Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 26, 2014

It Could Be Fatal

It Could Be Fatal

Kevin Kuniyuki couldn't believe he was in the middle of the Moʻiliʻili Japanese cemetery at two 'o clock in the afternoon, but where else could he go to hide and secretly fulfill the addiction that his doctor warned him about? It was the addiction that his wife had meticulously taken every measure to make unavailable to him. She went to the local store in person and gave strict orders to the owner to turn Kevin away should he purchase cans of New Zealand corned Beef and Balut. Rose consulted a psychiatrist in the hopes that she could gain insight into her husband's obsession; perhaps it was an oblique way of dealing with his unresolved abandonment issue? She could never tell because Kevin shut down whenever she broached the subject.

She noticed the addiction slowly take hold of her husband five years ago when Kevin received news of his father's passing. His family asked for his input and participation; however, rather than jump right into the fold, Kevin distanced himself from everything and everyone. Things became even more difficult as the date for his father's services grew near; he became emotionally and physically unavailable. Also, when Rose made every effort to connect her husband with his own family, Kevin would look at her as if she'd committed murder.

"Mind your own business, Rose; this is my family,"

"Then why don't you talk to them, Kevin? Why don't you return their calls or see them when they arrive at our house?" Rose would retort.

"Why?" Kevin was cold in his reply, "They can all go straight to hell for all I care,"

He'd head straight to the kitchen, open a can of New Zealand Corned Beef, empty the contents into the pot of rice, and let it sit for five minutes. Afterward, he would mix three baluts into the corned beef and rice and consume the entire pot in one sitting. At his father's services, Kevin made it a point to sit in the back of the Hosoi mortuary and not in the front row with his family. Although it was an open-casket funeral, Kevin never tried to see his father. When the services were completed, Kevin left immediately without so much as a goodbye to anyone. Rose stayed afterward and spent the evening apologizing for her husband's behavior. Kevin's mother and his brothers assured her there was nothing to be sorry for; her husband's actions were his own and not the result of anything she had done. 
It goes without saying that she was furious when she got home and was prepared to give Kevin a piece of her mind. However, she was unprepared for what she saw. She found Kevin crying silently to himself while he consumed a second pot of rice mixed with his favorite corned beef and three baluts.

Five years later, Kevin went from weighing a hundred and seventy-five pounds to almost three hundred pounds. His health was at high risk; he had now fallen victim to the addiction that would kill him. Earlier in the morning, the local store on the corner would not sell him any corned beef or balut. In desperation, Kevin went to Costco and purchased a case of corned meat and three jars filled with fermented salted eggs, an extra-large rice cooker, and a bag of rice. With his Mastercard, Kevin checked himself into the Marina Hotel, where he desperately put his concoction together and then drove himself to the Moʻiliʻili Japanese Cemetery.

It was two o clock in the afternoon when his car ambled into the end of a narrow lane in the one-hundred-six-year-old graveyard. The afternoon was surprisingly fresh as the Manoa winds filled Kevin's Nissan truck with its soothing embrace. However, he was too enthralled with the euphoric high of the oils yielding themselves from the corned beef each time he savored it on his Tongue. The perspiration trickled down in rivulets on the sides of his face as he chewed and swallowed the ailment that was like heroin for an addict who was near his end and who was beyond knowing when enough was enough. Just then, Kevin half noticed a middle-aged local Japanese man in a polo shirt, khaki shorts, and slippers with a small broom and a dust pan sweeping up debris near some of the Ohaka.

"Hah," Kevin thought to himself, "he looks like Sonny Chiba,"

"Lunch break?" He asked, smiling.

"Oh," Kevin laughed, "No, no. I had to sneak away from the wife; I not supposed to be eating 'dis kine das why, bad for my health. My wife worried I goin' get a heart attack and die. She finds out, I goin' get scoldings!"

Peering into the contents of the rice pot, the man asked, "What is dat?"

"New Zealand Corned Beef, Balut, and Rice," Kevin answered.

"Maybe you should listen to her," the man smiled, "It could be fatal."

Without warning, the man dropped the small broom and dustpan, put his hands on his face, and wiped it in a sudden downward motion; in the next second, his face was gone. All that was left was an orb of flesh.

"It could be fatal," the faceless man said again.

Kevin let out a horrific scream and threw the rice pot out of the truck window. Then, not even hesitating, he put the keys in the ignition and barreled the vehicle out of the cemetery until it practically flew out onto Kuilei Street. His tires peeled off burnt rubber as it sped down toward University Avenue. He took an immediate right turn and ran the red light at the intersection and then a left onto Beretania. His mind was still reeling from the experience of what had just happened, but it wouldn't let him make any sense of the ghostly encounter. In a short time, Kevin pulled into the driveway of his Makiki Heights condominium, bolted out of his truck, and bounded into the front door of his home. He found his wife standing at the kitchen counter, preparing dinner. She looked up and saw that her husband was white as a sheet.

"Oh my god, what happened to you? You look like you saw a ghost or something?"

"I did," Kevin replied as he tried to catch his breath, "I did...I saw a ghost!"

"What?" Rose shrieked, "Where? At work?"

"No, at the Japanese Cemetery in Moʻiliʻili!" Kevin replied.

"The cemetery?" Rose looked confused, "What were you doing in a cemetery, for goodness sake, Kevin?"

“No, no, listen, Rose, listen! I made the corned beef and everything and went to the cemetery to eat because I figured nobody would bother me. But I saw this guy in the cemetery sweeping by the Ohaka, and he looked like Sonny Chiba; he came over and asked me what I was eating, and then I showed him, and then he took his hands, and he wiped his face off! His face disappeared, Rose! It just disappeared! It was a ghost with no face in the cemetery in the middle of the day! Can you believe it?" Kevin's face was now beet red, and he was practically breathless.

"Oh, Kevin, please! You expect me to believe that story? Somebody you know probably busted you eating that stuff in the graveyard, so you rushed home because you knew you'd be in less trouble if you told me first; that's what this whole thing is about," Rose said.

"No, no, honey, I swear it's true; it's all true!" Kevin pleaded.

Rose used a spatula to scoop the fried rice she had made into Kevin's plate. "Besides, you know that eating that junk could be fatal," Rose remarked. Then, suddenly, Kevin recalled the faceless ghost saying: "It could be fatal."

"Rose, what did you say?" Kevin asked.

Carrying her plate and his to the kitchen table, she repeated, "I said it could be fatal."

The husband and wife sat quietly, enjoying their time together, "Thanks for dinner, hun; it's delicious fried rice."

"You're welcome, sweetheart," Rose smiled and kissed Kevin sweetly.

"You must have worked hard, babes; the sweat is dripping down your face." Kevin grabbed a clean dish towel, "Here, let me wipe it off."

Kevin Kuniyuki's screams would have been heard clear down to Mott-Smith Drive had it not been for the din of traffic drowning out all the ambient noise in the neighborhood, including the sound of a man with an unresolved abandonment issue, who was now losing his sanity. Rose's face disappeared and became an orb of flesh as Kevin wiped the perspiration from her brow….

Stuck in Wailuku

"The Secret Life of a Rustling Brush" by Edwin Ushiro

"I was run over by this truck," she said, "it killed me, and I am stuck to it. I will not ever be able to move on."

It was 1971, and I was nine years old when my family traveled to Kahului on the island of Maui. It was an awkward time as my mother and Aunty Chookie visited family in the Wailuku and Pukalani area. I never knew the details of the family dynamics back then or if some grudge festered between the adults, but the overall feeling was that we were not welcome. If we were, our visits lasted only a short time.

A particular family did not welcome us with any warmth and hospitality. Although we were already booked at the Maui Seaside Hotel, we spent more time at the home of Roland and Sally Sanchez. During those times, we children were either sent upstairs to play in the eldest girl's room or outside for most of the day until we were called in for an early supper. The yard was huge and neatly manicured except for the space in the west corner of the property where a green and white nineteen sixty-five Ford F-100 truck was parked. The tall grass grew just high enough around the vehicle to give one the impression that it was a protective parent keeping its child from harm. I could not help but stare at it whenever we were sent out to the backyard to play.

Today, as the adults went about their ritual formalities before hunkering down around the kitchen table, I glanced out the kitchen window and noticed a tall girl who appeared to be a little older than us. She sat on the truck's hood and did not seem to be waiting for anyone. I watched her intently and was curious as to who she might be, so I let myself out through the kitchen door and walked toward the old truck. The girl made no effort to move from where she was seated, but she finally noticed my approach with a casualness that did not seem to alarm her at all.

"Hi," I said as I sat far enough in front of the tall grass to see her.

"Hi," She replied, "I feel sorry for you guys."

"Why?" I asked.

"Roland and Sally make you guys play out here all day," she answered, "Do you want to know what they talk about?"

"No," I said, "Do you live here?"

"No," she said, "I live down the road from here."

"Then how come you hang out on this truck like this?" I asked.

"I was run over by this truck," she said, "it killed me, and I am stuck to it. I will not ever be able to move on."

At that moment, she became transparent, and I could see right through her. My young mind could not comprehend what my eyes were seeing, and even before I could scream, Roland Sanchez had already carried me back into the house. At the same time, my mother, my Aunty Chookie, and Sally Sanchez began to exorcise the ghost of Liv Kimura from the F-100 truck that belonged to Roland.

The girl meant this when she asked me if I wanted to know what the adults were doing in the house. They were praying for strength so that they would be able to perform the ritual exorcism that would release the girl from her earth-bound ties. Ghosts always haunt the places where they died, not where they ended up.

Poor Liv Kimura was heading to the waterfall for a swim one afternoon while, simultaneously, Roland Sanchez was speeding home in his Ford F-100 to catch the repeat of the Ben Villaflor fight on T.V. When he rounded the corner of the street that leads to his home, Roland never saw Liv. Instead, he hit her straight on and killed her instantly. Sally was the daughter of my mother's sister, and after the accident, Sally and her family were looked upon as murderers by the Fernandez clan from Pukalani. When the line found out that my mother had come to Maui to help Sally and Roland, they were shunned too. My mother ignored the clan and did what she was trained to do.

It was something that I always remembered.

E Komo Mai

On the occasion of a new undertaking, one would assume that there should be chants and blessings as well as the gifts of garlands and scented flowers.  To accompany this, there should also be a gathering of the most delectable variety of foods such as the succulent meats from sea urchins and the most fattening fish.  Its compliment would be the sweetest poi from Waipio whose purple colored uniqueness is only matched by its partner, a black hiwa pig.  I can almost taste the smoked, salted meat and its buttery fat as it melts from the bones after steaming in the imu.  All of this fine, traditional cuisine serves to cause one to fall into a deep lethargic slumber.  Kanakattack.  Ah, such satisfaction after the stomach is warmed!

However, there is no such celebration of the kind.

Instead, I sit here on our bed where our granddaughter, Kawena, coos and giggles while her mother, Kimberly, dresses her after just taking a bath.  The television drones on as I am barely listening to a show about Bigfoot.  In the living room, I can hear my father-in-law’s baritone voice as he is having a conversation with my mother-in-law at the kitchen table.  The walls are thin between our room and the room that belongs to my wife’s niece, she sings along to Katy Perry’s Roar simultaneously hoping that the lyrics of the song will somehow manifest in her own being, as bleak as it may seem.

My wife awaits my arrival to bring her dinner at work where we will sit in her office and go over our needs, which have to be attended to in our business as well as our family.  Such an uneventful life for a man who constantly wanders the night in search of the otherworldly, I know, but consider that everyman is the sum of those who are constantly in his circle.  In my circle there are my wife and children and a circle that continually expands outwards to include mentors, teachers and friends who themselves have become family.

Therefore, for the birth of this blog I offer this…  I offer thanks to my wife Tanya; my equal, my rock, my partner, my love.  I offer thanks to my mother who made me all that I am so that I could be all that I have become.  I offer thanks to Glen Grant, a Jewish guy from Hollywood who was strict and unyielding as a mentor and compassionate and generous as a father figure.  I offer thanks to my daughter, Hiwa, who reminds me always that when I think that I am less than I am, I must remember that I created a miraculous life out of love.  I offer thanks to my teacher, my cousin, my link to my ancestors through ink and inspiration, Keone’ulaomaui Nunes.  I offer thanks to Paul and Sheila Kekuewa who took me into their home and their hearts, yours is a kindness that I can never repay but will spend my life trying.  I offer thanks to our sons, Kekoa, Keola, Makana and Kupono, the boys I always wanted.  I offer thanks to Renson, Aisha, Spencer, Paul, Lisa, David, Diego, DJ and Cristina.  These people, in such a short time, have become family to us and we love them dearly. If there are names that I have forgotten to offer thanks to, know that even though your name is not here on this blog, it is etched in our hearts and you know who your are.

E komo mai, welcome and pass on…