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 17 of 50 | Published Tuesday, June 25, 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
Read the entire novel in eBook form:

Chapter 16 continues

So far: Learning to do Richard’s chores.

That night I built a nice fire and was actually reading a book, “Pride and Prejudice,” which I read at least once a year.

Richard tried to read it when we first started seeing each other. I read “Dune” at his suggestion and he tried “P and P” as he called it.

“Why doesn’t Elizabeth like Darcy?” he asked me.

“Because he’s a snot.”

“He is? Where do you get that?”

“Well, he looks down on everyone else. He especially looks down on her immediate family.”

“Well, they are a mess, aren’t they?”

Richard never finished “P and P.” I didn’t bother to ask how far he had gotten. He went to see the movie with me, but I had to keep shushing him. He would lean over and ask me what they were saying. You would have thought the characters weren’t speaking English.

Suddenly I heard an odd rattling noise coming from Richard’s studio. I didn’t mind seeing the ghost, but I hated hearing it. What if it was trapped inside the studio and wanted to come out?

I slipped off the couch and walked to the hallway leading to the studio. As soon as I looked at the end of the dark hall, the sound was explained.

Cloud was furiously scratching at the studio door.

As I watched her, she flipped upside down and batted at the door with her hind legs. I was afraid she’d ruin the woodwork.

I lifted her up. She meowed and turned over in my arms, still looking at the door.

I looked at it too. The door wasn’t locked. All I had to do was turn the knob.

But I had a feeling the ghost was in there. Where else would Richard’s specter hang out? If I walked in on him, we would have to acknowledge each other.

I didn’t want him to disappear for good.

Chapter 17

Cloud has learned how to slip out the door without my seeing her. I went to get the mail and two hours later saw her small gray face at the window, meowing to come in. This episode both scared me and reassured me. She can leave me when she wants to, but she knows that this is home. She comes back to find me.

• • •

I only had enough wood left for a couple more fires so I called Dewey Svenski to order more. “Dewey, this is Wendy Lambert.”

“Wendy, how’re you?”

“I’m fine. I’m running low on wood.”

“Sorry to hear about your husband.”

“Yes, thanks. It has been,” here my voice broke. I finished, “difficult.”

“What a way to go.”

I agreed, not wanting to talk about it.

“Rich was a good guy.”

“I thought so.”

“Not many people that I deliver wood to come out and help me stack it. Rich always did. You know how he would. He’d come out and we’d stack the wood together. Pretty nice guy.”

“Yes, he liked doing things like that.” I could see Richard putting his work gloves on. “I think he liked the excuse to get out of the studio.”

“So you’re still at the cabin?”

“Yes, I’m staying a little later this year.”

“Must be hard.”

“Yes, it is.”

“You need any help with anything, you give me a holler.”

“Thank you.”

“How much wood do you want?”

“How much do we usually get?”

“A full cord. Won’t hurt it to sit up there through the winter. Just be that much dryer come spring.”

“A cord sounds good. When can you get it over here?”

“Busy week for me what with Thanksgiving and all. How low are you?”

“Pretty low.”

“I’ll try to get to you on Wednesday. If that don’t work, I’ll bring it Thursday morning.”

“On Thanksgiving?”

“Don’t matter to me. I’m not going anywhere.”

• • •

When I still had my apartment, Richard had never wanted to stay over at my place.

If I managed to get him to sleep over, he always got up early in the morning and left, often without waking me. At first this made me mad and then I saw how uncomfortable he was out of his own space. He needed his objects around him: coffee maker, radio, studio, even his bathtub.

I loved staying at his place. It was an old loft downtown; one half was his studio, the other half his living quarters. He had started renting it when there was nothing in that part of downtown but other struggling artists. That was when he was still house painting during the day and painting at night. The lean-mean years, he would call this time. Right before I met him.

The loft was quite utilitarian. I felt as if I was in another world, maybe New York, possibly Chicago, certainly not Minneapolis.

From his old claw foot bathtub, which sat next to floor-to-ceiling windows, you had a view of the Mississippi River, the old grain elevators standing like a tall picket fence on its south bank.

On my days off from waitressing, I’d often stay at his loft. He’d work in the studio and I’d go shopping and buy flowers. I’d buy food and Richard would make dinner. I’d do his laundry and put clean sheets on the bed.

We fell into this easy routine for about a year until I met someone else.

• • •

Something turned in me today. I was lounging in the bathtub and noticed a darkness flowering from around the bathtub sealer. The next thing I knew I was cleaning the grout around the tiles. Two hours later, the whole bathroom was clean: the floor washed, towels put away, toilet degrimed, sink scoured. The room shone with sanity.

Tomorrow: Chapter 18 begins.

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