it along and bragged on its growth, and it thrived! Before long, I had a big, bushy bunch of basil to use in salads or with caprese. For once in my life, I felt like a true peer of Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray.

But I have something that Martha and Rachael don’t have, so it’s not a level playing field. I have a boy. A big, tall, teenage boy who likes to make baking-soda-and-vinegar bombs in old water bottles, so he can shoot them with his BB gun and make a loud POW! sound. Again and again. And again.

The reason this is a problem is that I water my basil using leftover water from the Great Value water bottles I buy in bulk from WalMart. And I didn’t realize that on that particular day, the boy child had prepared his vinegar bottles in advance.

Did you know white vinegar looks exactly like water?

So I fed my beautiful, innocent, lovely little plant poison. Within 24 hours, it was dead.

I should have known. I should have smelled the water, or taken a clue from the packets of baking soda beside the bottle. I am a terrible person, and I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself. I’m expecting a visit from CSI—Botany Division any time. I’ve already written out my confession in hopes they’ll go easy on me.

Although the Great Vinegar Poisoning of 2018 was truly an accident, I can’t claim the same for another type of poison I’ve used. My words can bring life or death, and too often I’ve used my powers to bring harm, rather than good. I like to think of myself as kind and benevolent, but when I’m annoyed or angry, I can be brutal. And like that vinegar in my basil, once spoken, my words can’t be taken back. They soak into the roots of a person’s soul and can cause permanent damage.

I want my speech to be like clear, pure water, bringing refreshment and life to the people around me. That means I have to edit my words before they leave my mouth, and only speak what is helpful, encouraging, and good.

As for the basil, I think I’ll stick with the dried kind that comes in a little shaker bottle from now on.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly-perfect children, and far too many animals. Connect with Renae at www.RenaeBrumbaugh.com.