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 15 of 50 | Published Sunday, June 23, 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 14 continues

So far: Richard’s sister Susan urges a show of his art.

Elsie was manning the cash register when I pushed my cart up. She looked down into my shopping basket as if analyzing the contents to see how I was doing.

The cupboards had been getting desperately empty at the cabin. I had a bag of cat food, a whole chicken, two onions, a loaf of bread, butter, eggs, three apples and a can of pumpkin.

“You could almost make a meal with all that,” she said.

“I have a lot of food at home. You know, stuff from the Cities.”

She nodded, ringing up my purchases. “What’re you doing still at the cabin? You never stay this late.”

“I have a lot to sort out.”

She looked up at me and her eyes softened. I liked it better when she was giving me a hard time. “I suppose.”

“You think it’s going to snow soon?” I asked her.

“We usually get a good snowfall before Thanksgiving. What are you doing for the holiday?”

I pointed at the can of pumpkin. “Pumpkin pie.”

“Can almost make a meal out of that.”

• • •

I woke up in the middle of the night to pee. As I walked down the hallway I looked into the living room. Richard stood at the window, staring at the lake. His red shirt glowed like the center of a flame.

Richard could watch the lake for hours. The light flickering on top of the water fascinated him.

Richard’s ghost had been appearing every few nights since I had first seen him; sometimes it was only a glance of color, sometimes he was lounging in a chair. But he never came close and he never stayed for long.

Why was I seeing him? Had I created him? Was I able to rearrange the air molecules into the form of the man I loved? Could I reverse the process? Would I ever be able to let go of him? Was I completely nuts?

Richard watched the lake and I watched him. Both of us looking for the same thing: movement, life.

Chapter 15

One week before Thanksgiving, rain fell all night long. I couldn’t sleep. The water ghost drifted through my thoughts, then Richard. I imagined what it would have been like for Cloud if we hadn’t found each other. She might still be out in the woods, cold in the rain. I hugged her tight and she scratched me.

I finally fell asleep about four.

• • •

I picked up the phone from a dead sleep. “Hello?”

“Are you still sleeping?” Gary asked.

“What time is it?”

“Noon.”

I pulled my eyes open and looked out the window. Still raining. “I guess so.”

“Bad night?”

“Raining,” I said as if that explained something.

Gary agreed. “It’s raining down here too.”

“Oh.”

“How’s the kitty?”

He knew how to get me talking. “She scratched me last night.”

“Why?”

“I wasn’t giving her adequate space. I hugged her at an inappropriate moment.”

“Often a complaint.”

I asked the next question because I wasn’t really awake. Otherwise I would never have posed it. “Gary, what would you do if Mint died? How would you go on with your life?”

“The grief experts say to do nothing drastic for one year.”

“I know. But when do you ever follow the rules?”

“Are you thinking of doing something drastic?” Gary asked, his deep voice lifting at the end.

“Are you kidding? I can’t even bring myself to do something insignificant.”

“You got a cat.”

What a friend. He’d even take my side against me. “The cat got me.”

“You’re staying longer than usual at the lake.”

“Because I can’t seem to move.”

“You’re resisting Lucinda.”

“Barely.” I repeated the question. “What would you do?”

Gary didn’t say anything and I waited.

Finally he answered my question. “I guess, if I think about it, I worry that I wouldn’t take enough time to really mourn her.”

“You’d have no choice,” I said.

“Our society gives so little credence to grieving. I think what you’re doing is probably exactly what you should be doing. Except you should be seeing your friends more. You’re not alone in this. Richard was my friend too.”

• • •

Every day I watched for snow. Stood by the window and looked out at the empty trees. When it was above freezing, it rained. When it was below freezing, the sky cleared.

Tomorrow: Chapter 15 continues.

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