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 5 of 50 | Published Thursday, June 13, 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 6 continues

So far: The needs of Cloud the kitten mean leaving the cabin.

The town was a mere seven minutes away, down two dirt roads and a few miles on a major highway. The vet, John Starling — really, that was his name — confirmed for me that Cloud was a she. And that she had ear mites, which was why her ears looked like they were placed crookedly on her head. And that she was about ten weeks old.

Cloud was not happy about being examined by the vet. First she spit at him, then she tried to rake him with her small paws, and when he held her firmly and she could do nothing else she yowled her ghastly wail.

“Wow, she’s a little banshee, isn’t she?”

I nodded. I couldn’t say anything. I wondered if he knew that banshees are usually an omen of someone’s death.

After visiting the vet’s, I wrapped Cloud up in her blanket and left her in the car. She was still hissing and fussing with her ears from the medicine the vet had put in them. Now she looked crooked and oily again and angry.

The town only had a gas station, a post office, a hardware store, the vet’s, Sven’s café, and a grocery store. Any other needs and you had to go to Brainerd, twenty miles away.

Elsie Sandberg was at the cash register of Bob and Judy’s Grocery Emporium. She worked most afternoons. I wasn’t sure how old she was, I guessed near seventy, but whatever her age, she looked full of piss and vinegar, as my mom would say: perfect posture, crisp salt and pepper hair, white as snow smock with her name embroidered on the front. The embroidery was well done too, I suspected by Elsie herself.

She smiled as I put my few items on the counter in front of her: two cans of tuna fish, a bag of cat food, a baking potato, orange juice, and a carton of eggs. “Good to see you, Wendy.”

“Hi, Elsie.”

“How’re you doing?”

This was why I avoided going into town. This solicitousness did me in. I didn’t want to cry in the grocery store line.

“I have a new kitten,” I said.

“Well, that’s a good idea.”

“You think so?”

“Yes. Cats teach us how to act like we don’t care. Can be useful sometimes.” She looked down at my purchases. “Don’t forget to get kitty litter.”

• • •

I hoped the reason Richard hadn’t kissed me on our first date was because he didn’t want to give me his cold.

On our second date, which was a really good date, I asked him if he wanted to come up to my apartment. He said he wasn’t ready for that. I wondered what he thought I was going to do.

But he did kiss me.

Chapter 7

I called Gary when I got home with the cat food and kitty litter.

“You called me,” he said.

“Yes, I did.”

“You haven’t called me since Rich died.”

I had to sit down on the couch and take a couple deep breaths. I still wasn’t used to hearing Rich and died in the same sentence.

“You there?”

“Yes,” I said, petting my kitten. “I had to call to tell you I am not alone anymore.”

Silence on the other end of the line.

“I have a kitten. Her name is Cloud.”

“How did that happen?”

“She fell into my garbage can.”

• • •

Cloud sat on the couch next to me while I sewed. I had washed the linen handkerchief that Mint gave me and I was embroidering it with roses, using old silk threads that I had found at a thrift shop. The red roses grew out of my mind, sprouting leaves and buds as they rambled. Nice to be sewing again.

I’ve always loved working with my hands. The needle moved in and out through the cloth like a silver fish swimming through white waves. Cloud attacked the end of my thread, trying to snare it in her pin-like claws.

I gave her a tap on the nose and said, “No, scrappy.”

Tomorrow: Chapter 7 continues.

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