Giving up the Ghost

A novel by Mary Logue published in installments each day in the Star Tribune from June 9 to July 28, 2013.
Day 36 of 50 | Published Sunday, July 14, 2013
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The story: Wendy was just 25 when she met Richard, a Minneapolis artist, at the New French Café. They fell in love, married, bought a cabin in northern Minnesota where they spent their summers. But when Richard died unexpectedly, Wendy found it difficult to move on. Because she kept seeing Richard’s ghost….
Mary Logue
Mary Logue is the author of more than twenty-five books, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, mysteries and children’s stories. She has won a Minnesota Book Award, the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award, and many other honors. She lives with her husband, writer Pete Hautman, in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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Giving Up the Ghost

Chapter 30 continues

So far: Wendy relives the day Richard died.

“To Richard,” I raised my glass.

“To Richard,” everyone at the table chimed in and drank to his life and to his death.

I glanced down at the other end of the table, thinking maybe Richard’s ghost might show up for a moment, but not even a glimmer of a wisp of a spirit appeared.

“The turkey is perfect,” Susan said.

“Thank you,” I agreed. It was moist and flavorful and I felt hungry in a way I hadn’t in months. Maybe what I had needed all along was a feast.

“This wild rice is fantastic,” Gary said. “What’s all in here?”

“Whatever I could find in the woods throughout the year,” Elsie said.

Gary stopped eating, fork in mid-air. “The woods?”

“Yes, I like to forage. There’s some chanterelles, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, dried berries, hazelnuts. I gather them and dry them. And then, of course, the wild rice comes from around here.”

Lucinda spoke up. “You mean you even went out and gathered the rice, like with a canoe and beating it and all?”

Elsie laughed. “No, I didn’t quite do that. But I bought the rice from the people who did gather it and dry it. Their wild rice has a whole different flavor than the store-bought stuff. This good rice is golden when you buy it.”

We then had a few minutes when no one spoke, the sound of knives and forks scraping on fine china, the tinkle of glasses being raised to lips. I was glad to be eating with friends.

Elsie set her fork down and asked me, “Where is Richard?”

At first I didn’t understand her question. I thought she meant why wasn’t he at the dinner. For a moment I even flashed on her knowing he was a ghost who might come for a visit.

But then I understood and answered, “In the lake.”

Chapter 31

We had all finished dinner and were sitting around the table, pushing food around our plates, drinking one more glass of wine when the doorbell rang.

Gary looked at me. “Who isn’t here?”

“Got me.”

Elsie pointed to the extra plate. “The stranger has come for his meal.”

I stood up and walked to the door. I looked out the window, but didn’t see anyone on the steps.

When I opened the door, I still didn’t see anyone. Then I heard a chirp.

When I looked down I saw a little gray powder puff sitting on the front steps, squinting up at me.

Cloud. My scrappy cat.

I reached down and swept her soft gangliness into my arms. “Oh, Cloud, where have you been?”

She let out her screechy shriek.

The delicate weight of her thin body made me so happy I could hardly stand it. I waltzed her into the dining room. “Here she is. Here’s Cloud. The new kitty. She’s come home.”

“She rang the doorbell?” Gary asked.

“You’re right. That’s odd.”

I walked back to the open door and there was Dewey standing where Cloud had been.

“Hey, Dewey. What’re you doing here?”

“That little critter climbed into my truck and must have gone to sleep under the seat. I didn’t even know she was there. I never saw her. When I went out to get my lighter from the truck a few minutes ago, there she was yowling at the window. Man, she can make a noise. So I climbed right in the truck with her and drove her home. She’s a little bit of a thing. Knew you’d be missing her.”

“Come in. Please come in. You are the hero of the hour. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have her back.”

“That’s what I thought.”

I had never seen Dewey so spiffed up. He had taken a bath and shaved since he dropped off the wood. He had on a flannel shirt of a soft blue color that made his eyes look like Paul Newman’s. His gray hair was slicked back and he didn’t have his usual stocking cap on.

“Have you eaten?” I asked him.

“I had a sandwich.”

“Come in and eat. We have plenty of food.”

Dewey walked in and I introduced him to everyone. He sat down in Richard’s place at the table and Lucinda poured him a glass of wine. Gary carved a couple slices of turkey for him and he piled all the rest of the food around the turkey on his plate, even finished off the cranberry sauce.

“Oh, Wendy, I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Lucinda started.

She hadn’t talked business all dinner long so here it was. I prepared myself for her attack.

“I was wondering if you might consider loaning me Rich’s neckties for his retrospective?”

“His neckties?”

“Yes, you know the wonderful embroidered ties you made him for every show. How many are there?”

“Six.”

“Great. I thought it would be nice to have a display of them. In their own right they are wonderful works of art.” She gave me a toothy smile. “Maybe you could even make one last tie in his honor.”

Gary lifted up his glass. “To the ties.”

Everyone here-here’d.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, especially from Lucinda. She must have thought they were worthy. Even I conceded that she had very good taste. My embroidered ties hanging in an art gallery. Next to Richard’s work.

I sat at the end of the table, petting the purring kitten in my lap, so content that something I loved had been returned to me.

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 31 continues.