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 9 of 50 | Published Monday, June 17, 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 9 continues

So far: The ghost pays another visit.

At Winnie’s Antiques, I decided to look for a basket. Gary and I always went our separate ways when we went junking. We looked at different speeds and we didn’t want to see the same thing and have to fight over it.

I had the idea that my scrappy cat needed a special basket that I would put by the fireplace. I would sew a darling pillow with embroidered clouds on it. I knew she would never use it — the couch and the guest bed were her two favorite spots for sleeping — but it would show everyone how much I loved her. And the cat basket would look adorable right by the fireplace.

As I was scouting a dealer’s booth, rugs draped over wooden clothes hangers, pictures leaned up against old school desks, I saw a dark-grained well-worn bowl about the size of my two hands put together.

I wanted the bowl.

The price tag said $50. Not too much to spend for a place to put something.

I picked it up and liked the heft of it. Solid.

I had to show it to Gary. I walked out in the aisle with the bowl in my hand and saw that he was three stalls down from me.

When I walked up to him, he was holding a set of dog salt and pepper shakers. He held them up to his face so that they were all having a staring contest. One dog was black and one was white, but they both had two wide-open eyes.

Gary shook his head. “Close but no cigar.”

I held out the wooden bowl.

“Hmmm,” he said.

I could tell from his inflection that he was pleased with the bowl.

He set down the shakers, took the bowl from me and weighed it in his hands.

“Walnut,” he said.

“Really?”

“I’m pretty sure. Black walnut.”

“What do you think?”

“It’s perfect. It’s just what you need.”

“A bowl?”

“Yes, I’ve been thinking. You need to start collecting something.” Spoken like a true addict trying to get someone else hooked.

“I don’t think so.”

“No, listen to me. You need to have something that you are always looking for.”

• • •

I bought the one bowl and brought it home. After washing it and wiping it down with a slightly oily rag, I set the walnut bowl in the middle of the dining room table. I put three red apples in it.

Chapter 10

“What’s the temperature up there by the lake?” was my father’s first question when he called one morning in early November.

I walked to the window and read the large outdoor thermometer with cardinals on it that Richard had attached to a tree. “Twenty degrees.”

“It could snow.”

“Is it supposed to?”

“Slight chance.”

Richard and I had always celebrated the first snowfall.

“How are you, Dad?” My mom had died seven years ago. At first it looked as if my dad wouldn’t survive her by much. But now he had settled into his own life: golfing, birding, and watching “M*A*S*H” reruns. I think he was seeing a woman occasionally. An old neighbor.

“Same as always. Fine, fine.” He paused. “When’re you coming back to the Cities? You need some help closing the cabin down?”

“Thanks for the offer. I’ve been thinking about shutting it down pretty soon. Not sure yet.” I looked and saw Cloud perched on the top of the couch. She followed me everywhere.

“Everything okay?” he asked, hesitantly.

“I have a new kitty,” I told him.

“A kitten? Why did you get a kitten?”

“Well, I didn’t plan it. She kinda fell in my lap.”

“Don’t let it start scratching on the furniture.”

“I won’t, Dad.”

“Once they start that it’s mighty hard to get them to stop. And for God’s sake, make sure you get it spayed.”

“Yes, sir.” My dad barked once in a while, but I didn’t pay much attention. “Her name is Cloud.”

“What kind of name is that for a cat?” When I was growing up, my father had named all three of our cats “Kitty Cat.”

There was a pause, then my father said, “Hey, I wanted to ask you about Thanksgiving …”

“Yes,” I had been thinking about the holiday too.

Usually Dad joined Richard and me at our loft in town. We would invite a few friends, Richard’s sister Susan, and sometimes Gary and family joined us. Often there’d be ten or twelve people at our table. But this year I didn’t think I could do it alone. Richard always managed the turkey. I made the wild rice and pumpkin pie. Everyone else brought what they needed to make it Thanksgiving. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it period.

“Carol has invited me to join her family this year,” he said.

“Carol?”

“Yes, you know, Carol Comstead. Our old neighbor.”

“Yes, sure.”

“Would that be okay?”

“Would you like to go there?”

“Well, I thought that way you wouldn’t have to be bothered this year. You’re invited too, of course.”

“I think you should go, Dad, but I don’t want to go there. I don’t feel up to dealing with someone else’s family and all that.”

“I understand.”

A pause.

“Dad, when Mom died how did you make it through the first year?”

He cleared his throat. “I don’t remember.”

“Really?”

“When it got bad I’d think, what would she want me to do now? It seemed to help.”

I could tell he wanted to get off the phone. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist. But I had one more question to ask him.

“Dad, did you ever see Mom after she died?”

“Oh, yeah.” He chuckled.

I could hardly breathe. “You did?”

“Sure. I think it happens to everyone. I’d be driving along and see a woman that I was sure was your mom. The first time it happened, I circled back just to see that it wasn’t. Of course the woman looked a lot like your mother, but on second glance I could see the differences.” His voice dropped a little. “Doesn’t happen much anymore. I kinda miss it.”

Tomorrow: Chapter 10 continues.

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