Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 31, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #92



I'm a city boy, so I don't know anything about toiling in the dirt or farming of any kind. I can buy a couple of plants from Home Depot and water them and give them sun as per the instructions on the label but in a nursery or an arboretum?

I'm pretty much useless. I know this for a fact, and I don't make any bones about it. Ask me to develop an app or an algorithm for your website? No problem. I can do that because that's what I'm good at. But as I'm about to step into this lo'i kalo or taro patch in the nether regions of Waiahole valley, I am utterly lost and very afraid because this is not my element. However, my counselor, who saw that all other professional training methods were not working, recommended to the court that immersing myself in a cultural undertaking might do the trick. It was that or jail. There was no other variant. The Hawaiian man and his wife were no older than I was, and by the looks of the both of them, they would rather I not be there any more than I would rather have been anywhere else but there. It was an inconvenience. That was obvious, but if looks could kill, and it was legal to kill me, it appeared that they would have. I stood at the edge of the mud in my newly acquired Wal-Mart shorts, tank top, and slippers. I stepped out of the size eights and made my way into the mud when the Hawaiian man latched on to my arm and pulled me back. 

"You cannot just step into the lo'i like that! We have to go pī kai first, then you can step in!" He shouted at me with all four barrels running. 

"Alright," I agreed while worming my way out of his grip. "Can we do this without you trying to rip my arm off?"

"Oh, one smart ass," he nodded. "You must think you know everything then?"

"Can we just go?" I shook my head in disgust.

He was right up in my face, nose to nose. "Oh really? You like to go? Right now?" He kicked his slippers off and put his hands up. "If you think you can, then letʻs go!"

His wife grabbed him and spun him around, "He means let's leave and go pī kai! You wanna end up in jail just like him?!" She pushed him toward the over-customized 4x4 with the four-inch lift, but she was no kinder than he was. "Well? Hurry the hell up! Weʻre not here for our health!"

Even though the vehicle was a crew cab, they made me sit in the truck bed. The Hawaiian man whose name I hadnʻt yet learned because he never bothered to introduce himself or his wife purposely took every bump and pothole he could find along the way. I was forced to hold on to whatever was available. Otherwise, I would have been tossed out of the truck. Soon, we were at Kualoa beach park, where he drove through a gate and went down a dirt road that brought us out to a campground. Departing the truck, they said nothing. Instead, they just waved me over to follow them. In a few minutes, we were standing at the edge of a sandy shore, where a short burst of small waves lapped up against our feet. 

"Go out there until the water is up to your chest. Then dip yourself under three times. The third time when you pau, just float on your back, and weʻll tell you when to get out," the wife instructed. 

"Thatʻs it?" I asked.

"No, ask questions, townie, just do what we say," the husband blustered with his chest puffed up and his eyes wide open. His wife got in between the two of us and pointed me toward the water, but I had to ask because I had no idea. "Whatʻs pī kai, by the way?"

"Itʻs a cleansing and blessing in the ocean," she sighed in disgust. "Just hurry up."

"Some shit blessing this is," I remarked while walking toward the water. Without warning, the husband tackled me from behind, and we both went tumbling into the water. He pummeled me with punches that caught me off guard. Once I got my bearings, I gave him an uppercut right under his balls and dropped him. His wife did her best to put herself between the two of us, but once she saw that her husband was hurt, she unleashed an open hand slap right across my eye and left me blinded for a second. She grabbed him, and they both went back to their truck and took off. I walked back up to the campground and asked the groundskeeper if there was a phone I could use. He let me use the landline in his office. I called for an uber that took me back to the farm, where I got in my car and headed back to town. When I got back to my condo, my therapist and my parole officer were waiting for me in my parking space. When I asked them who let them into the parking structure, they said the building manager did once he found out who they were.

"We heard you had an interesting day," the therapist nodded while speaking in that gratingly irritable voice that was loud but not meant to be loud. The funny thing is, I've sat in the car with her while she gave me a ride to see my parole officer. When she wasn't explaining how fluid life is supposed to be but that we as human beings complicate everything, she was singing along to any random tune that popped up on the radio. Turns out, she is also tone-deaf.

"Albeit a short one," the parole officer chimed in.

"So, what is it then? Jail ?" I'm pretty sure I came across as more than obnoxious.

"Lucky for you, the couple called and apologized. They said things got off on the wrong foot but that tomorrow would be better." After that, my therapist was all sunshine and butterflies.

"Same time tomorrow, same place, Wayne. Don't be late," my parole officer Glen Pastchola was a wise old local Filipino man who has probably seen the worst of the worst. He more than likely thinks that I'm just a little pissant who's wasting his time.


The sun was just coming up over the east, and the couple and I stood there staring at each other with the mud-filled taro patch between us. They were properly dressed for the occasion. The Hawaiian man stepped into the mud and waved me in to join him. The mud was cold, and just the feeling of the muck seeping between my toes was a new kind of creepy. His wife handed him a white bucket loaded with taro corms. He carried it over and placed it between us. "Plant this one here," he instructed. "Then, between the one you planted, you measure the space from the tip of your middle finger down the point of your elbow, and you plant the next one after that. That's the spacing between each Huli, and that's how you keep the rows uniform. This is your lo'i kalo. You go take care of it, grow it, harvest it, and then you go learn how to prepare it for food and other kine stuff." He handed me the bucket and walked off with his wife to a farther part of the property, where they began planting the Huli in a much larger and more vast acreage. There must have been more than a thousand taro growing in countless lo'i. Yet, here I was in this little clump of mud and greenery. I was here to fulfill their end of the bargain while they did what they did best. I get that. What I don't get is why they hate me so much?


"Lunch," the wife growled and shoved the styrofoam container into my chest. I looked at it and, as gratefully as possible, accepted it with my two hands. It was pretty weighty for such a lite container. I opened it and saw the contents. Laulau, rice, lomi salmon, pipi kaula, and poi. I guess I must have been gazing at the food for much longer than I was supposed to. "Thatʻs all get for lunch, you donʻt like it, you going starve!"

"Iʻm sorry," the bile in her voice startled me. "It just smells so good,"

She walked off, and I followed after her. Thatʻs when she stopped abruptly and lost her shit. "Where the hell are you going?!"

"Arenʻt we going to go sit down somewhere and eat?" I asked, not knowing what else to say.

"Iʻm going to MY house to have lunch with my husband," she growled again but a lot louder than the last time. "YOU go eat in YOUR car or something but youʻre not setting foot in my house!" She stormed off up the incline with such intensity that she literally left a trail of red dust behind her. On the other end, I lost my appetite and fed my lunch to one of the many dogs roaming the property. Then, I hopped in my car and drove down to the Waiahole poi factory, where I got pretty much the same food but with some crab and ʻopihi to go with it. I was halfway finished with my meal when I saw the all too familiar 4x4 come barreling down the road and come to a skidding stop on Waiahole valley road. The Hawaiian man kicked the door open, jumped out, and came blustering in my direction. There goes my lunch. I grabbed a nearby fold-out chair and armed myself for the attack, but the brothah man stopped short of barreling right through everyone who was in his way.

"Iʻm made that food myself, and you just throw it away to the dogs!!??" He screamed. "Everything on that plate, we grew and harvested ourselves! Who the fuck do you think you are to just pohō the food??!!"

"My father used to do that to me," now I was growling. "Whatever he gave me, whatever he fed me, heʻd always say I didnʻt deserve it. Youʻre wife did the same thing when she handed me that lunch plate. So, why would I want to eat it after that? From now on and until this parole or whatever the hell this thing is, is over? Letʻs not talk to each other unless we really have to, alright?"

"How about this?" The Hawaiian man countered. "Why you no go back to your therapist and your parole officer and tell them you no like do this project anymore and just go to jail like you were supposed to?" He turned around and briskly walked back to his 4x4 and pealed off. 

I went back to my seat and tried to finish off the rest of my lunch. One of the owners came out and sat across from me. She put more poi on my plate and slid a can of Hawaiian orange juice right in front of me. "My name is Virgie. You the one working in Edward Kahanuʻs loʻi kalo?"

"Oh, is that his name?" I knew now. "Since Iʻve been up there, they have never once introduced themselves. Now I know."

"Yes, Edward and his wife Liko," the Hawaiian woman confirmed. 

"Then, do you know why they hate me like I killed their dog or something?" I asked with a bit of grit to my voice.

"Yes," the Hawaiian woman answered.


Another month went by, and it was the same treatment from Edward and Liko. Lots of bile, lots of shittiness, lots of unnecessary snide comments. If I didnʻt move out of the way fast enough, theyʻd bark at me first, or they would nudge me. I didnʻt retaliate. I didnʻt complain. I just continued to do what I was supposed to do. When I was sure they werenʻt poisoning the food they gave me for lunch, I began eating that as well, making sure that I finished everything on the plate. This is the daily routine until an entire program expired. The couple didnʻt soften up not once. We never had conversations. We never became friends. We were still on a grunt, nod, and one-word reply basis. I learned how to pound my own poi but let me digress. First, I had to learn how to make my own papa kuʻi ʻai, poi pounding board. I also had to learn how to make my own pohaku kuʻi ʻai, basically a poi pounder, before I could actually pound the steamed kalo into the consistency of poi. A year passed, and it was the end of the program. There were no tearful good-byes on that last day in Waiahole. No handshakes either. Just a short nod of the head from Edward and a curt send-off from Liko, "Kʻden."

"That day at the poi factory down the road," I said as the couple began to walk back to their house. "You were right. I shouldnʻt have made pohō with the food. I was wrong for that."

"K," Edward shrugged his shoulders like it didnʻt matter. "See you later ʻden," he waved as he walked off with his wife.

"I wasnʻt the one driving the car that day when Pono was killed," I began. "I was one of the passengers, but I wasnʻt the one driving."

Liko whipped around a snarled at me, "But you were the only one that survived that crash! So youʻre just as responsible as if you were driving that car!"

"YOU FAKA!!!" Edward screamed at me and grabbed me by my shirt, and threw me to the dirt. "YOU NO MENTION MY SONʻS NAME, YOU UNDERSTAND??? YOU NOT WORTH THE DIRT IN THIS FUCKING LOʻI!!! EVEN THE LEPO IN THIS PLACE IS WORTH MORE THAN YOU!!"

"This was Ponoʻs loʻi wasnʻt it? He was ready to start planting Huli on the day he died, wasnʻt he?" I managed to stand up, but I didnʻt bother to clean off any of the dirt. I saw the right cross coming, but I didnʻt bother to block it. I went down in a heap while Liko screamed at Edward to stop. He pummeled me again and again. Intermittently, heʻd pound my head into the dirt. I didnʻt resist. Being cleaned out by a 2011 Cadillac full of drunk idiots coming from a bar at Windward Mall, when you have the right of way on a motorcycle, was much, much worse than what was happening to me now. Kyle, the driver, lost control of the car only after he hit and killed Pono. He overcompensated, and the Cadillac rolled over seven times because of the speed the vehicle traveled. Everyone was thrown from the car and killed instantly. Except for me. I landed on a grassy median and managed to break a femur and a fucking finger of all things. As for the beating I was receiving at the hands of Ponoʻs father? I wasnʻt going to press any charges because I wasnʻt going to say anything about it. 

Soon, Edward was exhausted, and he fell into a heap of blubbering tears. Liko knelt next to him in the red dirt, crying and cradling his head in her arms. "Virgie told me everything."

I picked my bloodied self up off the ground and limped back to my car, bruised and bleeding. Later that night, back at my place, after I cleaned myself up and bandaged my wounds, I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke, it was daylight. The brightness was different. It wasnʻt filled with overwhelming heat. Instead, it was cool and comforting. At the other end of the loʻi stood Pono, planting huli one by one as he removed them from a nearby bucket. "Come," he beckoned me with a huli in his hand. "Help me plant the rest of these. Only get a little bit left."

"Pono," I tried my best to get the words out to apologize, but nothing was forthcoming.

"No worry about that right now, just plant those last few," he pointed to the row of huli in front of me. When I was done, I noticed an empty lo'i behind him. One that was ready for huli to be planted.

"What's that one for?"

"My parents," Pono looked over at the lo'i. "They have to plant that one."

"Oh, how come?" I wondered.

"The poi that's coming from the kalo they planted, the taste is off. So customers are complaining," Pono explained. "By the way, did you learn anything after this whole year?"

"Patience, humility, and forgiveness," I recounted.

"Who did you have to forgive?" Pono was curious.

"Myself," I nearly whispered.

"That's what my parents have to plant in that lo'i, the huli of forgiveness so that they can huki when it's time. Right now, they cannot forgive themselves. That's why their poi is coming out strange." Pono looked me in the eye. He could see I was confused. "Don't worry, they will when the time is right. I just wanted to let you know that."

"Why?" I asked.

"I gotta get back to planting," Pono waved as he began removing more huli from the white plastic bucket. "It was nice seeing you in person rather than through a veil."

I'd been dreaming the whole time. I was awake after that, and I couldn't get back to sleep. It would be a while before I did that, but for some reason, my court-ordered time at the lo'i kalo didn't feel like a complete waste after all. 


Another year passed, and I'd got on with my life as best as possible. However, I did have dreams about the lo'i kalo. I was dreaming about being there and planting. It had nothing to do with the Kahanu ohana. It was just that feeling of being in the mud and that crisp, cold tingling all over my body. I actually missed that. I had just come home after a long day at work and just finished in the shower. I slipped my shorts and shirt on when I heard the doorbell. Through the peephole, I saw my therapist and my parole officer. "What happened? I thought this was all done and over already? What are you doing here?"

Edmund and Liko stepped in front of my door, and I took a step back, "Hey, last time was different, but this time I'm not gonna stand here and let you beat my ass!"

"No," my former therapist laughed. "Edmund and Liko have been coming to me for therapy. They've made good progress. It's taken them a whole year just to get to this point."

The two-handed me a tin-foil pan and a larger Tupperware bowl. "This is the kalua pig, steamed uala, and rice pudding. This bowl get poi, it's from the lo'i you worked on, it's really ono." Liko placed it in my arms, and I quickly put it on my kitchen counter and came back to the door. That was surely a different Liko than I remembered but whatever.

"A handshake is all I can do," Edward extended his hand. "It took me this long just to get to this point."

I shook his hand and made sure that I didn't do anything extra. I just kept it nestle. Liko rubbed the side of my arm and gave it a supportive pat. "That's the most I can do, but I did it!"

"That's all," my former parole officer said. "As you were,"

Everyone left and walked down the three flights of stairs to the parking lot. Soon they were in their vehicles and driving off to their individual destinations. I guess planting the seeds of forgiveness is one thing. But harvesting it and making it sustainable for yourself and others is what really matters. 

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