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 20 of 50 | Published Friday, June 28, 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 19 continues

So far: Wendy brushes off Lucinda.

Dirt gets into places you wouldn’t imagine. I’ve been finding them all. Cleaning is its own reward. Especially when there’s no one to mess up after you. I’ve washed and ironed all the curtains. The rugs have been beaten and hung out on the line to air.

Every book has come down from the shelf and been dusted. The first Harry Potter book. He loved it; I hated it. An old copy of “Catch 22.” Newer copies of “Get Shorty,” “Lonesome Dove,” “Portnoy’s Complaint.” As I touch them I think of Richard reading them, what he said to me about them, how he touched their pages.

I am losing him one fingerprint at a time.

Chapter 20

I heard Cloud shrieking. The noise seemed to be coming from the bedroom — Richard’s and my bedroom. The door was open a crack, but not enough to allow Cloud to squeeze out.

When I pushed the door open, I found Cloud stretched out on the bed like a glamour queen. I hadn’t slept in the room since Richard’s death; I hadn’t touched anything. The sheets were crumpled, the blanket kittywampus. His pillow was still scrunched into a little ball, just the way he liked it.

• • •

“I think you should move in with me,” Richard said as we were sitting in his loft on his couch.

“I’m not sure.”

“You’re here most of the time anyway.”

“I’m really not sure.”

“About what?”

“About everything.”

“About us?”

“Even about us.”

“Why not?”

“Well, you’re older than me. You know what you want to do. You’re a big successful artist. I’m just a waitress slash seamstress. You own this loft. I don’t have anything. I’d like to travel, do a few more things before I settle down. You know what you want. I’m not sure about anything.”

Richard looked at me. “Who is he?”

• • •

At Bob and Judy’s Grocery Emporium, I dug through the freezer trying to find a small turkey. Ten pounds was the smallest available. I’d have leftovers for weeks, but I wanted a turkey.

When I brought it up to the register, Elsie said, “So you’re having folks over for the holiday?”

“No. It’s the smallest turkey I could find.”

She stopped ringing up my groceries and looked over her glasses at me. “You’re going to be alone?”

“This year, yes.”

“That’s not good.”

“It’ll be okay.”

She looked in my basket. I had a bag of potatoes, a can of pumpkin and a bag of flour.

Elsie did not seem impressed. “What about wild rice?”

“Too much trouble.”

She shook her head as she finished ringing up my meager supplies. “It’s not Thanksgiving without wild rice.”

• • •

“You could have bought a pheasant.” Gary pointed out to me in a phone conversation that evening.

“Gary, in order for me to have a pheasant, I would have had to go out and shoot it. They don’t sell pheasant in the grocery stores up here. I thought about a chicken, but it just wouldn’t do. You need to eat turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s the only time of year I have it.”

“Are you really not having your dad over?”

“Hey, don’t blame me. It’s his choice. He’s going over to a new woman friend’s. I was invited too, but that’s too much.”

“A woman friend’s?”

“Yeah.”

“How does that feel?”

“You mean that my dad has a girlfriend and I have no one?”

“Well, that wasn’t exactly what I meant but let’s start there.”

“Pissy. But I’m glad my dad has someone. I’m glad you have Mint. I’m glad for everyone in the world who has the person they love to eat turkey with on Thanksgiving. I only want Richard back.”

“I suppose.”

“How long am I going to be this way?” I asked Gary.

He didn’t ask for a clarification. He seemed to know exactly what I was asking. “Hard to say. I have no experience. But judging by how you usually do things, you will not scrimp on the grieving, but you also won’t overdo it.”

“That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.”

“What are friends for?”

Tomorrow: Chapter 21 begins.

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