Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 24, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #68

 Every high school has its secrets; Terry Higa was ours. He wasn't a strange kid, like how other weird kids were back in the day. Terry wasn't aloof or self-absorbed; he didn't talk to himself or chew on his fingernails.

It's just that he wore the same blue sweater zipped right up to the neck every day. His pants and shoes were different, but the sweater never changed. Terry was friendly if you were friendly to him, he spoke to you if you talked to him. In adverse circumstances, if you fucked with him, he'd do it right back to you. Not just the one time, but all the time. If you apologized, he'd apologize too, and then life would go on as if nothing ever happened. For the next three years in high school, no one bothered Terry. The teachers in his classes never called on him to answer questions or go up to the board to solve a problem. They were afraid of what his response might be. He did well in school, he wasn't a genius or anything, but he certainly wasn't going to flunk out.

In our senior year, when most students had matured by growing in height just a bit or by filling out, Terry had done the opposite by pretty much staying the same. Everyone figured he'd be a late bloomer after high school. In the next few years, someone would run into him somewhere, and he'd be six feet four inches in height and built like a solid wall of muscle. In March of 1980, Derwin Pacheco transferred to our little hobble of an institution from St. Louis school for boys. He was on the football team, but in his senior year, he'd been kicked off the team and expelled. Being taller and more muscular than most undergrad boys at his old school, Derwin liked to pick on them and torture them. One day he picked on the wrong boy whose father happened to be a high powered attorney and one of the major financial donors to the school. Derwin's father worked in construction while his mother taught at the local elementary school in his district. Money and political sway won out, and Derwin was gone. At my school, everyone treated Derwin as a hero, despite the circumstances surrounding his expulsion. The coaches were frothing at the mouth to have him on their football team not so much as a standout, but more so to break him down and humiliate him. The boys on the team hoped for the same thing, they played past games against St. Louis, and they remembered Derwin and the cheap shots he'd take at the line. Now was the time for retribution. Aside from the requirements of P.E. class, Derwin stayed away from sports of any kind. He just wanted to get through his senior year with no hassles. Besides, he knew he was a marked man.

The day that Derwin came across Terry Higa, it was like an old addictive vice that he hadn't quite shaken. It came over him like a fever, and he felt himself watering at the mouth. A couple of hangars on noticed that he had directed his attention to Terry, who was sitting by himself and chewing on a roll of homemade sushi. "That's Terry Higa; he's been wearing that same sweater every day since freshman year. He never takes it off."

"Never?" Derwin asked. "Why?"

"Nobody knows, he's weird, we don't bother him. Must be stinking under that thing though,"

"Let's go find out," Derwin chuckled.

Before anyone could stop him, Derwin marched over to Terry and choked him with his left hand while grabbing the zipper to his sweater with his right hand and yanking it down. The sweater came undone, and Terry shrieked at the top of his lungs, "NOOOOOO!!!!" Terry's struggle was useless, Derwin spun him around, tore the sweater off him, and then held it up like a trophy for everyone to see. "Hahahahahaha!!! YES!!!"

There was no reaction to Derwin's folly; instead, there was death-like silence. Confused, the fallen all-star hopeful turned around and saw Terry standing behind him. His face was red and seething with fury; his hands clenched with rage, but that's all there was. Terry had no torso; it just wasn't there. It was completely invisible. All he had was his head and his two hands, nothing else. 


Derwin Pacheco wasn't quite right after that day. He was schooled at home for the last month before graduation, and even then, his mother had to sit with him. It was the same for Terry except that; his lessons were left on his doorstep in the morning, when they were completed, someone would drop it off at the principal's office later that same afternoon. On the evening of the graduation ceremony, the seating arrangement kept Derwin and Terry on polar opposite sides of the risers. Derwin's mother held him tightly and assured him that all was well when Terry went up to receive his diploma. No one at the school told Mrs. Pacheco about the incident, all they told her was that her son had a nervous breakdown, they weren't sure why. Perhaps it was the humiliation of being expelled at the peak of his football career and the potential that might have come with it? Maybe it was also the high expectations from all the sports coaches at it his new school? 

"Derwin may not have had the time he needed to decompress and deal with everything clearly," the principal told Mrs. Pacheco.

"We pushed him too hard, my husband and I," Mrs. Pacheco replied. 

"Oh, and by the way," the principal paused. "We also have a student who is just a floating head and a pair of hands."

That last part never happened, but can you imagine if the principal said that to Derwin's parents? Oh man, that would be funny!


That's the secret that one school and one community kept to itself for four years in high school. Funny, no one remembers having Terry as a classmate in intermediate or elementary school. It's like he just showed up his freshman year. In 1982 I was waiting for a bus at the stop near the old Nabarette store. Terry Higa was sitting there with a long-sleeved shirt buttoned up to the neck. He'd gotten taller, and he filled out a lot more. "Hey, Terry, no sweater anymore?"

"Nah, I figure no need," he shook his head. 

"You catching the bus to work or something?"

"No, I just came to get a soda. I drive now; my dad gave me his car," he gestured his head toward a seventy-two roadrunner parked in front of the store.

"Oh, nice, car, man," I was shocked.

"I can bring you to work where you work?" He affected the voice and attitude of an Oji-san. It was funny. "We go."

The ride wasn't too far away. I attended classes at Leeward Community College, and I also worked part-time as a tutor for the English department. Terry worked for his father, although he never said what it was that his father does. "Yeah, I'm married now too. So far, I can only ooof with my shirt on; we only been doing it at night, but I will have to explain pretty soon."

"Did you meet her at work or someplace like that?"

"No, she's like an eighth or ninth cousin from Japan. Her family sent her here to work for my father but was an arranged marriage too, so far so good," he was very calm but in a positive way. "Eh, you get your license?"

"Oh yeah," I nodded.

"How come you no drive?" He sounded like my father now.

"We only have one car, and my dad uses it for work,"

"Why you no buy my car then? I was going to buy one Cellica pretty soon anyway. Just buy my car!" He insisted.

"Honestly, I don't have enough saved up Terry. I couldn't afford it,"

"Brah, I get money. We go work um out, make small payments every month like a hundred twenty-five or something like that. Easy brah that way, you get one car, and you no have to catch bus."

"Terry, don't take this the wrong way, but this is nice of you, I don't know what to say?"

"Eh, high school time, you never asked me why I wore a sweater every day, and I never asked you why you wore a baseball cap every day, you never cared, and I never cared. You were my friend, that's all that matters,"


So, Derwin Pacheco isn't his real name, and he didn't go to St. Louis. But what happened to him at our school did happen.  I was advised to ere on the side of caution and change things around. We had to protect Terry, of course, which isn't his real name. Terry's case was the most extreme, but if Terry were to be exposed, so would the rest of us.  Then everyone would know about the high school whose students had invisible body parts, like the top of my head, for instance.

Credit Artwork by Edwin Ushiro



    1. Not every story is literal. Some are symbolic, like the scarecrow, tin-man, and the lion.