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 31 of 50 | Published Tuesday, July 9, 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 28

So far: With dinner nearly ready, another guest appears.

The night before Richard died, we had words. Or rather I was nasty to him. He didn’t say much, only gave me that slightly bug-eyed look he got when I was being witchy and he couldn’t figure out why.

We had watched a controversial movie on TV. The kind of movie that, if you are an intelligent American trying to make sense out of this crazy mess we have found ourselves in, you watch because you hope it will help you figure out what’s going on in the world.

When the movie was over, I felt awful. I realized even more strongly how little I knew about any country in the world, including my own. I felt completely paranoid about what was really going on, what our country wanted us to think was going on, and the depths of depravation and greed all this suggested. I saw clearly how powerless we all were.

Richard saw it as a movie. He was much more pragmatic. He didn’t absorb this crap into his skin and gut like I did.

About an hour after we had watched it, as we were climbing in bed, I asked, “What’d you think about that?”

“No surprises. I thought George Clooney was better in the other movie.”

“Do you think that is really going on?”

“Oh, much worse. We have no idea.”

“What can we do?”

He turned and smiled at me and said, “Get a good night’s sleep.”

“Richard, this is really going on in the world.”

“Can’t do anything about it,” he tried to turn away from me, but I grabbed him.

“Do you really believe that?”

“Weed, it’s late.”

“You think of nothing but yourself.”

“That’s right,” he agreed.

“Doesn’t it make you crazy?”

He sighed and poked me on the nose, a little belligerently. “Only when it makes you crazy.”

I sat up in bed. “I know I’m going to have trouble sleeping tonight. The movie made me anxious.”

“Take a pill right now. Don’t wait until three o’clock in the morning.”

He lifted his head up toward me, his lips pursed.

We always kissed each other every night right before we went to sleep. The last action of the day. That night I gave him a very perfunctory smooch. Then I crawled out of bed and made myself a concoction for sleep: a glass of calcium-enriched orange juice with a couple spoonfuls of full-fat yogurt mixed in (it tasted a bit like a Dreamsicle) with half a magnesium tablet thrown in for good measure.

When I climbed back into bed, Richard was already asleep, air escaping through his open mouth in a hiss. A gentle hiss. I liked the sound. The noise reminded me of the steamer my mom put in my bedroom when I was sick with a cold.

At two a.m. I crawled back out of bed. For three hours I had been tramping through no man’s land, whirring about the upcoming elections, the non-organic food we were eating, whether or not we had given enough money to our charities this year. I took a Tylenol PM, even knowing it would make me groggy in the morning.

I put my hand on Richard’s arm. We didn’t tend to be a real cuddly couple once we were launched toward sleep, but I had found that just the slightest feel of him under my fingers reassured me and helped me drift off.

• • •

We had kissed for the last time and I didn’t know it.

Tomorrow: Chapter 28 continues.

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