Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 2, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #90



I sit in the library for most of the day because I'm pathetic. It's hopeless. So, I sit for most of the day, either getting lost in a good book or logging in online and just surfing the internet.

I try not to make eye contact with any of the librarians because it's demeaning, for me, that is. Then, one day, I saw old Mrs. Lum in the Greek history aisle. I got up as quickly as I could and made myself scarce. Later that evening, when it was announced on the overhead speaker that the library was now closed, I gathered my computer bag and backpack and followed the line out the front door. Security checked my belongings, and when it was determined that I hadn't taken anything, they let me pass. There was one older caucasian guard and a younger female guard who appeared to be hapa. Her name tag read Karmen. I was halfway down the front steps when I saw Mrs. Lum standing perfectly still in front of the Patsy Mink statue, not staring at it, but just staring in general. Her body was there, but her mind was somewhere else. I was about to turn around to hide behind one of the large pillars when a nice, shiny Lexus sedan pulled up. An elderly Asian man walks out of the vehicle and approaches her. "Hun? C'mon, mom, it's time to go home. Dinner's ready."

"I read Homer today, the Iliad. It was marvelous! You should read it to me sometime. Damon, you could learn a lot," the woman half scolded her husband.

"Okay, hun, let's get you in the car," he gently opened the door for her, waited until she was seated, and then helped her put her seat belt on. The second he was back in the vehicle, the car drove down Punchbowl and took a right turn on Queen's. It resurfaced again on South King and made a left going up Punchbowl, where it more than likely would get onto the freeway. I was now seated on the low wall next to the statue, trying to figure out where I could sit for the rest of the night until the sun came up? That's when the female security guard appeared in front of me. I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong by sitting where I was. Nor was I one of those problematic homeless people who always had to be asked to leave the library for being disruptive to the point where they'd be banned. "You hungry?"

I didn't know what to think at first, but my reply was honest. "All the time,"

"I'm at the municipal parking if you wanna come with me," she offered.

"What's the catch?" I was cautious.

"I don't feel like eating alone," she confirmed.

"Ah, okay, but I don't have any cash on me, not until Thursday anyway," I wasn't lying. "That's why you don't see me here on Thursdays."

"I didn't ask you about your life story, dude; I'm just asking you if you're hungry," she sighed and shook her head. 

"Yeah," I nodded. "I could use a meal."


We didn't end up at Zippy's or anything. Instead, we ended up at her 1 room cottage somewhere up on Green Street. She let me shower, and she had me put my clothes in a garment bag, which she dumped into her washer. She just happened to have many shorts and shirts from a previous male roommate who skipped out one night and never returned. While I waited for my clothes to wash and dry, she prepared dinner. Pork chops, string beans, and jasmine rice. She didn't have any soft drinks, so we drank a few bottles of Guinness. "You see my name tag every day, so you know who I am," she opened the conversation. "What's your name?"

"Aarol," I stopped and sat up straight. "Aarol Mendoza."

"So what happened? What's the story?" Karmen didn't look at me how she looked at the other transients with suspicion and judgment.

"My wife died, and after that, I haven't been able to get right," I was proud of myself. It was the first time I'd said it without breaking down.

"That sucks," she shook her head. "I'm sorry to hear that. What were you doing before that happened?"


"Did you have a house?" I went silent after that. I couldn't answer any more questions regarding my late wife. "Oh man, you're still broken up about it, huh? I didn't mean to intrude. I'm sorry." Karmen reached across and patted my hand. Then she stood up, took her plate and mine, and placed them in the sink since I was finished. "I'll wash those later. Why don't we go sit on the couch and talk? Once your clothes are done, you can either crash on the couch or if you have somewhere to go, I can drop you off."

We repaired to what was really a love chair and not a couch. I'd spent most of the evening not looking at her but more closely at her place. Simple, quaint. Childhood, high school, college, and recent pictures of herself, friends, and parents. None with a significant other. "Do you do anything else besides security?"

"National Guard one weekend a month," she said while excusing herself to her bedroom. She returned with a pair of gym shorts on and a tank top with no bra underneath. Her hair was down and a lot more blonde than it looked when she had it up in a tight bun. "I might become a recruiter. I'm not sure yet. What about you? Former military? Were you into any kind of athletics before you lost your wife?"

I was a foreman, but my father made me study boxing when I was younger because the bigger kids picked on me. I was small for my age," I took a long sip of the Guinness, and that's when I got a glimpse of her looking at me strangely. "Did I do something wrong?"

"You're not like the other homeless who sit in the library all day. You just need a chance to get back on your feet," she nodded. "I heard back at the office that there are some openings. If you wanted to apply, I could put in a word for you."

"Do I have to do something in exchange for that favor?"

"No," she laughed. "I'm not trying to fuck you and throw you back on the street tomorrow. I saw you do something a few days ago that changed my mind about you."

"Oh yeah?"

"That little old Chinese lady, Mrs. Lum. Since she lost her son, she's been at the library every day because that's where her son brought her in the mornings. There was a book in the plant section that she wanted to read, but she couldn't reach it. You were the only person sitting there, and she asked if you could help her. So, of course, you did, and to thank you, she reached into her purse to give you some money, but she took out too much. You refused, and instead, you helped her carry all of her books to her car. She tried to tip you again, but you wouldn't take the money. I know for a fact that she comes looking for you every day with a plate of roast pork and noodles that she makes herself. I always see you take off and go hide somewhere in the stacks until she leaves. That's what led me to ask you if you were hungry. She asked me if I ever saw you and if I could thank you for her by feeding you a hot meal." Her smile was warm and filled with a kind of pride. "She hardly knows you from Adam, yet she's so worried about you. I wonder why that is?"

"I have no idea," I shrugged my shoulders.

"I think it's because you remind her of her own son," Karmen toasted me, and we clinked bottles.


Karmen was up early, preparing breakfast. So I went straight to the washer dryer and, got my clothes out, and got dressed. I thanked her and was halfway out the front door when she called out, "Hey! I'm not making all these eggs and bacon for myself! Come back here and sit down!"

"I didn't want you to think that I expected anything," I said while taking a seat at the table.

"There's orange juice in front of you and coffee brewing," she gestured with her spatula. "I want you to come with me to the office and apply for a position. The money's excellent, and it will help you get back on your feet."

"I appreciate that, but even if I do get the job, I don't have an address," I had to be straightforward. 

"You can have my address," she turned and looked at me. "No strings, no funny business. You can stay here until you get yourself right."

"I don't know what to say, Karmen. Are you sure?"

"Of course, I'm sure," she laughed. "Besides, if you try anything, I'll kick your ass."


I got the job. They hired me. Karmen let me stay long enough until I could get my own place, and I did, but not without thanking Karmen first. Then, on the day I was already moved out and we'd expressed our brave but tearful goodbyes, she found my letter in her fanny pack. When I was on a job site, she called me right then and gave me hell. "What the fuck is this? You're a fricking millionaire, and were sleeping on my couch?!"

"Did you read the letter?" I deadpanned. "Call me back after you've read it."

An hour later, my phone rings, and it's Karmen. "Asshole, you own Aarol Construction."

"Do you understand now?"

"You didn't make those millions by yourself. You and your wife built that together, and you felt guilty for even thinking of spending any of that money without her after she died," Karmen confirmed. "The only thing you left out is how she died?"

"She was in a rush to get to the bank before it closed. She needed to make a cashier's check. She was going to get me the car I always wanted, and this one dealership on the windward side was the only place that had it," I told her. "She ran a red light right on Kalaniana'ole and got T boned by a bus."

"Oh my god," Karmen gasped. "I'm so sorry,"

"It's alright," I assured her. "I'm fine now."

"Aarol, you don't need this fucking job, dude!" She shouted. "You're a fucking millionaire!"

"Baby steps, Karmen," I told her. "Baby steps, working an honest job reminds me that I'm still alive and still very human."

"Ah shit," she hissed. "I gotta go. The librarians are giving me the stink eye."


A month into my new job, Karmen called me at seven in the evening. There was an urgency in her voice. "Hey, it's me."

"Hey, what's up?"

"I know this is your day off, but we need you to come to the library right now, like a minute ago," she was whispering now. "Meet us on the side lane."

Less than fifteen minutes later, I pulled up between the Palace and the library on the side lane, where Karmen and the older Caucasian guard were waiting for me at the side entrance. They didn't say anything but motioned for me to follow the both of them. We meandered through a part of the library which I'd never seen before, until we got to the history section. The place was empty except for the three of us and Mrs. Lum standing at the librarian's station. It appeared as if she were looking for someone. She was carrying a big red Tupperware container wrapped in a blue quilted cloth. She was completely transparent. Karmen and the other guard hid behind the bookshelf related to Greek food recipes. I've never seen her so scared up until now. She was literally crying. The other guard had his eyes closed, silently praying to himself. I had no reason to hide from Mrs. Lum anymore.

"Mrs. Lum? Are you looking for me?"

Startled, she turned in the direction of my voice, and a big smile played across her face. "Oh, you! There you are! I've been looking for you!" She hobbled over to me and extended the Tupperware for me to take." I never got to thank you! Please take this and make sure you eat everything, ok? If you ever want more, just come see me, and I'll make sure you have plenty!"

"Thank you, Mrs. Lum," I said as I bowed humbly and accepted the phantom delicacy.

"One more thing," she held up one finger. "I have something else for you!" She motioned toward the aisle of one of the bookshelves. The one that had to do with the Greek philosophy of the underworld. From my peripheral, I saw someone step out and walk toward Mrs. Lum. It was Gale, my wife.

"Hi, babe," her smile was peaceful and full of light. I nearly lost the use of my legs, but Gale stepped toward me. "Mrs. Lum found me. Apparently, the security guard told her your story before. Even in the afterlife, she's still worried about you."

"Hun, why didn't you tell me what you were doing that day?" I sobbed like a baby.

"It doesn't matter, Aarol, what I did, I did because I loved you. I knew it was what you always wanted, and I loved making you happy. I have no regrets about it. You shouldn't either." Gale reassured me. "I'll never stop loving you, but I also want you to be happy."

Mrs. Lum beamed at the both of us. "We have to go. We cannot stay long. This is my way of thanking you for that day when you helped me get the book from the shelf! Right away, I knew you were a good boy and needed help!"

They slowly faded into nothing while walking toward the bookshelf from which Gale emerged. Before Mrs. Lum finally disappeared, she mouthed to me the words, "Karmen is a good girl!"

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