Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 19, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #12

 Most late-night food places around Honolulu are crowded, and there are usually long lines going straight out the door.

However, local people are good about waiting and are often affable enough to engage in friendly conversations. The aim is to find some kind of commonality or interest in what the other person does for a living or what club or church they belong to. My aim is to find a seat at the counter, have a meal, and mind my own business. Eventually, a space opens up, and I take a spot at the counter. I am not at all concerned over who is on the stool to my right or left. There's enough elbow room so that I don't impede on anyone's personal space. Unfortunately, the waitresses have difficulty hearing their customer's orders over the din of loud conversations and blaring music from the jukebox. So they have to bend over a little and lean in closer. That's when the teenaged boys get a gander of the waitress's cleavage and become flushed entirely while trying to hide their erections. I always order the garlic steak; well done. I like the burnt edges and the slather of butter that pools in the middle. I dip my taro buns in it and take a bite here and there. My drinks are unusual, a cup of guava juice, coca-cola, and a shot glass of whiskey. The beer will come after the meal to wash everything down. "What's happening tonight?" Rosa, who has worked here for twenty years, knows my regular order, but she pretends it's the first time. "Are we suddenly gonna be adventurous and try something new?"

"I remember when you were new to the job, you always wore a black knit sweater, and the look on your face was like, what the hell am I doing here? But look at you now, world-weary, bitter, swollen ankles, and a few permanent stress lines from frowning all the time. You look great!" I smiled.

"Garlic steak and the regular poisons then?" She smirked.

"Yes, please," I bowed my head.

"Fuck you, by the way," she slapped me on the shoulder. "I only frown whenever you show up, and you're here all the fucking time. So much for mercy." She walked over to the cook and handed him her order. "The usual for the asshole on three!"

"Hey, brother!" Mel, the cook, waved. "What a bitch, right?" He mouthed the words to me and made the knife stabbing motion with his hand.

The next hour was spent eating my slab of garlic steak and all the fixings while simultaneously contemplating the next course of action by the end of the night. Rosa stopped by now and again to make small talk or trade jabs with myself or Mel. It was three in the morning when she slid up on the stool next to me and ordered a large cup of orange juice. "I'm on my break now. I got some poke' and poi in a cooler in my car; let's go hang out."

A short time later, a thick movers blanket was laid out on the back of her trunk with a spread of more than poke' and poi. There was also some homemade lemonade, a jar of si-mui, a cuttlefish package, and dried abalone. There wasn't much talking as delicacies like these were a rarity. You really had to know the right persons, to have something like this. "It's nice of you to come all the time," Rosa said while trying to finish off the last of the cuttlefish. "Oh, I going smell like my own panties when I go back in there. Good thing I carry a toothbrush and toothpaste."

"You're so gross," I chuckled. "No wonder why you never got married."

"It's not that I didn't want to get married," she nodded while taking in a scoop of poi. "I just haven't met someone who doesn't feel like they have to tell me what to do all the time. I cannot stand that, you know? So be with me, work with me, be my partner, not my boss."

"It could be that you're too combative," I suggested.

"I going combat my foot up your ass," she half growled.

"See? That's what I mean; you always have to reply with violence," I shook my head.

"That's because people like to make me violent!" She shrieked. "So what?" she paused. "How come you never made a move on me all these twenty years?"

"Because you just threatened to put your foot up my ass," I deadpanned. "Where's the romance in that?"

"Gimme a chance," she stepped right up to me and pressed her body into mine. "I'll do more than put my foot up your ass, I promise."

"It's almost four," I deadpanned again. 

"Shit," she sighed. "I gotta take my shot sooner next time, huh?"

"Much sooner," I nodded. "You talk too much." I waved and walked across the parking lot to my car. 

"I could surprise you!" Her voice faded the closer I got to my car. Once I got in, I put my seat belt on and started up the old Pontiac. I pulled out of the parking lot, got out onto the main road, and made my way to the freeway. "I bet you could," I said out loud. "I bet you could."


Five years ago, Rosa Fernandez celebrated her twenty years of work at the old Pua Boy's restaurant on Beretania. Everyone loved her, and as more and more people poured in from all over to offer salutations and happy returns, the restaurant began to exceed its seating capacity and standing room. The kitchen staff came out to join everyone in singing happy birthday. Someone left their apron near the flames on the stove, and a fire started. It spread quickly and engulfed the facility entirely. A stampede for the door killed many people who were trying to escape the smoke and flames. The rest were overcome and perished. Rosa's body would be found two days later in the rubble. She'd been crushed to death before the flames ever consumed her. Every year, on the anniversary of the fire, the entire tableau replays itself. Everything comes back to life just as it was leading up to the horrible disaster. Every year Rosa promises me delicious pleasures if I'd just take the chance, but it never happens. I left that night to go home alone and be with my thoughts. At the end of her hour-long break at four in the morning, Rosa goes back into the restaurant and is given a surprise birthday party. An hour later, she, along with many others, would be dead. Happy birthday, and happy anniversary.

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