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 12 of 50 | Published Thursday, June 20, 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 12 continues

So far: If Wendy leaves the cabin, will the ghost disappear?

Many years ago Gary decided to have a dinner party. Not a big affair. Me and two other people. This was before Richard. Before Mint. I told him I would make an apple pie but when the day came I didn’t have enough time so I bought a frozen apple pie and tried not to feel too guilty about it.

It was a really nice expensive organic frozen apple pie. I handed it to Gary and he said he would put it in the oven. The other guests were drinking wine in the porch and I joined them.

Halfway through dinner, the timer went off and Gary said, “Oh, the pie.”

He ran into the kitchen to take it out of the oven. When he came back his eyes were slightly bulging.

“What?” I asked.

“The pie looks funny.”

“What’s the matter with it?”

“It’s flat.”

I followed him into the kitchen. The pie was very flat. The pie was so flat that it covered the whole cookie sheet.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Just what it said on the box. It said put it on a cookie sheet. So I did.”

“That’s all you did? Really?” I knew Gary wasn’t telling me something.

He puffed up and said indignantly, “I carefully took it out of the tin and placed it gently on the cookie sheet.”

“You took it out of the pie tin?”

“Well, yes,” Gary said slowly, as realization broke over his face. “I didn’t think it needed both.”

• • •

Richard was a great cook. He went through cooking streaks: a million different recipes for pizza, pancakes, pate, whatever, we’d have it in every form it took.

One fall we had every kind of risotto known to Italians, and then some they’d rather not know about. We had risotto with leeks and gruyere, risotto with anchovies and butter, risotto with corn and chives.

My favorite was risotto with chanterelles and champagne. Richard found the chanterelles in the woods around the cabin — salmony yellow with a ruffled, fluted shape. Delicate but with a rich flavor. The champagne was a perfect foil for them.

This year Richard had gathered one early batch of chanterelles from around the cabin. After he died, the mushrooms withered in the woods, never having the chance to commingle with champagne.

• • •

Lucinda left a message on the answering machine. “Listen, Wendy, I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time right now, but I need to get moving on this show. I have enough work in the gallery, but I would really like to include his most recent paintings. We need to talk.”

She was putting the squeeze on.

What would Richard want me to do?

Chapter 13

When I called Lucinda two days later, she was slightly frosty. “I have to set a date, Wendy.”

“When were you thinking?”

“Late January. Before everyone who is anyone goes off for their winter vacation. It would have been nice to have done the show before Christmas, but that’s impossible now.”

“Richard’s birthday is in late January,” I mentioned.

“I know,” she said and for the first time I heard a spoonful of sorrow in her voice, a fish swimming through the seaweed.

Richard loved shows. He was an unusual artist in that regard. He would get completely bent out of shape, crazy, swearing that none of his new paintings were any good. He no longer had what it took. He didn’t want anyone to see them. Then he wanted everyone to see them. They were the best he’d ever done. His big breakthrough.

This teeter-tottering went on right up until the moment of the show. Just when I was about to lose my mind, he’d regain his footing. He’d put on the new tie I had made him and smile. As soon as people walked through the door, he was relaxed and happy, hallooing everybody, hugging and kissing and pointing. I’d down a straight shot of vodka and watch him enjoy himself.

Once he had done all he could do, he relaxed.

Tomorrow: Chapter 13 continues.

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