Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 9, 2016

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween! 82 Nights Left! "Spectrum"

I worked at a school that was not separated by individual classrooms in a big two-story structure. I worked in a school that was contained in one big warehouse where the individual classrooms were separated by partitions. If you can picture this, then you can also imagine what the noise level must have been like.

The principal was a dyed-in-the-wool Woodstock hippy who had new-world methods and ideas of how she wanted her new-age school to be run. Alternative learning has its place in the educational system, and for me? I'm old school as far as my attitude in regard to how young people should be taught. However, I was in a desperate situation, and I needed a change of pace. So, I accepted the job when it was offered to me. The kids in my class were good kids for sure, and a small group of them could be goofy, but when it came to folklore and storytelling, they were very much invested. The school year progressed quietly save for a few timeouts and the retrieval of hidden items in desks, such as pen knives or lighters but nothing serious. As for my professional life, I managed to be courteous to my fellow teachers, but I never socialized much. In spite of the fact that I worked in a new-age school for alternative learning, I chose to keep my life outside of the classroom, outside of the classroom.

That self-imposed edict didn't sit well with the principal when I did not attend one of those touchy-feely workshops she sponsored in April of that year. I got a reprimand and a verbal smudging.

Go figure.

A week later, the principal brought on a new hire to assist the special needs teacher who worked with children with ADD, ADHD, and autism. The special needs class was right next to mine, so whenever I had stories to share or soothing music to go with it, I would always invite them to sit in. On the day that I met Sloane, I was taking in a rare quiet moment to myself while the whole school was away during their lunch period. It was the kind of quiet a person appreciates. I unfolded the cover from my Tupperware container and inhaled the welcoming aroma of steamed rice and scrambled eggs with nori and natto. I enjoyed the first few bites of my homemade lunch before I removed the large black and green drink can from my paper bag. I pulled the tab back and let the energy drink breathe for a second before I took a sip. My thoughts kept me company until they began to deviate from my personal circumstance. I got angry at myself at whispered under my breath,

"Stop it,"

Precisely at that moment, a gentle murmur of a piano key lifted from a keyboard, almost like the opening of a great gospel hymnal starting from a humble note. A voice stepped on the music in much the same way that actors step on another actor's line. The note lifted my head, and I turned my gaze toward the partition that divided my classroom and that of the special needs class.

"...and now I know, Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say. I thought I knew, but now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City..."

I hadn't heard that song in ages, not since high school when I was suffering the emotional turmoil of a typical teenage boy who felt the world much more strongly than others did. Even then, I had to keep myself in check for fear that my friends would alienate me.

".…for unless they see the sky, but they can't, and that is why they know not if it's dark outside or light..."

Maybe that was it, maybe that was the downfall of my marriage? Maybe it was my unwillingness to let anyone in for fear that my world would be turned upside down because no one really understood what was in my heart?

No one would if I kept the door closed.

I was singing along before I knew it,

".…while Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, sons of bankers, sons of lawyers, turn around and say, good morning to the night..."

"Oh my god!" The voice exclaimed from the other side of the partition. In a second, a young local girl stood at the entrance to my room dressed in faded blue jeans and a white shirt. Her wrists were covered with skinny metallic bracelets, and around her neck, she wore a large pair of prayer beads. A typical flower child. I mean, after all, look at our principal. "I didn't know there was anyone else here,"

"It's alright," I replied. "Sorry to ruin your song,"

"No," she smiled, "that was cool! You just jumped right in there! And you harmonized too!"

"Thanks," I smiled. I purposely didn't make an effort to introduce myself in the hopes that she would just leave and go back to playing her song.

"I'm Sloane," she said as she stepped forward and extended her right hand.

"Daniel," I replied. "Just call me Dan,"

"Hi Dan," She smiled and nodded her head. "So, you like Elton John, huh?"

"I should be asking YOU that question," I replied. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-three, but my parents and my grandparents played all the old stuff in the house all the time so you know it just kinda seeps into your pores after a while," she said. "Hold on!"

She left my room and returned in less than a second with two large slices of pizza and a smoothie in a plastic bottle. She grabbed a chair and pulled it closer, and picked up right where she left off.

"Yeah, so growing up was not insipid in any way, it was very colorful. My dad promoted shows a lot, so there was always an eclectic atmosphere in the house; Dad loves Elton John, though. Played it all the time. What about you?" She asked when she finally came up for air.

"Nothing about me, really, I just come to work and go home and come back to work," I replied.

Sloane suddenly broke out into a fit of laughter. For a second I thought she was high or crazy, but I could see that she had found a morsel of genuine humor at the expense of my humdrum answer.

"You're so funny," she giggled.

"How so?" I was a bit irritable.

"Man, you put out this persona like you're all square cornered and proper, but your inner self.… it's right there! You care, it's obvious you care, but you don't want anyone messing with your energy, and I get that, man, I really get that," She mused. "People try to mess with my energy, but I make the conscious choice not to let it happen, that's how I keep it pure,"

"Thanks for the advice," I replied. "If you don't mind, my energy and I would like to be alone,"

Sloane either had thick skin or was truly traveling on a higher road because my response was meant to hurt her, but she just let it fall off her shoulders.

"I can respect that, I should have checked if anyone was around before I began to emote," She put her hands to together like she was praying and bowed before me, "my apologies." She turned around and headed back to her room, and a second later, more music came from the keyboards in her space.

She knew how to draw the sound from that instrument and bring it out just enough so that it paused in the right places before the thundering notes followed.

"...I can't light, no more of your darkness, all my pictures seemed to fade to black and white..."


She became a regular fixture during the lunch hour, and more often than not, I would find myself visiting the special needs room, where we would have interesting discussions regarding 70's music and who emerged to be the best lyricist after the demise of the Beatles. Her take was that it was Elton John who took up that mantle, but I reminded her that Bernie Taupin was the man behind the magic. Otherwise, I couldn't help but agree since in my personal opinion Lennon and McCartney created their best magic when they were still the Fab Four. In later years, it was revealed that Paul layered tracks on his own time, where he played all the instruments. Could it have been that the author of 'Let It Be' outgrew the Beatles and didn't need them anymore?


When school let out, I didn't waste any time leaving and heading home. That is unless we had a teacher meeting. Then, of course, I had to stay. On the way out, I always passed the special needs class and would always get a glimpse of Sloane cleaning up the room or putting chairs on the tables so that she could vacuum the floor. Mr. Dean, the special needs teacher, worked right alongside her, and they seemed to be getting along quite well. Good for them.

The remaining months of the school year went by without a hitch, or maybe I wasn't paying attention? Within a short time, Mr. Dean began to exhibit a bit of frustration with Sloane. He was short with her and irritable and unkind to her in the presence of the other teachers and the kids in his class. One afternoon while I sat at my desk going over lesson plans for the following month, I could hear Mr. Dean and Sloane arguing in a hushed tone. It was obvious to me by the sound of it that Sloane was crying and that Mr. Dean simultaneously growled at her through his teeth. I got up from my desk and walked over to their space, and saw them huddled close to each other. Sloane's face was red and filled with tears as she tried to hug Mr. Dean, but he held his hands up and refused to reciprocate.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Nothing Dan, everything's okay. Just a misunderstanding regarding the procedure, that's all," Mr. Dean replied.

"Sloane? You okay?" I asked her even though I knew the answer.

She just nodded her head and had no reply. It doesn't take an idiot to figure out what was going on; Mr. Dean was a turd.

"Sloane, why don't you come with me? Let's sit and talk in my room, okay?" She followed me without hesitation. In the meantime, Mr. Dean must have seen the look of disgust on my face.

"Go home, Calvin," I told him. He couldn't have left quickly enough.


Rather than offer her a ride home, I had Sloane call her parents so they could come and pick her up in front of the school, where I would wait with her.

"You're still hiding your true nature," she said.

"Worry about your energy now," I advised.

"My energy is messed up, I don't know if I'll ever get it fixed," she cried even more, this time.

The Lexus sedan drove up a short time later, and the middle-aged local couple waved at me as Sloane let herself into the back seat. I waved goodbye, and her parents waved back. The car left the parking lot and took a right turn, and Sloane went home.


Summer came, and we teachers took our well-needed break before coming back in order to prepare for the new school year. Mr. Dean didn't return. He found employment at an all-boys school somewhere and was fired later that same year.

Each teacher busied themselves in their own little cubicle classrooms, and most couldn't wait until their lunch break. The whole staff must have headed out somewhere, but I just stayed in my room. It was nice to have the whole building to myself. By the end of the afternoon, I'd cleaned everything in my room except for my desk. There was a year's worth of clutter in there, and most of it was letters that I'd meant to write but never finished. It was all written on the same bland stationary that made whatever was written on it seem lifeless and void of emotion. Among the clutter was a mauve-colored piece of paper that was folded in half. It was positioned in such a way that it was obviously meant for me to find it. I retrieved it from its place and opened it,


Until you've seen this trash can dream come true, you stand at the edge while people run you through. And I thank the lord that there are people out there like you, while Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, sons of bankers, sons of lawyers, turn around and say good morning to the night. Unless they see the sky, they can't, and that is why they know-not if it's dark outside or light.


"Sloane committed suicide," It was the principal standing in my classroom; her voice made me jump.

"What?" I said, still slightly befuddled.

"Sloane, she committed suicide this morning at her home. Her parents found her; she left a note. It's that damned Calvin Dean, that little shit! She never got over him.…..thank god they're not gonna sue the school...her parents, I mean. Oh god, that was such a shitty thing to say..."

That's all the principal could manage to get out before she broke down crying.


When the new school year started, the special needs cubicle was taken down, and the special needs class itself was moved to a space across the street from the school. The kids couldn't stay in the old room, especially the autistic children. They appeared to be bothered by something that they couldn't see, and it caused them to act out. Even Mr. Tran, who replaced Mr. Dean, said he always felt a presence when he was by himself, or he would see something out of the corner of his eye. Makes sense to move if the children are uneasy, of course. One morning I arrived early and went straight to my cubicle and was stunned to see Sloane sitting in a chair near my desk. She was sad, and she pointed toward her old classroom,

"My music," her voice said in my head.

She disappeared right after that.

That day after Sloane left the note in my desk drawer, she must have been in such haste to leave that she forgot to take her keyboard with her. It was still in the old space.


Later that day, I went to Sloane's home in Manoa, where there were two cars sitting in the driveway. I walked up to the empty veranda and left her keyboard on a couch swing with a note attached to it that simply said, "Sloane's Keyboard"

That's when I noticed the ever-present misty rains in Manoa were being carried by a wind from the back of the valley and seemed to spread itself over Sloane's house like a blanket gently unfurling. There was almost a sigh of relief and comfort as if the property itself were closing its eyes to take a long-needed rest.

"You're Dan Kanoa, yeah? You were there that day we picked up my daughter from school?" It was Sloane's father. I was startled for a second.

"Yes sir, that was me," I replied.

"My daughter talked about you all the time, she said you were a nice man, but you didn't know it. I'm Jack," he said as he placed his palm on his heart. "Please come inside, I want to show you something."

Jack walked over to the chair swing and picked up Sloane's keyboard.

I was outside of my comfort zone, but Jack's demeanor was very warm and welcoming, and I imagine that from what Sloane said of her father, he must have been like the pied piper of his generation. He just gives you this feeling that you should follow, and he should lead. I was taken up a large staircase that led to an even larger landing, where I followed Jack to Sloane's room. I was instantly covered with Chicken Skin the second I crossed the threshold.

"You can feel her in here, can't you?" Jack asked.

"There's definitely something in here," I replied.

"She's still here, she can't leave for some reason, but the second I saw you pull up outside, I figured out why," he unzipped the case and brought out the keyboards, and busied himself by putting up the stand and plugging the instrument in.

"I'm sorry?" I was a bit confused.

"My daughter told me that the two of you shared interesting conversations about music, specifically Elton John?" He asked.

"Yeah, I mean, I know it sounds cliche, but she was really an old soul. She gets the message, so to say," I replied.

"Sloane told me everything," Jack began. "She was magic with those special needs kids, and they loved her; it was kind of a relief for Mr. Dean. He mentored her on the paperwork, which she handled without a problem. The class ran smoothly, and Mr. Dean was appreciative that Sloane could work on her own and that she really didn't need any direction. One day Mr. Dean and Sloane had to stay late with one of their students as the result of a parent that was caught in traffic. The mother didn't arrive until six in the evening. Sloane stayed to help Mr. Dean clean up, and afterward, he offered her a ride home; on the way, they stopped to grab a bite to eat, and somewhere between the fast food restaurant and home, they pulled over to a park to rest a bit. The two fell into each other's arms, and things happened. It was awkward the next day, but Sloane assured Mr. Dean that everything was cool, that is, until Mr. Dean had sex with her again in his classroom during lunch. He'd meant to romance and woo her just to pacify her, he'd never meant for her to fall in love with him, but she did. You see, Sloane was very perceptive and very sensitive. She told me that she could see that Mr. Dean was in a marriage that was lifeless. He loved his wife and kids, but he wasn't happy. She saw his potential and what he could be if he decided to leave and be on his own. She fell in love with that potential, the possibility of what Mr. Dean could do on his own. Included in that possibility was the life that Sloane wanted to have with Mr. Dean. They often talked about a future with each other and all of the things that their life might hold, except that when the time came for Mr. Calvin Dean to make good on his promise, he couldn't do it. His life, although uneventful and drab, was a comfortable one. Too comfortable. That's when things got cold. She felt like a complete fool because she knew that she knew better, but it caught her off guard. She opened herself up to Mr. Dean and invested everything she had in him; he took advantage of Sloane's energy and messed it up real good,"

Jack held his finger up to me for a second as if to bid me hold on for just a moment. His fingers became supple and appeared as if there were no bones in them as he evoked music from the keyboard. It matched the images that were painted on the walls of Sloane's room. Mystical multicolored clouds with strange blue-skinned people staring at their own reflection. There were profiles of rainbow-colored subjects with smaller cloud-like profiles within smaller colored ones that went on for infinity. She was clearly influenced by Peter Max, who influenced her father, who in turn influenced Sloane herself.

".….blue jean baby, L.A. Lady, seamstress for the band, pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man...ballerina, you must have seen her, dancing in the sand.."

Jack sang.

Framed photographs lined a shelf that covered all four corners of her room; they were pictures from the time of her birth to her graduation from the University of Hawai'i. One framed item, in particular, caught my attention, it wasn't a photograph but a small piece of paper that looked out of place. Jack played on while I walked over to the shelf and removed the note, and looked at it. It was blank, but on the back was something written in pink colored ink.

".….I have a slight autism, it is called Asperger's syndrome. The doctor said it means I take things literally. Mommy and Daddy said they love me no matter what. Daddy said don't let the syndrome mess with my energy..."

Jack couldn't bring himself to finish the song, and it was understandable that he broke down crying. At the same time, Sloane's presence left the room, she was no longer there.

"She got the message," Jack said, his voice shaky still. "She wanted you to get the message, too, she was perceptive about you, Dan. She said that deep inside, you're a really cool guy,"


In November of that same year, the principal paid for another touchy-feely workshop at a beach house in Hau'ula for the weekend. I think she nearly fell all over herself when I showed up.

"My god, hell must have frozen over?!" She exclaimed.

"No," I told her. "Someone once told me that it's possible to move around in the world without letting anyone mess with my energy. So, I thought I'd start moving around in the world before it moved on without me,"

"Whoever said that was very wise," the principal smiled. "Things happen for a reason, and we never really know why. Very much the same way that people come in and out of our lives; sometimes they're there to teach us a lesson no matter what the circumstances may be."

The beach house was a three-level monstrosity, and the whole teaching staff sat on beach chairs or slowly rocked back and forth on hammocks. Everyone offered greetings of surprise and shock at my presence. When I finally settled down on the lawn, which was just at the edge of the sand, I was able to get a front-and-center view of the beautiful Hawaiian ocean. With a glass of orange juice in my hand and a plate of cheese and crackers on my lap, I took in the smell of the fresh sea breeze.

Mr. Shaun, who was the kindergarten teacher, plugged in his industrial-sized boom box and made a beeline for the water. He took a giant leap over the first cresting wave and disappeared into the surf. There was a delay before the boom box kicked in, but when it did, it caught the tail end of a familiar song,

".…someone saved, someone saved, someone saved my life tonight..."

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