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 10 of 50 | Published Tuesday, June 18, 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 10 continues

So far: Wendy discusses losing a spouse with Dad.

The woods looked inviting, but I just sat on the steps and stared at the leafless trees from afar. My kitten sat in the window and watched me. I wondered where Richard was.

Is he watching me? Was there any chance, if I was all alone, if I cooked a turkey and made a pumpkin pie, that he would come for Thanksgiving? Could we have one more Thanksgiving together?

• • •

Two days after I waited on Richard for the first time, he showed up again in my section toward the end of my shift.

I still didn’t know who he was. I didn’t even know his name. I didn’t know he was mildly famous. I’m not sure it would have made any difference.

I brought him a menu but he brushed it away.

With great authority, he said, “I’ll just have a double espresso and a chocolate bomb.”

“No bombs today. Fresh out of bombs.”

“The bomb part isn’t important. The chocolate part is.”

“We have a very nice chocolate flourless torte with chocolate ganache served with whipped cream and curls of dark chocolate.”

“Now you got it. That’s what I want. I’d call that a chocolate bomb. That should get me going.”

When I brought out his double espresso and set the chocolate torte in front of him, I asked, “Why?”

He looked nervous for a moment. “Why what?”

“Why do you need it?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

I looked at him. He looked remarkably the same as he had two days earlier. Short dark hair, big blue eyes. No dark shadows. No tremors. He seemed healthy enough. “I guess not.”

“I’m stuck.”

I nodded my head, pretending that I knew what he was talking about, waiting for him to say something more.

“I was sure you would understand. You helped me out last time.”

“I did?”

“With the dot-to-dots.”

“What did you do with them?” I asked.

“I made them into a drawing. I’ve been staying too conceptual. It’s time to grab hold of the world again.”

I looked at him.

He blushed.

I made a face.

He grimaced.

I said, “The whole world?”

He laughed. “No, just as much as my arms can hold.”

I laughed. “I’ll get you a fork.”

He looked surprised.

“For your bomb.”

“But aren’t you going to tell me what to do today? How I can get unstuck?”

“My shift is over.” I started to walk away, then turned back and said, “Take a break.”

• • •

The next day the waitress who had taken over my section gave me the ten-dollar tip that Richard had left for me. I asked her who he was. She told me his name was Rich Turlington, a regular at the New French. He just had a big break, she told me. The Walker was giving him a show. I put the second tip with the first ten dollars, as I still hadn’t decided what to buy with this special money.

Chapter 11

When I was ten years old I read “The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall,” a short story that was both funny and sad. I read the story again and again. On the stroke of midnight every Christmas Eve, a woman ghost appeared and drenched the owner of Harrowby Hall. It didn’t matter where he was; he couldn’t get away from her.

At the end of the story, he forces the water ghost to follow him into a walk-in freezer and she freezes into a block of ice. No more drenching.

But I bet he missed her the next Christmas Eve. He probably thought of her for the rest of his life, frozen in that storage freezer forever.

• • •

The phone rang and without checking I answered it.

“Wendy, am I glad I caught you.”

“Oh, hi, Lucinda.”

“Did you get my message?”

“I might have. I haven’t been staying on top of things,” I said in my most pathetic voice.

I had her in a tough spot. She knew she should be sympathetic, but she wanted to yell at me.

Lucinda and I had never really gotten along. I always thought she had a thing for Richard. He might have had a slight thing for her. He certainly liked her better than I did. She had that long, sleazy look that guys go for even when they know better.

“Well, I’d really like to set a date for this retrospective of Rich’s. We need to confer.”

“I agree that we need to talk, Lucinda. I haven’t decided if this show is a good idea.”

I could hear her holding herself back on the other end of the line. Finally she said, “I’m sure Rich would have wanted it.”

“You might be right,” I said. “But I’m just not sure I’m up for it. And I am the executor of his estate. His paintings.”

“Do you know what a difference his death has made to the value of his work?”

I couldn’t believe she had said that. Even Lucinda, I’d have thought, would have better sense. I gently disconnected, then left the phone off the hook.

Tomorrow: Chapter 11 continues.

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