Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Oct 24, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #7

My fourth-grade year in school was a big deal for me. I got to wear the cool hippy clothes that were the big fashion. That meant the hippy vests with the tassels and the cool vertical striped shirts with the poofy sleeves and the jeans with the big belts and the boots! Oh my gosh, the boots! I couldn't forget the decorative headbands that my mom got me. One for each day. I was off to school that morning, happy-go-lucky and absorbing all the compliments that the kids in school were going to give me. But then I suddenly remembered the trouble makers, John Gaspar, Bertram Cachola, and Spencer Fernandez. My balloon deflated right then, and I turned around and went back home. I changed out of my cool clothes and put on the everyday clothes I always wore for school. I knew those guys were going to make fun of me and then ask to wear my hand band or vest, and I'd never get it back. Worst of all, my teacher would scold me for lending it out in the first place. So I spent the day at school dressed like a normal human being and no shit for it. Boring.

Lunch was my favorite. Pig in the blanket, with guava juice, buttered cornbread, and a side of milk. When I was done, I was in line with my tray in front of me to put away at the next counter. There was a thing back then where the other kids would playfully bump into each other to cause a domino effect in the line. Unfortunately, I got bumped a little too hard. When I lurched forward, my milk carton flew off my tray and caught Mrs. Ford on her brand new blouse. She was livid. She grabbed me by my shirt sleeve and jerked me around really hard until I lost my balance and fell to the cafeteria floor. She picked me up and dragged me to the office, where she made me sit in the punishment chair right outside the principal's office. Sitting in the punishment chair at the principal's office was bad news because school staff could physically discipline you from teachers to the principal back in the day. For us kids who would find ourselves in so sour a pickle that we ended up at principal Leonard's office? You found yourself wishing that it was your own teacher who was handing out the beating. Principal Marcus Leonard was Maori from New Zealand. On a mantle in his office, he kept a patu mere made from kauri wood. It had a firm handle on it and was shaped like the number eight. The edges were supposed to be sharp enough to lop your enemy's head off. He used that weapon to exact his discipline on us kids, but he used the flat end of the patu mere. I'd never been on the other end of it, but from those kids who had been, they said it was a horrible experience because the expression on principal Leonard's face would change. His eyes would fly open wide, and his face became distorted and almost maudlin-like. I sat there in the punishment chair, knowing that I didn't do anything wrong. The kids bumped into me, that's what I tried to explain to Mrs. Ford, but she didn't want to hear it. 

"What do you want me to do?" I heard principal Leonard ask Mrs. Ford. "I'm sure he didn't do it purpose."

"He threw that carton of milk on me!" She insisted. 

"Knowing the consequences of such an act like that, no child in their right mind would purposely throw a carton of milk on a teacher," he was trying to make her see his point. "David? Come in here, please!"

His voice was solid and full of fire. I jumped when he called me my name. I kicked my legs off the punishment chair and let myself in his office. "Yes, principal Leonard?"

"Stand in front of my desk where I can see you, David," he pointed. "You haven't been in my office before, have you?"

"No, principal Leonard," I replied.

"Mrs. Ford seems to think that you threw a carton of milk on her. Is there any truth to that? Look at me, David. Is there any truth to what Mrs. Ford is saying?" He asked.

"No, sir, the kids behind me bumped into me while I was holding my food tray to put back. Unfortunately, my milk carton was on it. That's how it got onto Mrs. Ford's blouse," principal Leonard held my gaze and then nodded. I turned to Mrs. Ford and told her I was sorry and that it was an accident. I believe that act alone saved me from being disciplined that day. Mrs. Ford shook her head and said nothing. 

"Alright, David, thank you for being honest," he pointed to his office door. "You can go back to class."

I closed the door behind me and heard Mrs. Ford shrieking at the principal. "That's it? You're going to let him go without any consequences?"

"What consequences?" Principal Leonard replied. "He said it was an accident, and I believe him. Now, it's unfortunate that your new blouse was ruined, but I've seen how these kids like to play the domino game while standing in line, so I believed it was not intentional. And he apologized, isn't that enough? So why don't you go home and change out your clothes and come back when you're ready."

"You brown people always stick together, no matter what. Don't you?" Even as a fourth-grader, I understood what the content of that remark meant. Principal Leonard did too. Mrs. Ford was new to the school, and she didn't quite understand the scope of who our principal really was and what he and his family in New Zealand dealt with and lived through as Maori.

"Mrs. Ford, it seems that this incident has to do with more than just your blouse. The milk staining your clothing was the trigger point to a much more deep-seated issue," Principal Leonard began. 

"And what would that be?" Mrs. Ford retorted sarcastically.

"Isn't it obvious? You're prejudiced, Mrs. Ford, you just stated so yourself," before Mrs. Ford even had a chance to reply, principal Leonard, cut her off. "Put your things together, Mrs. Ford, and leave my school. You no longer work here. You're fired."

Mrs. Ford ranted and raved, promising to bring the board of education and god down upon Principal Leonard if he did not recant his statement. But, of course, he did not, and Mrs. Ford remained fired. Being from the mainland, she didn't understand that the state system mimicked the old plantation-style hierarchy. It would be a while before she could find employment as a teacher elsewhere in Hawaii. On the way home from school later, Mrs. Ford's kids were waiting for me from across the street from the playing field. They pelted me with stones, and I was forced to run all the way. "Brownie! Brownie! You got our mom fired, you filthy brownie!"



We were out trick or treating with our adult kids and grandchildren in our Kaimuki neighborhood. It was charming and very nostalgic in that it was reminiscent of my Halloweens growing up in Maili. The grandkids were very successful in their collection of candies, and popcorn, and cotton candy, along with li hing pickled mango. We covered every house on sixth avenue, except one. It was a house on the other end of the intersection where sixth became Alohea; our grandkids wouldn't go anywhere near it. We found out why. A haggard old woman appeared and began to collect rocks from her yard and simultaneously throw them in our direction. She hissed and then yelled at us, "Damned brownies! Don't you come near my property!" My god, it was Mrs. Ford! As worse for wear as she appeared, I'd recognize those evil beady eyes anywhere. "Get the hell outta here, you damned brownies!" One of those rocks arched high and barely missed our youngest granddaughter. I was so furious I grabbed a random stone of a good size sent it like a missile toward that cranky old teacher of mine. It went right through her. 

"That's why we don't like coming here, papa. Her ghost is mean!" Our littlest one screamed. 

As you were in life, so are you in death. And so is old Mrs. Ford, spending her afterlife still spewing hate over something trivial, from as far back as 1973. Who knew?

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