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 38 of 50 | Published Tuesday, July 16, 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 31 continues

So far: Wendy places Richard’s ashes in the lake.

“I think it’s time for some pumpkin pie, with whipped cream if you have it,” Gary suggested, then looked at me with a smirk on his face. “But don’t tell the pie story, Wendy. Resist.”

“I would never tell the pie story,” I assured him.

Susan stretched her arms. “I want to hear the pie story.”

“Who would like a piece of pumpkin pie?” I asked.

All hands shot up except Lucinda’s.

“I don’t care for pumpkin,” she explained. “But I absolutely must hear the pie story.”

“I’ll have hers,” Dewey said.

I left the room to cut up and serve the pie while Gary told the “flat” apple pie story on himself. Laughter erupted as he explained his misreading of the box label. I smiled at the sound.

In the kitchen I cut up the pie, one quite large piece for Dewey and an extra piece for myself. I loved pie for breakfast. When I was a kid someone told me that the farmers often had pie in the morning with their coffee and since then I have needed no other justification.

Gary stuck his head in the kitchen. “I’m going to need some coffee if I’m going to make it home tonight.”

“You know where everything is,” I told him. “You sure you’re going to be okay going home?”

He nodded and ground some coffee beans and started the coffee maker. Then he grabbed me by the shoulders. “Is it okay that we’re all here?”

I stopped to think. “Yes. It’s as okay as it can be right now. It’s not what I want, but I can’t have what I want.” I knew I was getting too serious and sad for him so I reined myself in. “And I can’t think how I would have managed without the green bean casserole.”

“With worms on top,” he said.

“My favorite part.”

When I walked out with the first two pieces of pie, I noticed that Lucinda and Dewey had moved to the couch in front of the fire. She was swinging her long dark hair off her face in a very flirtatious way. She must have run down for more wine, because she was busily opening another bottle.

Richard had always been very generous with the wine and I didn’t care that she was helping herself, but I was clear that Lucinda wasn’t sleeping in the cabin tonight. She could check herself into a motel or make other arrangements if she wasn’t sober enough to drive home.

As I delivered the pie, Gary took coffee orders.

I sat down at the table and sampled the pie. As good as I remembered from last year.

Richard was so insistent on having pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving that one year, in France, he tried to make a pie from scratch. He said the resultant tart had been lumpy and a muddy color, but not horrible. His French friends had pronounced it “degoulasse.”

He said my pie was “delicieux.” Every Thanksgiving he had declared that in his horrible French accent.

• • •

Elsie stood up and started to clear the table.

“Stop, Elsie. What are you doing?” I asked in horror. I never let guests clear the table.

“Helping out.”

“No, leave it. Please. We never do much after the dinner. We like the food to be crusted on the plates before we try to wash them.” I noticed everyone was listening to me and that I was using the word “we” as if there was someone else who was going to be helping me with dishes in the morning.

“If you say so,” Elsie said and swept a hand down the front of her very blue sweater. “Well, it’s the witching hour for me, kids. That pie was delicious, Wendy. Thank you for having me.”

I walked her to the door and was surprised when she gave me a quick hug after I helped her on with her coat.

“Thanksgiving’s almost over,” she said quietly.

I nodded.

She leaned in close and said, “It gets a little easier every day. My husband’s been dead twenty years now. I’m still mad at him for leaving me.”

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 31 begins.

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