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 18 of 50 | Published Wednesday, June 26, 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 18

So far: A fit of cleaning leaves the cabin and Wendy restored.

“Gary, what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

“Why would you even ask such a question? There’s no need to go that far. Figure out what you’re going to do tomorrow.”

“I’ve started cleaning again.”

“You stopped?”

“Yeah,” I admitted. “The house was completely trashed. Just as you have suspected.”

“It’s been bad, huh?”

“Yeah, bad. The last time I let my house go like this was when Richard and I broke up.”

“Geez, I barely remember that. It wasn’t for long.”

“It felt like forever. I’m sure it was over a month.” I asked Gary, “Do you remember Carlos?”

“The sleazy Venezuelan you went out with for two seconds? I saw him with you one night at First Avenue.”

“Yeah. What did I see in him?”

“He was cute and he could dance.”

• • •

Richard hated to dance. He was fast on his feet. He liked to run and he loved to rollerblade, but he hated to dance. He thought people were watching him. I tried to explain to him that no one cared what he looked like when he was dancing. They were too busy worrying about their own feet.

I have to admit that Richard flailed when he danced. He only danced when he was really drunk and I don’t think that helped. He could hear the beat, but he would often miss it as his body took too long to convulse. Yes, convulsions, epileptic or not, that’s how Richard danced.

Once every couple weeks I would go out with some of my fellow waitresses to First Avenue. We’d dance to trance music, we’d salsa, we’d thrash to punk.

We usually just danced with each other, but one night Carlos asked me to dance.

Carlos was a fabulous dancer. He had dark smooth hair, big brown eyes, perfect skin, the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen. He didn’t speak English very well and he knew he was good looking, but he was fun.

Richard asked me if I wanted to move in with him.

On the dance floor, Carlos kissed my neck until I thought I would swoon.

• • •

Once I started cleaning, I couldn’t stop. I felt like everything in the cabin needed to be dusted and washed, cleansed. I started at the top. I took down the light fixtures and ran them through the dishwasher. I stood on a stool and dusted the ceiling fans. In every corner, I pushed my feather duster and destroyed cobweb after cobweb. Cloud followed me, chasing the spiders as they dropped from the ceiling.

At the end of the day I was exhausted. I ate a grilled cheese sandwich and drank a large glass of Gigondas wine — a favorite of Richard’s from the south of France.

As I stretched out on the couch and stared at my reflection in the darkened window, I decided that I would do Thanksgiving just for myself — a small turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie.

Richard, I wanted Richard for Thanksgiving. Maybe if everything was perfect, he would come.

In the reflection I watched the ghost materialize. He was standing behind me. Close enough to touch me. I wanted him to touch me again.

“Richard,” I said.

When I blinked, he was gone.

Tomorrow: Chapter 19 begins.

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