Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 6, 2017

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2017! #56


Around our dinner table one late night, while living in Kaukamana street home, it was our neighbor Johnny Martin’s turn to tell his story. He lived at the end of our lane and just behind his home was a large backyard that hosted two oversized banyan trees. In the corner of that old yard was his tool shed where he could often be found working on projects into the late night. Often times Johnny would sleep on a bed which he put in there in case one of the projects needed round the clock attention until it was finally completed.
Even back then in the early 70’s, it was not an unusual thing to take in travelers or the less fortunate and offer them comfort or food for a few days and send them on their way. One such person that my parents took in was a mmiddle-agedman they called ‘Wimpy’
My father said that Wimpy was a wino (wine-o) and he needed help because he had no home so my folks let him take a bath and gave him with old clothes which my father no longer needed. They would have him sit down for a hot meal and then send him on his way with a couple of loafs of sweet bread. My Portuguese hanai mother said that taking in people like Wimpy was part of a tradition she learned while growing up in Maui and eventually living in Hilo. One would always offer food, drink, and a warm bed for strangers to stay overnight because that stranger might very well be Pele herself or one of her sisters.

Such was the case with Johnny Martin on one twilight evening when he heard a knock at the back door of his house. His son Johnny boy went to answer the knock with his father close behind him and upon opening the door they found what they would describe as a very ugly Hawaiian woman with a big nose and beady eyes. Her hair was wild and matted and she wore what they thought was a furry black coat but they soon realized that it was a massive amount of her own hair covering her body. Despite her looks, she was very friendly and kind and mentioned to Johnny Martin and his son that she’d been traveling for a fair amount of time and was very tired. She only asked for a place to sleep and a morsel of whatever food he would be willing to spare; immediately Johhny Martin offered the woman the comfort of the bed which he kept in his tool shed. To, this she graciously accepted and was also provided with a plate of raw corned beef, raw onion, and a bowl of Portuguese bean soup with a side of sweet bread. Once the Hawaiian woman settled down with her meal, she was given a large cup of hot cocoa and saloon pilot crackers with which to finish off the evening. Johnny Martin then told us that he showed her to the tool shed and left her to get her rest. Throughout the evening, however, he could hear a faint pounding of wood upon wood coming from the tool shed. He left his bed and went out to the backyard and saw a dim light coming from the one and only window of his shed. He snuck a peek and claimed that the hairy Hawaiian woman had her back toward him but that he could see by the posture of her body that she was hammering on something which was out of his sight. Eyeing the walls of his tool shed very carefully, he could also see that all of his tools were on the wall where he had placed them, not one was missing. What tool then, was the Hawaiian woman using? Johnny Martin watched for as long as he could but even his curiosity could not keep him awake, for he finally fell asleep on the grass beneath the window of his tool shed. He awoke the next morning to the cacophony of birds chirping in the branches of his banyan trees and to the tugging on his shirt sleeve by his son. The two went into the tool shed to check on the Hawaiian woman but she was gone. In her place on the bed was a large pile of finely made tapa with elaborately printed designs near the edges. Here and there on the bark cloth were also embossed designs of lehua and laua’e and there was the heady scent of maile that permeated the air. Everyone around our dinner table sat silent for a moment until my father scoffed and said that Johnny Martin’s story sounded like something out of a Grimm’s Fairy Tales novel. In answer to my father’s disbelief, Johhny Martin reached into the large nap sack which he had brought with him and produced the very same tapa which he had just a second previous spoken of. It was indeed a large thickly folded pile of tapa and the aroma which came from it was primal and intoxicating.

“Who do you think that woman was?” Johnny Martin asked everyone because he had not the slightest clue himself.

“Could have been anyone,” my mother replied. “Could have been Pele or one of her sisters.”

No one was certain as to who the woman might have been, however, throughout the years when anyone would ask Johnny Martin to see the pile of finely made tapa, he would happily bring it out and provide the story that went with it. At some point in my childhood, my family and I moved from our Kaukamana street home never to return and I never knew what became of Johnny Martin. In my early twenties, I happened to see Johnny boy on the city bus but his only concern was how his girlfriend’s family ruined his life. The mention of his father’s passing was like a mere garnish of parsley on what should have been a greater dish of succulent fowl or steak, but with his heart and mind in turmoil over intimate matters, his father’s death was an afterthought. I then inquired as to the wonderful pile of tapa to which he scoffed, “After my father died I threw away or burned everything he owned. I didn’t want his sister them to take anything he had and sell it for money.” Just then the bell for one of the stops gave a high pitched ring and Johnny boy gave me a quick handshake and departed into the night.

Who indeed was that Hawaiian woman who came to the home of Johnny Martin at twilight? Obviously, the gift of such wonderful tapa was her thanks to Johnny for giving her the comfort of food and drink and a warm bed to sleep in. That was the way of things in my days of youth, even the most unpleasant person of looks or countenance was never turned away when they stood at your door with an empty stomach or a broken heart. Those days are long gone and gone also are those people who remember to keep such kind traditions within their family.

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