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 7 of 50 | Published Saturday, June 15, 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 8

So far: Wendy reflects on life with an artist.

• • •

When I blinked my eyes open, the sun was shining and the red and yellow leaves were drifting down through the air. I didn’t care. I couldn’t get out of bed. My limbs were heavier than stones. I could smell the odor of fall decay.

This happened often. I wasn’t really sleeping, I just didn’t wake up. I hovered near the edge of consciousness, dipping my toe in it, but it was too cold, too painful.

I didn’t want to be in a world that didn’t include Richard.

Cloud batted my hair. She licked my eyelids.

Then she shrieked. I guessed she was hungry.

• • •

The phone rang and I checked the caller ID. Lucinda. Lucinda Davies. Richard’s gallery owner.

I didn’t pick up the phone.

Voice mail got the message and after it was done I listened to it.

“Hi, Wendy, sweetie. Hope you’re doing okay. Hanging in there.”

I had always hated her voice. It sounded like seaweed.

“We need to talk. This is important. Richard’s paintings are in demand. I feel it’s my duty as his representative to do a retrospective of his work. You understand, I know you do. I will need your help. I want you to consult on everything. You will be invaluable. Call me. Any time. Call.”

I erased the message.

• • •

The cabin was a mess. How had I let this happen? Our wonderful home on the lake.

Eight years ago we had bought an old lake cabin two hours north of the Cities. The two-story log structure was tucked into the side of a hill overlooking Lake Minnewaska. Built in the fifties, it had three bedrooms, two baths, a small kitchen, living room, dining room with a wrap-around deck. No insulation, nothing quite done the way it should be — doors hung crooked, windows didn’t quite close or wouldn’t open — the house had been cobbled together a room at a time.

As we spent more time up there, Richard decided to add on a studio. He wanted it to match the house, so it was built out of logs. It sat next to the cabin on the hillside and was connected to it by a short glassed-in hallway. I put a rocking chair and a small table in the hallway so that I could sit there and watch the lake if the weather was bad. He complained that the furniture was in his way. I ignored him.

Now I was neglecting the cabin. Usually I rearranged it every few days: made bouquets for the tables, new tablecloths where they were needed, shuffled and plumped pillows, moved relics of driftwood, stones, and leaves into new and pleasing patterns. But I had stopped all that.

• • •

Richard had found the place on one of his driving sprees. Every few months he would take off for a day or two and go for a drive. Sometimes to Rapid City and back. Sometimes just to Duluth. Around, he called it. I never knew where he was, but he had the cellphone if I needed him.

These short breaks were good for both of us. I liked having the house to myself and he liked cleaning out his mind. When he returned, we were happy to see each other again.

He called me from Lake Minnewaska. “I think I found our cabin.”

“I didn’t know we were looking,” I said.

“Well, neither did I. But you have to see it.”

He told me that he had been driving around and saw a for sale sign and walked in to see the place. No one was there. He climbed up and sat on the deck for an hour, watching the lake. He was mesmerized.

I drove up and we called the realtor.

When we walked into the cabin, I sucked in my breath. Tabula rasa. I could see what this place needed. In my mind I was putting just the right bentwood chair next to the stone fireplace.

We signed papers that day. One month later, the cabin was ours.

Two months later, we discovered a leak and realized the cabin needed a new roof. I insisted on a dark green metal roof, which cost twice as much as a shingled roof, but would last forever.

• • •

I was glad Richard had died in the cabin.

Tomorrow: Chapter 8 continues.

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