Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 8, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #23

 The kitchen table is old but clean as best as it can be. The same bottle of shoyu from the Chinese restaurant sits pressed up against the wall. Cleaned and refilled again and again for the last fifty-eight years, the Asian condiment has a near reverent status like the old Catholic figurines my mother used to keep.

Kernels of uncooked rice sit mixed in with the salt in the fist-sized shaker, as does the black pepper in its container. Both came from Wo-Fat restaurant downtown, circa 1969. The chili-pepper water is an option because it has a separate space where it sits on a coaster. Next to it is a jar of Del-Monte pimentos ripened and raw for the taking. In the middle of the table sits a square of untried corned beef with slivers of raw onion around it. On the smaller plate adjacent to it is a pile of Hawaiian salt. I'm dipping my buttered saloon pilot crackers into a hot cup of cocoa while my aged grandmother sits across from me, breaking off a bit of the corned beef with her fingers. She dips the sliver of onion in the salt and then puts on the corned beet, all of which she stuffs into her mouth and washes down with her cup of gin. "Daytime like this quiet," she says. "When coming night time, different, you see."

"What are we going to see Tūtū?" I asked while chewing on my cracker. My grandmotherʻs house was a place that was caught in time. Nothing in the house changed since I was a kid. Everything was re-used and saved until somebody couldnʻt re-use it again. Even my old Astro-Boy lunch box sat on top of the refrigerator like it was just bought yesterday. The fridge was the only new thing in her house. "Them," she pointed with her nose toward the opened back door. "Tonight they going come, then you see, but I donʻt know if you ready to see. Thatʻs the only thing."

"I love you Tūtū, I love coming here, I always feel safe," I smiled at her, but she seemed to ignore my sentiment. 

"I never know you was interested in this kine, see? But now that I know, I thought I would call you and tell you to come so you can see for yourself," her voice took on a prophetic tone as if she were foretelling something soon to happen. 

I set up my equipment around the house while my grandmother washed her clothes in the outside sink. She refused to let my parents buy her a washer dryer a few years back; she said it was moloā, lazy to let a machine do what the hands can do better. My father didnʻt argue with her. You see, growing up, my grandfather was a tough as nails tug-boat captain, but my grandmother was the one who kept the house neat and tidy, and with my grandfatherʻs money, she paid the bills and set money aside to buy the house that my father grew up in eventually. Her word was law, and my grandfather supported her in that. The only form of discipline that my father got from my grandfather was on an afternoon when my grandmother called my father to come in for lunch. Rather than reply with the usual, ʻYes mom? ʻ

 My father replied with, ʻWhat? ʻ 

He never knew what hit him; my grandfather tanned my dadʻs hide with his old leather belt. My grandfather never tolerated any form of disrespect toward my grandmother in any way. My father became a stevedore while still in college for his MBA. When he graduated, he took a supervisory position at the docks. Like my grandfather, my dad was and still is a tough as nails, bull of a man. My mother worked at Hawaiian Tel, and like my grandfather, my dad supported my mom in everything.  The only time I received my form of discipline came from my mother and then my father when I got home from work.  On her lunch break at Tamarind Park, my mom happened to see me sitting at the table outside at Jack-In-The-Box, having burgers and drinks with my classmates. We were supposed to be in school, but we cut out. I donʻt know what I was thinking that day. My mom beat me within an inch of my life in front of god and everyone, including my classmates. When onlookers threatened my mom with calling the cops, she told them to go-ahead. She also told the very same people that when she was done with me, she would beat them next. Nobody stepped in. When my dad found out, he yanked my pants down and plied his open hand right across my behind three times. It was three times more than I could stand, but hey, I deserved it. 

Watching my grandmother now, hanging her wet clothes on the line outside in her yard, I canʻt help but love and respect her. Sheʻs passed down a fine legacy of keeping respect within the family, but damned sheʻs so stubborn! 



My grandmother is standing next to her kitchen table with her hand on one of the chairs. Iʻm standing at the head of the table, looking in the same direction as she is looking toward the back door. "Pretty soon," she muttered. "Soon, as get the sunset and almost get the nighttime, they are going to come." I double-checked all the equipment and turned everything on with my remote. I took in a deep breath and waited; suddenly, a thought occurred to me, and I had to ask, "Tūtū, do we need Hawaiian salt and Tī-leaf or something?"

"This is ʻohana," she scoffed. "You no need that kine," she returned her attention to the back door and began chanting something under breath. The light started to change two-fold; the sunset's orange, red glow suddenly took on a dark purple hue, and a shadow settled through the house. A wind outside picked up, and before I knew it, the dirt and rocks in my grandmotherʻs front driveway was now a swirling tornado-like mass. It moved across the front yard and joined another mass of dark wind which formed right outside the back door. The sound hurt my ears, and I found myself kneeling on the floor, covering up. Unmoved, my grandmother held her ground and continued chanting, suddenly she looked at me and pointed to the back door. It was my grandfather first, pale and dead as a doornail. Next was was someone I didnʻ recognize; it vacillated from human to shark and back. He only wore a malo; he walked over to my grandmother and sat on her shoulders. The weight didnʻt seem to bother her old frame at all. More came, and they gathered in the living room and the kitchen until they stood shoulder to shoulder. Each one took a turn sitting on her shoulders, and through her, each one spoke. Most of them had dual animal and human forms; some were Aliʻi, others were seers, prophets. Yet, others were regular folks; their commonality was that they were all dead of the flesh. They had no prophetic message to pass on; they just wanted to talk, to pass sentiments on to their living relatives. Most important of all is that they did not want to exist in the past tense in their descendants' hearts and minds.  They wanted to be acknowledged as still being relevant. When it was over, my grandmother slowly crumbled to the floor. I carried her to her bedroom, where she slept until the following morning. I spent most of the night reviewing the footage and the digital recordings. It was all static, all eight hours of it up until the point where my grandmother faints to the floor. Of course, of course. I left early the next morning but not before my grandmother called me from her landline. "I love you, my moʻopuna, you be a good boy now, okay?"

"Yes, Tūtū," I replied. "I love you."

"I love you, too," she chuckled over the phone. "You take care of your mākua,"

"Yes, Tūtū, I will. I promise." The phone hung up on her end. By the time I got home, my dad was already waiting for me at my door. I waved to him more as an acknowledgment of his presence. "Was I right?" He asked.

"Yes," I replied. "You were right, so, no care home then?"

"Are you kidding?" He laughed. "With her thing, sheʻll probably send those other old farts to an early grave!"

"So, sheʻll stay with you and mom for sure?"

"For sure," he nodded. "Besides, I donʻt need your Tūtū man whipping my ass from beyond the grave for putting grandma in an old-folksʻ home!"

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