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 43 of 50 | Published Sunday, July 21, 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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Mary Logue talks about writing, and 'Giving Up the Ghost'

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Giving Up the Ghost

Chapter 34 continues

So far: Wendy and Susan share their grief.

On our third date, Richard invited me to his loft for dinner. I was eager to see where he lived. You can tell a lot about a man by his place.

He met me at the door, kissed me hello and took my coat. The loft was a real loft, an old industrial space with big beams and wonderfully distressed wooden floors and tall windows. The north side of the space was his painting studio.

I saw my first Richard Lambert there, propped on an easel. The painting was moody blues and greens, an internal landscape. Looking at it, I felt I had been at that place before, yet it was not really of this world. There was no identifiable mass in it — no trees, no rocks, no clouds, no hills, yet I knew it was a landscape. And I wanted to be there.

What a rare thing, a man who made beautiful objects.

Richard was watching me.

“I love it.”

He bowed his head. “Thank you.”

“I really love it. I was scared to see your work. What if I didn’t like it? What would we do?”

“Well, that obviously would have been the end of our relationship.”

“Who knows? But who cares? We don’t have to worry about that now.” I pointed at his painting. “I recognize that place.”

“I know you do. I can tell that about you.”

In his own space, Richard seemed like a different man, not quite so keyed up, more relaxed and confident. His hair was sticking up in back and he was wearing another flannel shirt from his seemingly endless supply. The loft looked quite clean and tidy.

He handed me a glass of wine and he tapped it with his. A hollow clunk sounded from the glasses.

“Hold the glass at the bottom of the stem. Try it again,” I said. This time when we clinked, the glasses rang a sweet high note.

We both took a sip of wine, then he set down his glass and kissed me. It was a luxurious kiss, full of cherry and oaky tones. I felt drunk after it was over.

“Want to know what’s for dinner?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, not caring in the slightest. Dog food would have been fine. On a paper plate. I did want the wine to keep coming, however. And the kisses.

“Coq au vin,” he said. “And an apple tart for dessert.”

“Wow, coq au vin. How do you know how to make that?”

“I learned it in France. I lived there for a while. Over there it’s a peasant dish. You take an old hen, a bottle of plonk, throw in some vegetables, and cook the hell out of it.”

Richard had set a small table by one of the large windows in his loft where we’d have a perfect view of the sunset over the industrial area of downtown.

It was in fact a simple meal: the coq au vin was marvelous, served with a baguette and a green salad.

I asked him if he’d been married. I’d been wondering. After all, he was thirty-seven years old. He could have been married several times. He could have grandchildren.

“No, I’m not sure I believe in marriage. I haven’t given much thought to children and they seem about the only reason you’d want to get married. Plus, we have heart trouble on my mother’s side of the family. Wouldn’t like to pass that on to my children. How about you?”

I learned a lot in that one answer. He wasn’t sure he wanted to get married. He didn’t want to have children. And he might die of heart failure. Nothing like putting it right out there.

“I haven’t been married either.”

“What about kids?” he asked.

“I have no children.”

“Do you want them?”

“Sometimes,” I said. “But it has never seemed like the right time.”

“You’re young.”

“To you. Most women have had at least one child by my age.”

“Is that true?”

“It seems like it.” I watched him nibble on a chicken bone. “How’s your heart?”

“Pounding furiously at the moment.”

“Is that good?” I asked.

“Very good,” he assured me.

“The sun is gone.” The room grew dark. Richard lit a candle and brought it to our little table. The flame, reflected in the window, gave double the illumination.

“Candlelight suits you,” he told me.

I looked at him: his twinkling eyes, his crisp short-cut hair, his lips with a lick of gravy on them. “You too.”

We leaned across the table and kissed. I grabbed his head and pulled him close.

After some more nuzzling, he pulled away, took my hand, kissed the palm of it and said, “Will you stay the night?”

I nodded.

Then he asked, “How about some apple tart?”

He brought the tart to the table so I could admire it before he cut into it. The crust was a little burnt on the edges but very well put together; the slices of apple were fanned out in a beautiful design.

“It’s brilliant,” I said.

“I’m glad you like food,” he said.

“I’m glad you like cooking it.”

He cut the tart and then went back to the kitchen for one last thing. He returned with a can of Reddi-Wip.

“I don’t have a beater. This is easy,” he explained.

“Are you kidding? I love Reddi-Wip. As a kid I used to dream of having a whole can of it to myself.”

“Open your mouth,” he said.

I did and he whooshed a charge of cream into my mouth. Then he did the same to himself. Two big dollops went on the tart pieces and we ate them. Crisp and buttery and sweet.

I brought the dishes into the kitchen and we stood by the windows, watching people move down below in the streets.

Richard walked his hand up my arm and caressed my neck.

He asked, “Now what would you like to do?”

Tomorrow: Chapter 35 begins.


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