Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

May 21, 2020

Lily and Her Sisters

During the time of his boyhood, my grandfather lived on the part of 2nd avenue that is now the freeway. He said he was awoken late one night by the sound of someone crying.

He was surprised that the noise did not disturb his father, who was a very light sleeper and not pleasant to deal with if his slumber was interrupted for no good reason. The crying went on for a time, and once my grandfather realized that no one other than himself had heard it, he went out the front door and stood perfectly still. When the crying came again, he knew that its origin was on the other side of the fence, which belonged to his neighbor, Mr. Wong.

Peering over, he saw a young girl with her arms folded in front of her, weeping ever quietly. He said that he’d asked the young girl why she was so sad? The girl replied that the man who owned the house met her in the old country. He brought her to his home, where he cared for her daily. In return, she had given him many happy hours of conversation and sustenance of the mind and spirit. On his next trip to the homeland, he gathered her six remaining sisters and brought them back as payment for the young girl’s kindness and attentiveness to his needs. The young girl told my grandfather that they lived as one happy family. He had even gone so far as to introduce her and her sisters to his friends and colleagues who were very well pleased with how beautiful they all were, but none as beautiful as the young girl to whom my grandfather spoke.

“Then what’s wrong?” My grandfather asked. “Why are you crying?”

The young girl said that suddenly the man gave less and less attention to her and her six sisters and hardly participated in the reciprocal intercourse of his conversational needs and theirs. Finally, the man retired to his room and never came out for several days.

“Would you,” the girl asked my grandfather, “inquire of him tomorrow and see what the matter might be? My sisters and I are worried.”

“I can,” my grandfather replied.

My grandfather said the young girl departed, and he returned to his bedroom before his father woke up and asked why he was out in the dead of night.


The following afternoon when my grandfather completed his chores and homework, he let his parents know that he intended to go next door to check up on Mr. Wong as no one had seen him lately.

 “Oh, see how he’s doing and ask him if he needs anything?” My grandfather’s mother said.

His father cautioned him to be careful when going over, but that was all. Several knocks on Mr. Wong’s door yielded no reply. It wasn’t until my grandfather circumnavigated the house, calling out for Mr. Wong, did he then hear a response from within one of the large picture windows.

“Who is that outside?” The voice was strained and weak.

“It’s me, Mr. Wong, James Halona,” my grandfather answered. “I’m here to check up on you.”

“James,” Mr. Wong began, “please go around back, and you’ll see where the wind blew a large canvas over the roof. Take it down - when you see my courtyard, call out to me and let me know.”

My grandfather did as he was told and found that Mr. Wong’s courtyard had an open skyline. In it, he saw a square-shaped pond. “Mr.Wong? I took the canvas down, what do I do next?”

“There’s a water hose near you, please fill the lily pond. It needs the sun; otherwise, they will die,” Mr. Wong called out as best he could.

Before him, my grandfather saw a nearly empty pool with water lilies in it. Their life-giving shade of green was slowly turning yellow, and their brilliant deep purple and yellow flowers wilted to one side as if all hope were lost. What caught my grandfather’s attention was the largest of the water lilies, it was like an exquisite pedestal meant only for the most exalted to sit and partake of its company. At least, that is how he described it. Sadly, it too was nearly a shadow of its former self. In all, my grandfather counted seven water lilies.


Two days later, my grandfather saw Mr. Wong sitting pruning the grass next to his walkway ever so meticulously. In another few days, Mr. Wong was back to his old self and had given my grandfather some star fruit as thanks for his watering the lilies. My grandfather said he couldn’t help but ask about the young girl he met that one late night and her six sisters. Was she his wife or servant? He wasn’t sure which.

“You spoke to her?” Mr. Wong was surprised.

“Yes,” my grandfather replied. “She told me how you first brought her here from the homeland, and then later, you brought her six sisters.”

“Did she say if she was happy?” Mr. Wong asked.

“She was,” my grandfather nodded. “But she was worried because you stopped coming out of your room, she’s the one who asked me to check on you.”

“She did?” Mr. Wong replied.

I nodded. “She was distraught.”

“Those water lilies came from Giverny in France, the old man who gave them to me told me that they were magical, but I didn’t believe him. James, I’ve only ever seen her in my dreams. She’s beautiful and kind and so very smart. Her younger sisters are almost the same but not quite her equal, but you James, you’ve seen her in the flesh. How I envy you,” Mr. Wong seemed sad.

“It’s you she cares for Mr. Wong,” I reassured him.

He nodded and smiled to himself. After that day, Mr. Wong asked my grandfather’s parents if he could pay him to help upkeep his property, seeing him not getting any younger. My grandfather’s folks agreed, and every day Mr. Wong would show my grandfather how to care for his seven water lilies. He also told my grandfather that the older man from France said to him that he should talk to the lilies, have conversations with them, treat them as if they were people. This Mr. Wong did all the time, and at night he would dream that the eldest of the lily sisters would sit and keep company with him in the courtyard.

“Mr. Wong lived until he was ninety-three,” my grandfather told me.

“What happened to the water lilies?” I asked him.

“I have them now,” my grandfather smiled. “Want to help me?”

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