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 42 of 50 | Published Saturday, July 20, 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 33 continues

So far: Memories drift to a wedding and honeymoon.

Standing by the front door, Gary started to bundle up, putting on his many layers, fastening and wrapping himself in wool and fur. Susan was in the living room by the fire, out of earshot.

He was my good friend, coming all this way to have Thanksgiving with me. I felt like I had to tell him something.

“I’ve seen Richard.” I couldn’t believe it when I let that secret pop out of my mouth.

Gary stopped in mid-wrap of his scarf. “Richard? Like in the flesh?”

“No, like in the ectoplasm.”

“A ghost Richard?”

“I guess so. I don’t know what else to call it.”

Gary’s eyes grew large. “How? When did this happen?”

“It’s happened more than once.”

He put his hand on his forehead. “Wendy, this is not good. I’m worried about you. You shouldn’t be seeing ghosts.”

“Don’t go there, Gary. Don’t act as if you think I’m crazy. It isn’t bad seeing his ghost. It’s rather comforting.”

Gary looked around the house. “Did you see him tonight?”

“No. I looked for him, but he didn’t show. I’m not surprised. I think he’s a little shy.”

“The ghost’s shy?”

“Yes, I think he comes just for me. Sometimes I’m not even sure he wants me to see him.”

“Has he said anything?”

“He isn’t that kind of ghost.”

“Wendy, are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m fine, but I think he’s here for a reason. I don’t know what he’s trying to tell me.”

Chapter 34

After Gary left, I joined Susan. Last I had seen her she and Cloud had been playing at the table. Now she was curled up on the couch, watching the fire. Cloud was sprawled next to her, washing her pussy-willow toes.

When I sank into the couch next to Susan I saw her face was shiny in the firelight. Then I realized she was crying and had been crying for a while, given the cascade of tears down her face and her running nose.

“Oh, Susan,” I said, throwing an arm over her shoulders “I’m so selfish. Sometimes I do just think he was mine and I forget how many other people loved Richard, too.”

“I’m not really crying about him being dead and gone. I mean I have cried about that and I do miss him and I can’t believe he won’t ever come back and all that, but I was crying because of you.”

Her comment stunned me. “Me?”

“Yes. What are you going to do with yourself? You two were meant for each other. Anyone could see that. Now that he’s gone, how will you manage?”

“I think I’m almost done falling apart.”

“Will you keep the cabin?” she asked.

“I haven’t really thought about it.”

“How will you make money? Did Rich leave you enough?”

I felt angry at her insinuations. “Yes, he had insurance and even an IRA, but I can work you know. I worked before I met Richard. I’ve learned a lot taking care of his affairs. I have a college degree. I still work — my sewing and tailoring.” Bravely I added, “My embroidery.”

“But you’re stuck out here, doing nothing. It’s hard to watch you be so sad.”

I gently nudged her. “Look at me. I need to do this. I just miss him so much.” To have said that out loud was hard. I could feel a sob building up in my throat. “I need to feel very deeply sad about Richard before I come back to life. The curative value of grief.”

Susan gave a snort and laughed. “The curative value of grief. That doesn’t sound like you. What death and dying books are you reading?”

I sucked in the sob and said, “My dad lent me a couple. They’re okay.”

She nodded. “I’ve read a few too. They don’t seem to make me feel better.”

I looked around the cabin. “I know. It’s hard to explain. Richard was such a part of me. It’s like I lost a limb.”

“I guess when I’ve broken up with all the men I’ve gone through it’s been more like losing a finger.” She thought for a second. “Or a fingernail.”

• • •

I wondered if Richard showed up if anyone else would see him. If he stood beaming down on us all at the table if I would be the only one who would smile back at him.

Tomorrow: Chapter 34 continues.

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