Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 25, 2020

Mr. Pacheco


Terry Nakasone and I were classmates back in the day. So, when he contacted me last night and explained the dilemma that he and his family were having with their security guard who worked at their family grocery store, I was more than glad to help out. His name was Mr. Pacheco. Pops Nakasone, Terry's father, and Mr. Pacheco were members of the same league at Kapiolani Bowl and fished together on the weekends during the early seventies. Both were veterans of World War II and, because of that, they understood one another and formed a unique camaraderie that lasted through the decades. It's probably why Pops Nakasone found it strange when Mr. Pacheco stopped coming around all of a sudden. 

That Saturday morning, Pops Nakasone pulled up to Mr. Pacheco's house and got out of his car, and walked around to the back where he found his war buddy sitting on the steps. His clothing was disheveled, and he hadn't bathed or shaved in days; his eyes were bloodshot. 

"What da hell happened to you?" Pops Nakasone was shocked. 

Mr. Pacheco looked at his friend as if he were seeing him for the first time, "I want to cry, Nakasone, but I no can; I cried for one week, but now I get notin' left." 

"What?" Pops didn't understand, "What happened, Pacheco?" 

"My wife, she wen' make (mah-keh). We were going to be married fifty years next year, and she just died all of a sudden. She had lousy asthma a long time, but she was okay, and den all of a sudden, she died in her sleep," Mr. Pacheco said. 

 Pops Nakasone took in a deep breath and shook his head. "Haaaaahhhh, das too bad Pacheco. Sorry to hear dat," he extended his hand to Mr. Pacheco and, as his friend took his hand to shake it, Pops Nakasone pulled him up from the stairs, and the two exchanged a sympathetic hug, "C'mon Pacheco, we go eat at my house and den you can bocha inside our furo." 

 "I no like do dat Nakasone, I no like boddah your family. Plus, my wife still in da house. I cannot go back inside dea after she died, too hard," Mr. Pacheco hung his head.

 The back door was open, and Pops glanced into the pitch black of the house just for a moment. Everything was still, and the silence was unsettling. The image of Mrs. Pacheco lying dead in her bedroom for the past week gave Pops a slow, crawling chill up the back of his spine. He wasn't sure if his mind was playing tricks on him, but he thought he saw a shape moving toward the back door where he stood. He heard the floorboards creak under what was undeniably the weight of footsteps, fighting the urge to jump out of his skin and scream bloody murder, he calmly hurried Mr. Pacheco into his car and drove straight back to his home. 

 Try as he might disagree, Mr. Pacheco's protests fell on deaf ears. His presence in the Nakasone house was not a bother, and neither was he going to be troublesome. "Eh," Pops began, "I'm da man of da house! Nobody is going to tell me anything! If I say you are going to stay, den you going stay! We call da cops and have dem come to my house, and I explain everything. No worry, Pacheco. After dat, we go back to your house and clean everything up. Oh, maybe we should get your house blessed first, and den we go back! How's dat? Eh, plus we have to go find out if you still get one job, you buggah! You neva go work for one week!"

 After Pops got Mr. Pacheco cleaned up and back on his feet, life would eventually return to normal, but Mr. Pacheco always kept his wife in his heart. To make sure that Mr. Pacheco didn't backslide and fall into a constant state of depression, Pops gave his friend a part-time job as a security guard at their family grocery store in Waipahu. After Mr. Pacheco retired, he became the full-time security guard. All the kids knew who he was, and never once did anyone steal anything from the Nakasone Grocery Store. This was about when I received a call from Terry Nakasone telling me that after nearly eighty years of being in business, the establishment was going to close down. Terry's children and grandchildren had no interest in continuing the Nakasone Grocery Store, as they wanted to pool their money elsewhere. With heavy hearts, the family agreed that their doors would have to close, but no one knew how to tell Mr. Pacheco that he would be out of a job. Terry wondered if I could come with him to break the news to the old man. Terry said that Mr. Pacheco followed every single thing that was ever written about me or featured in the media. He thought that Mr. Pacheco might accept the information if I were there.


 Way back in our school days, Terry would always bring us to his family store after. There, he would offer us free soda and chips before we went into the back room to do our homework. I had to leave early one day for a family party with my parents, but I was beaten up by a couple of the older boys from school before making it home. They took my soda and chips and swiped two dollars from my wallet; Mr. Pacheco showed up just in time to knock both of them out cold. He brought me back to the store and took me to the back room, where he cleaned me up and bought me another soda and chips with his own money. "Huuuuu… dey wen buss you up pretty good," he said, "Next week you stay hea after you pau homework wit' Terry dem. Das when I get my break, I goin' teach you how fo' defend yourself. No, be late now; I no like waste my time waiting for you show up and you no come you understand?" 

 All I could do was nod. Six months later, when the same boys tried to rob me outside of the store again, all it took to fend them off was a punch to one boy's sternum and a kick in the groin to the other. They never bothered me after that, all thanks to Mr. Pacheco. 



The old store on Waipahu Depot road lay empty in the midday, a former shell of what it used to be. The big sign that once said, "Nakasone Grocery Store," was gone. A way of life had also passed, as did many generations of customers, friends, and family. At my age, it was also another reminder that life is ever-changing and that, although our cherished memories may be something that we keep like an old locket, life itself, in a physical sense, never stays the same. I brought a copy of the Advertisement News Paper with me from home while Terry opened the lock to the establishment's front door. As we walked in, I noticed that everything had been cleaned and sanitized so that not a trace of any nostalgic aroma lingered in the air. The only real piece of nostalgia was Mr. Pacheco, standing in his usual spot just on the other side of the two front doors. He was still upright and bold as ever, he had a few more bags under his eyes and a few more sunspots than before, but he was the same, Mr. Pacheco. 

"He's family to us; I think that's why it's so hard for us to tell him. The only one who could ever tell him straight was my father, but he's not here, you know?" Terry said. 

Nodding my head, I agreed, "Did he take it hard when your father passed away?" 

"Well," Terry replied, "they had this understanding that soldiers die like it was part of their job, you know? But yeah, even though he never showed it, you could tell Mr. Pacheco took it hard." 

"Sorry I missed his services, Terry; I was out of town at the time," I apologized. 

"Hey, we all gotta work. No worry, Mom wasn't mad. Nobody was, we know you busy das why," Terry paused for a second as if he were thinking of something, and then he continued, "Of all the days Mr. Pacheco couldn't go fishing with Pops and what happened? Pops hooks a Marlin, and the damned thing jumped in the boat and speared him right in the guts! And does he go to the doctor's? No! He goes drinking at the bar instead and ends up bleeding to death! Hardhead 'til the end that old man I tell you!" Terry laughed, but I could see it on his face that he's told this story a million times to other people and himself, probably a great coping mechanism to mask the pain. Without another word, we walked over to where Mr. Pacheco stood. Our footsteps seemed to emit a sharp echo as we approached. Looking at Terry and myself, the old security guard put his hands on his pants' waistband and walked toward us. I was only too glad to walk over to him and shook his hand. "Mr. Pacheco, do you remember me? You used to call me, "Lippy Espinda" because I talked too much!" I smiled. 

"Hmmm… lemme look at this guy real good… hmm? You Daniel Moniz' hanai boy? Da Hawaiian one?" he asked. 

"Yes," I nodded and smiled. 

"And you wen get busted up one time from John Cummings and Scott Durant? Dey when take your money and stuff li' dat?" he asked again. 

"Yes," I agreed, "yes, they did." 

"So what den? You evah wen learn how fo' fight aftah dat?" he asked yet again. "I did," I replied. I knew the game was on, but I didn't mind indulging him. 

"Oh, yeah? Who wen teach you how fo' fight?" he asked in a dramatically curious manner. 

"You did, Mr. Pacheco," I shook my head and smiled. 

Mr. Pacheco laughed heartily and gave me a big hug. "How you, boy? Ooohhhh, I see you on da news, and in da news pepah, your folks must be proud of you hah?" He asked. 

"They've both passed away, but I'm sure they're proud," I replied. 

"Oh, by the way," Terry gave me a wink, indicating that he was going to step out while I talked to Mr. Pacheco, "I nevah eat yet, I going drive-thru, you like something?" 

Pointing to Mr. Pacheco, I asked, "Did you want something to eat?" 

"No," Mr. Pacheco answered, "I wen eat already but 'thank you." 

"Uh, sure," I replied. "Get me one of those super cheeseburger things, I guess." 

"Shoots! I going to leave the front door open, okay?" Terry said. 

With that, he was gone. "So, Mr. Pacheco, how long exactly have you been working here?" I asked.

"Thirty-two years, I work for dis' family. Good people, especially Pops. I miss him sometimes; we had good fun us two!" He replied with a strange look on his face.

"You must have seen the Nakasone family through some interesting times?" I queried. 

"Oh yeah," he nodded, "I think Terry was ten years old the first time I came work hea, and den Lori was still baby and dey nevah have Sherry yet dat time. I seen dose kids grow up, go college, get married. I cannot believe Terry had grandkids! But you know, all dat time Pops Nakasone and Karen dey stay togeddah. Not like today, get married five years and den divorce. What about you, boy? You stay married?" 

"Yes, this is my third marriage, and she's a great woman. I have an 18-year-old daughter, and my wife has four boys from her first marriage and four grandchildren." I said. 

"Oh, good, good! Sound like you happy?" He asked. 

"Very happy," I replied. "Mr. Pacheco, how do you feel about the store closing down?" 

Mr. Pacheco walked back to the spot where we first saw him standing and retrieved two fold-out chairs; and he put one in front of me, and the other he took for himself. Scooting his chair closer to mine, he leaned forward and began to open up. "How I can leave this place, Lippy? I wen promise da old man I would take care of this place and his family. If I go now goin' be like I neva' keep my word, you know what I mean?" He said softly. 

"I know what you mean; what is a man if he can't keep his word?" I added. 

"You darn' right," He nodded. 

"But for you, Mr. Pacheco, you were loyal until the end, you've done all you could do for one man, and that's more than anyone could ask for, especially for Pops. I would say that he is more than grateful." I reassured him. 

"Dis was all I knew after I wen retire, I put my life into dis' business and dis' family." Mr. Pacheco's eyes began to water, and his voice was trembling now. 

"That kind of love, that kind of devotion and loyalty was something you gave to your wife unconditionally. You gave it with your whole heart, and when she passed away, you transferred that love to the Nakasone family, and it doesn't end here, Mr. Pacheco. It lives on after you. No one will ever forget that, ever." I smiled. 

"What goin' happen aftah I go? Who goin' watch dis' place?" Mr. Pacheco asked. 

"I don't know, but whatever this place becomes, I'm sure it will be the kind of place where people feel safe and protected," I replied. 

The old security guard's stress worry suddenly disappeared and was no longer a part of his countenance. The sun and liver spots were gone; a look of serenity came over him as if all the things that burdened his heart and soul had never existed. Standing up from the fold-out chair, he took in a deep breath and surveyed the empty store; he nodded slightly and looked toward me and smiled. 

"I think when I walk out da' front doa maybe my wife goin' be dea waiting fo' me. Whatchoo' tink?" He asked, his voice had become soothing; there was no trace of his once rugged intonations. 

"I've never been beyond that door, so I can't tell you, but I do know that you've done so much good in your life that whatever is there has to be light. It has to be good; it couldn't be anything more than good." I said. With that, he walked toward the double doors at the front of the store and pulled them toward him, stepping out into the afternoon sun, his form slowly faded out of view as he headed toward the florist shop just across the parking lot. For a moment, I was overwhelmed and began to cry; I thought about my hanai father, from whom I had grown estranged. Even in the years when we had become reacquainted, our relationship was not the same. I was a man with my thoughts and ideas; I assumed that he did not know how to relate to me unless he was yelling at me or continuously reminding me that I was nothing but his adopted son. In 1997 he died of a heart attack while in the hospital; he was alone. For me, Mr. Pacheco was almost the same man as was my hanai father; he spoke the same way as did my hanai father, and they grew up near each other in Wainaku, but that's where the similarities stopped. Mr. Pacheco knew what love was, and he knew how to express it without being overbearing. Something happened early on in my hanai father's life that prevented him from being personable and affectionate, or perhaps it was just the time in which he grew up. I'll never know. 


The double doors pushed open, it was Terry. "So, how'd it go?" 

"It went well; I helped him understand, so he went clean," I answered. 

"Wow, just like that?" Terry seemed to be shocked. 

"Just like that," I nodded, "Terry, what happened to my cheeseburger from the drive-thru?"  

"The Drive-thru?" He seemed confused. 

"Yes, before you left here, you told me that you were going to the drive-thru," I stated. 

"When did that happen?" He asked again. 

"When I was talking to Mr. Pacheco," I said slowly. 

"Oh yeah, Mr. Pacheco!" He said, "by the way, how did that go?" 

"It went well," I said, "I helped him understand; he went clean," I stood up from my chair and placed the newspaper down on the seat with the front page facing up. "Do me a favor, Terry?" I asked. 

"Sure," He replied. 

"Read the headlines on this paper, but wait until I leave," I instructed. 

"Okay," He answered, "but is there a reason why I have to wait until you go?" 

"Yes," I answered, "it will help with this state of confusion you're experiencing." I was out of the door in no time short, a second later I heard a horrifying scream and then it was gone. Terry Nakasone was at peace. Of course, you're wondering what the headline of the newspaper was? The headline was from a year ago on this day. 


Mr. Pacheco died of natural causes the night before Terry committed the double murder-suicide. Terry and his wife Lee Anne didn't know how to tell Mr. Pacheco that the Nakasone Grocery Store was bankrupt due to bad investments and bad business practices, and as a result, the store was going to close down. It was one of the last worries that troubled Terry before he committed the horrible act that would cause his spirit to roam the old office floors in the back of the store. The news of Mr. Pacheco's passing would never reach him, so he would never know of the old family friends' demise. From my own experience, I can tell you that when the spirit world cannot directly contact its intended target, they usually find another way. In this case, it was because of Mr. Pacheco's follow up of my doings and his sharing that activity with the Nakasone family that Terry could communicate his worry about Mr. Pacheco to me from the other side. However, that was as far as Terry could go; that was the limit of what his last living memories would allow him to do as a spirit. His scope did not reach beyond that.


Waipahu Depot Road is like an old abandoned ghost town on this early Sunday morning. My wife is a block away, waiting for the Pasteles store to open while our son and wife and children are shopping at Times. The old bicycle shop has gone, as has everything else that was once a part of my childhood. Even the empty parking lot of Arakawa's is merely a picture book memory in a photo album somewhere, just the same as Mr. Pacheco and Pops and the Nakasone families are now. My wife found me and gave me a warm hug from behind. 

"Some memories from before?" She asked. 

"Good memories from my boyhood days," I smiled. 

"I like those kinds of memories; maybe we can make those kinds of memories for our family?" She winked. 

"No doubt," I said. "We can do that."

1 comment:

  1. WOW! Lots of chicken skin from this story; also mixed feelings. The guilt felt at his father's dying alone is what I felt at first when my mom died alone in hospital. She came later to reassure me she was okay. Great story. Mahalo