Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 5, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #56


Staring at a blank screen for countless hours can't be healthy. At the center in Mānoa, Sid shared that objects to which weʻve become attached are mere reflections of what is already within us.

Those who have not come to that realization worship and pray externally and never see the treasure within. The blank laptop screen in front of me must reflect that same emptiness. Several months have passed, and this is all Iʻve seen in front of me. The advances and royalties will only last for so long; I have to write something. Late evenings are when I am at my creative best, yet, for several late nights, which have melded into more early sunrises, the well has been empty. When I am not staring at my laptop, I glance absentmindedly at my neighbor's houses or Kaukamana street's length, now decorated with the old-style street lamps. The Cordeiro family lives on the other side of the mock orange hedges. Theirs is one of those rare plantation-style homes in Maili. Now and again, I spy their youngest daughter sitting on her open window sill, staring intently at a checkerboard. I canʻt hear from where I am sitting, but I can see that she is talking to someone. Her expressions are animated, and now and again, she giggles and shakes her head. It made me think about Horatio, my son. I called him Ratio for short. Thereʻs nothing to say about it really; I mean without going into the whole long drawn-out details. His mother, my ex-wife Cassie let Ratio sit in the car with the windows up while she stood right outside his door, arguing with Calvin, my former best friend, with who she was having an affair. He wanted to call it off before things got out of hand, Cassie would not hear it, and she threw a fit in the middle of the Costco Kapolei parking lot.

Meanwhile, Horatio sat in the car, clueless as to what was transpiring. Eventually, his organs shut down, and he died of a heat stroke. The laptop screen was still blank in front of me, a true reflection of what was within, nothing. 


The following late evening, I began typing random words that entered my mind just to get started. As quickly as they came, I deleted them with an equal amount of speed. The hour was nearing two in the deep dark morning. Suddenly, a knock on the front door from downstairs shook me out of my supposed focus. I let it go, deciding to ignore it. For all, I know it could be a drugged-out crackhead waiting to kill and rob me. The knocking stopped just as I had hoped. A nice breeze of ocean air came through my windows, and I thought that I should close them if the crackhead saw it as an opportunity to break-in. No sooner did I stand up and reach across my desk to close the double windows, did I saw him below, standing in front of the mock orange hedge. He looked like a local Japanese version of Pai Mei with his white hair in a high tight bun and a long goatee. He wore a dark green Indonesian style dashiki and a pair of olive drab shorts and sandals. "Iʻm sorry to bother you," he spoke in a normal tone. His voice was deep enough that the sound of it reverberated up to where I stood. "My granddaugherʻs checkerboard fell from her window upstairs. It landed somewhere on your side of the hedges. May I ask your permission to look for it? Please watch me so that you know Iʻm not here to steal anything," he implored.

"Hold on," I called down to him. "Stay right there.

I grabbed the house keys and went downstairs, making sure that I locked the front door behind me. When I circled to the back yard, the old man was still there. "Here," I handed him a flashlight from my pocket and turned on the one I already had in my other hand. "Iʻll help you."

"Iʻm Radha," he smiled and bowed to me.

"Kaipo," With both hands, I took his one in mine and held it firmly. "Letʻs start on opposite ends of the hedge and meet in the middle?"

We did precisely that, and Radha found the checkerboard halfway to the middle where we were to meet. "Here," he exclaimed as he reached down. I walked over to him and he raised it to his chest so that I could see it. "Iʻve found it!"

"Iʻve seen konāne boards made of stone, but never a checkerboard," 

"Not just any kind of stone," Radha replied. "Moonstone."

Chiseled on the stone were dark squares and squares of a lighter shade indicating where each playing piece should go. "Thatʻs impressive; it must have taken you a while to make it," I nodded toward the object.

"Oh no," Radha shook his head. "Not me, this moonstone checkerboard goes back for countless generations. The ancient ancestors of my people introduced this game to modern civilization."

"But itʻs just a checkerboard," I giggled.

He crooked his head to one side and grinned. "Do you play?"



"Moonstone checkers is not a game of hopping over the opposing piece and taking all that becomes yours, it is a game of consequence," Radha shared.

"How can that be if Iʻve bested you every night for months now?" I replied.

"As I lose, I learn, as you win, you grow to become more confident," he waved his finger at me and nodded his head. 

"Thatʻs a good thing," I took his last piece and placed it on the sill. 

"Certainly, but for who?" He leaned forward and smiled. "Ah, look, the sun awakens in the east!"

"Tomorrow, then?" I offered.

"Tomorrow," he bowed.

I let Radha out the front door and waited until he walked around the other side of the mock orange hedges. I bounded upstairs as Iʻve been doing for the past several months and continued working on my manuscript. It was coming along nicely. It was a story based on my stay at the center and of my meeting Ananda. The publishers liked what I sent them after a few re-writes. ʻWaiting with bated breath!ʻ they said in the e-mail. I write from sun up until 11:30 am, then Iʻm done for the day. 



"Must be nice to have your schedule at your age? Doesnʻt seem like your family gives you a hard time about hanging out here and playing checkers all night and rather badly, I might add,"

"In my household, I am the checkers champion!" He was affected with great dramatic expression. "My family is finally relieved that someone has bested me for this long; it has saved them from my constant boasting! When the time is right, they would like to meet you!"

"Iʻd like that," I toasted him as I took a sip of my peach flavored tea. "We can make a dinner of it!"

"Indeed!" Radha smiled and sipped his tea from a cup.

The game continued for the next three hours, and by then I wasnʻt even trying. "Radha, maybe we should take a break from this game for a while? You can still visit, and we can talk or maybe play something else like mah-jong?"

"What I like about you, Kaipo is that you have such respect for me that you have not given me any quarter, you honor the warrior in me, and you leave me with an honorable defeat each time. You donʻt treat me as an old aged man in his dotage," he bowed deeply.

"Radha, everyone knows that checkers is winnable if you control the middle," I wanted to give him his dignity, but at the same time, I tried to explain how the game works, because clearly, he did not have a basic understanding of it.

"Your victories have nothing to do with controlling the middle; to win each battle, it takes more than numbers, and strength, and strategy. It takes clarity," his eyes had an intensity in it that I had never seen before until just now, but what he just said nearly took the breath out of me.

"Why did you say that?"

"Say what?"

"What you said just now, why did you say that?" I pressed him.

"Say what about what?"

"Clarity, why did you use that word? You could have said planning or something else, but you said ʻClarityʻ, why?" I straightened up and took a real good look at him. "Radha?"

"In any significant undertaking, you must be clear of mind and clear of conscience. You cannot falter, not even once; otherwise, victory will fall from your grasp; you must have clarity." He now had the bearing of a wartime general, someone who had to inspire his troops to victory. "That is why you win this game each time, and that is why Ananda bested her father at every turn. Remember?"

I stood up and slowly moved away from Radha; he mirrored me and stood up at precisely the same time. "Who are you?"

"Letʻs make a wager Kaipo if, by the end of this game, you win, you get the moonstone checkerboard and all its pieces. If I win, you agree to meet my family, and tell them how youʻve been able to beat me all these months," he was expressionless and stoic.

"That makes no damned sense," I shot back. "I win either way."

"You forget Kaipo; this is a moonstone checkerboard. You have been playing checkers, Iʻve been playing moonstone checkers. Do we have a wager?" Radha crooked his head to one side and smiled.

"Deal," I deadpanned.

All the while, I have used the lite pieces while Radha used the dark pieces. He insisted that we switch, to which I agreed because we had done it before. No matter what the circumstances, I  always won. When we traded and placed the pieces on the moonstone, it slowly came to a bright yellow glow. The light dimmed slowly, but there were glowing squiggly lines all over the board until it faded out, until it was dark again. Radha made the first move and controlled the middle from the beginning. He sacrificed some of his pieces to gain control, and in the end, he won.

 "Moonstone checkers is a game of consequence, cause, and effect. Hawaiian people lived by the moon cycles, not so much by the movement of the sun." Radha placed both hands over the moonstone board, and when he removed them, a konāne board sat in its place. "I am the winner, and you have agreed to meet my family." With a sweep of his hand, he motioned down to my back yard just in time for me to see several large diamond-shaped lights descending from the sky. Each shape went blindingly bright when it touched the grass, and in its place appeared a person of glowing, mesmerizing beauty. Radha led me downstairs and into my back yard. Upon closer inspection, I could see that everyone, man and woman, wore either a sparkling white kīkepa or a malo. "That girl-next-door isnʻt your granddaughter, is she?"

"No," Radha admitted. "I needed to find a ruse so that you might play the game,"

"Bested by the best," I scoffed.

He extended his hand to a woman more radiant than the rest as she stepped forward, "This is Hina, goddess of the moon." 

"I suppose youʻre, not Radha, either are you?" I asked him.

"No, I am simply Kalewa, a guardian. Come with us, Kaipo, youʻve earned it; this is all the clarity you will ever need," he assured me.

"Is my son there?" I tilted my head up to the night sky. "Is he waiting on the moon for me?"

"No," Kalewa shook his head. 

Just then, I felt a little hand take mine and intertwine its fingers on my own. I looked down to see a little boy wearing blue Astro-Boy pajamas. "Hey, and who are you?"

"Steven Pacheco," he said while looking up at me with his deep-set eyes. "Can you help me play for real checkers when we get up there?"

"Yeah," I replied. "I can do that."



Six ʻO Clock News

The dead, emaciated body of Kaipo Kaʻululau was discovered in his Maili home on Kaukamana street this morning. He was sitting in the upstairs office of his house. The medical examiner concludes that Kaʻululau starved himself to death. He leaves behind a manuscript which he submitted to his publishers before dying. The publishers say the book titled, "Horatio; I knew him Ananda," should be in stores by October.

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