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 30 of 50 | Published Monday, July 8, 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 27 continues

So far: Gary and Lucinda’s bickering entertains Wendy.

• • •

The night of our second Thanksgiving together — after our families and Lucinda left — Richard and I cleaned up the kitchen. He had poured us each a healthy jolt of Courvoisier. The dishwasher chugged away. I was washing the remaining pots and pans. He was putting things away and scrubbing down the counters.

“Is ‘Over the River and Through the Woods’ the only Thanksgiving song there is?” I asked.

“Maybe. I guess that depends on if you count ‘Amazing Grace.’ ”

“Or how about ‘Simple Gifts’?”

Richard wrinkled his nose in puzzlement.

“You know, the Shaker song that the ‘Appalachian Spring’ guy ripped off,” I reminded him.

“Or Turkey, turkey, turkey breast. How I love my turkey breast.” Richard sang to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

“I’ll start singing ‘Amazing Grace’ if you don’t watch it.”

He kissed me to keep me quiet. He leaned into me and I could feel the back of my shirt getting wet on the kitchen sink, but I didn’t care.

Then I heard a plunk in the water behind me.

“Oops. Something dropped in the water.”

“I heard it too.” We both turned and looked down into the dirty dishwater, a blue sponge visible through the few remaining bubbles.

Richard started fishing around in the water. Then he pulled his hand out and in his palm was a ring, a diamond ring.

“If you won’t marry me, I’ll have to throw this back in.”

I grabbed it. “Don’t you dare.” I held it up to my eyes. “Oh, my god. Is this a real diamond?”

“Of course. A whole month’s salary.”

“Which month?” I asked, knowing that there was no such thing as a salary in Richard’s life. Some months he might make a bundle and then many months could go by without much money coming in.

“A good month.” He went down on one knee. “Weed, my darling Weed, would you marry me?”

I dropped down on both knees so I could be face to face with him. I swooped my arms around him and whispered yes right into his mouth.

We kissed. I pulled back just enough to ask, “When?”

“When do you want?”

“Soon. Before Christmas. I know, how about December 1st?”

“In a week and a half? Any particular reason why that date?”

“Yes,” I kissed him as hard as I could. “Easy to remember and right in the middle of the holiday season.”

Then I burst into a very happy and off-key rendition of “Amazing Grace,” forcing Richard to kiss me into submission.

• • •

When I returned to the kitchen after my dad’s phone call, Lucinda and Gary were each slightly sulking. I wondered what horrible thing one of them had said to the other. I was sorry I had missed it.

The potatoes needed mashing. I had cooked way more than we would eat, but I wanted to make up for there not being much else on the menu. Also, I liked making potato pancakes from leftovers.

Leaving about a cup of cooking water with the potatoes, I poured in heated milk and a good dollop of butter. Then I handed the potatoes to Gary, who started attacking them, slashing through the mixture as if he could harm it. I let him go at them, hoping the potatoes would keep him away from Lucinda for a while.

I handed Lucinda a jar of black olives and a jar of green olives and a plate and let her arrange them. Having watched her hang pictures in her gallery, I knew she could take hours doing it.

According to the timer, the turkey should be done. I checked on it, pulling its leg, which felt nice and loose. Taking a good grip on both sides of the pan, I hauled it out of the oven.

Gary looked up from his potatoes and said, “Wow! That’s a piece of resistance all right.”

Lucinda put the last olive on the plate. We were almost ready to eat.

Someone rapped softly on the front door.

Tomorrow: Chapter 28 begins.

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