Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 20, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #11

Our old house in the back of Kalihi Valley had a big fenced-off backyard.

Beyond that were the mountains and the deep dark forest. I loved adventuring when I was a little boy and always went up into wao kele against the admonitions from my parents. I wore my favorite windbreaker jacket, speed racer shirt, jeans, and rubber rain boots. I never ventured far. I made it a point to keep my backyard within sight to avoid getting lost. I loved my two-storied home with the red trimming and somewhat chimney, which had been filled with red bricks because everything was gas and semi-electric by then. So the fireplace as a whole became obsolete. This morning, which I am about to share with you, was one when my older siblings were either at school (Farrington for the younger ones) or working at their regular jobs. My father was at work, and my mother attended to her household duties as she did every day. My task was to stay out of the way and answer her call when it was time for lunch. The sound of voices laughing and having delightful conversations distracted me from staying within sight of my backyard. I assumed it was my brothers and sisters who had skipped school as they always did and then secreted themselves in the forest above our home. Saying nothing, I followed the sound, thinking of finding them gathered together and sharing a cigarette or beer together. These things were frowned upon by my parents. If my mother caught them and gave them a beating, that was one thing. If my father found out, it would be worse. I came upon a clearing a bit further up from where I usually adventure. There was not one of my siblings but a large group of people I had never seen before. They were gathered in a large tight circle, surrounding a young Hawaiian couple. The girl was beautiful but appeared to be the same age as my fourteen-year-old sister. The boy was about the same age, still decorated with the wonder of his youth, but now wearing the budding whiskers on the brink of manhood. They stood next to one another, hand in hand. They appeared serene and calm. There was beauty at that moment, a small peak into the balance of life on the precipice of the young maturing. A moment captured ever so succinctly before a kind of transition took place that could never be repeated. It was a wedding.

Everyone gathered spoke Hawaiian. The couple asked questions regarding their commitment to one another and to the families they were about to become a part of. Parents of both the boy and the girl spoke of the attributes and usefulness of their children. One family promised to provide fish for the girl's parents and other sea delicacies to contribute to the occasion. The other family provided poi, pua'a, fowl, and dogs for the boy's family as a gift for this day. The couple then expressed their commitment to one another and wrapped themselves with a simple piece of Kapa. It was understood that the Kapa was theirs alone to sleep upon and no one else's. The Kapa would be burned at the end of their existence as it would not be handed down.

I was so enamored by what I saw that I'd completely forgotten that I hadn't gone to the bathroom all morning. Finally, I couldn't hold it anymore. I turned towards the nearest tree and relieved myself. The thick smell of the ammonia from my micturition must have wafted itself toward the wedding party because they suddenly directed their attention toward me with a unified snap of their heads. Their features suddenly morphed from human to thick-haired pigs with snouts and tusks, large curling, and razor-sharp. The girl was the last to change as she pointed at me and urged the mob to come after me. I let out a blood-curdling scream and ran for all I was worth. I didn't look back once, I kept running as far as my rubber rain boots could take me, but I could hear their furious snorting and grunting right on my heels. They were nearly right on top of me. I was sure I was done for. At the last possible moment, a pair of hands grabbed me by my jacket and yanked me out of the way. It was my oldest brother Daniel. He had me in his arms like a football and high-tailed it to our backyard, making it over the fence just in the nick of time. The horde of pigs crashed against the fence in fury and frustration at not being able to gore Daniel and me to shreds. Their eyes were an angry red color. They lingered and grumbled to one another before finally heading back up into the wao kele. It was a moment I never forgot, and neither did Daniel. He was home on his lunch break and was looking forward to our mother's Portuguese bean soup. When he didn't see me around the house, he went up past the backyard to get me for lunch. He got there just in the nick of time to witness the transformation of the wedding party from ancient Hawaiians to wild puaʻa. 


Today, many years later, our old house is still here at nearly sixty years of age. It came into Danielʻs care after our parents were gone. Some of us stayed. Others got married and had families of their own until it was finally Daniel and his own family. Today we're all gathered here for his funeral services. After, everyone gathered in the backyard for food and drinks. I took a seat on the back porch next to my nieces and nephews, all the while eyeing the wao kele. They were up there, that ohana of pua'a, just at the edge, looking down at us. More specifically, at me. I raised my fork with pieces of mac salad and olives on it and gave a nod. They regarded me for a second and then turned back up into the forest. "You know," I turned to my eldest nephew. "Years ago, your father saved my ass right up there in that wao kele. If it wasn't for him? I'd be dead."

"Really?" My nephew adjusted himself so he could give me his full attention.

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