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 45 of 50 | Published Tuesday, July 23, 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 35 continues

So far: Thanksgiving over, Wendy curls up in bed.

Once during Thanksgiving night I woke. I don’t know what woke me. Maybe the wind, crying as it did all night long. Maybe slight indigestion from all the rich food I had eaten. Maybe the absence that slept next to me, that I knew would never be filled again.

It wasn’t Cloud who woke me. She was curled upside down and tucked into my legs under the covers. She never stirred all the cold night long. I was glad for her radiant heat.

Even under all the covers, I could tell it was getting colder outside. We were going into the dark season.

• • •

I wondered if I would ever sleep with anyone again.

Chapter 36

Something grabbed my foot and wiggled it. Richard, I thought. I bolted upright in bed to see him.

But it was Cloud who leapt into the air and landed on my foot. Then she resumed chewing on my toes through the blanket.

I reached down and gave her a belly rub. She stood up, her tail waving like a white flag, and rubbed up against my shoulder.

“I suppose it’s time to get up,” I said.

She meowed. So nice when she answered quietly.

The clock read 8:35. I looked out the window but it was hard to tell if the sun was up yet, the sky was so overcast. A typical late November day.

I had no reason to get out of bed. No one expected anything of me today. Or this week or this month. Or even this year. I needed to have a reason to get up. This could not continue.

I got out of bed, put on my old flannel bathrobe, and stripped the bed. Cloud thought this was a great game. Off came the sheets and she slithered down with them. I threw them in a corner by the door.

The bed looked small and empty, forlorn.

After digging in the linen closet, I found the yellow flannel sheets and put them on the bed, then the down comforter in its floral duvet. The bed was now fully dressed for winter.

I sat on the edge of the bed and thought sadly about yesterday, my first Thanksgiving without Richard. And this would be the first day after Thanksgiving without Richard. It would continue like this for the rest of the year.

Time was beginning to get between us.

• • •

Two months before Richard died, I bugged him to let me model for him. I had this romantic notion of the beloved wife as muse.

It was one of the rare mornings when we were both sitting at the dining room table drinking coffee and eating breakfast. I had just finished the acrostic in the New York Times Magazine and Richard was sketching a picture of his toe on the bottom of the newspaper.

“You never paint me,” I said.

“I painted you in that picture I gave you.”

“Me as landscape, in the abstract. But not the real me.”

“I don’t paint real people.”

“You could start with me. Picasso painted Dora.”

“Not always in a favorable light.”

“He immortalized her.”

That pulled him away from his sketch. He looked up and studied my face. “Is that what you want to be — immortalized?”

“Not really, but it would be fun to be your model.”

He shook his head and drank the last sip of his coffee. “No, it wouldn’t. You would hate it. You’d have to hold still and not talk, listen, and do everything I tell you to do.”

“Hmm. You might be right.”

Richard asked, “I need someone to come in and hold a teapot for me. Could you do that?”

“I’m a good teapot holder. I’m sure I could do that.”

• • •

So that afternoon I went into Richard’s studio and held a teapot at an angle as if I were pouring a cup of tea.

“Your arm is too straight. I want a curve at the elbow, a flow.”

I tried to put a curve in but it made it almost impossible to hold up the teapot. “What you want is a motion, a pouring motion, but you want me to hold it.”

“That’s what I want.”

“But that’s impossible.”

“I told you modeling wasn’t easy,” Richard reminded me.

“But you didn’t tell me it was impossible.”

He took some digital pictures and then did some sketches. All in all I modeled for almost three hours. When it was over, I was exhausted. My arm was tired, my elbow ached, my fingers seemed swollen.

Tomorrow: Chapter 36 continues.

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