Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Feb 27, 2022

Drake 2022

I never liked my uncle Drake.

He consistently wreaked of marijuana, and there was never a moment when he wasn't stoned or drunk. He didn't work. He had a car and went places, but Uncle Drake didn't have a job. Somehow, Uncle Drake always had the money for the things he needed. Most of it, Drake spent on weed. He had girlfriends; some were fun, serious, and wanted a commitment. Like you know, to get married and everything. But, of course, you'd never see those girls after that. I remember one day asking Uncle Drake, "What happened? You went to the war, you came back, and then, you just get high all day, and when you're not doing that, you're getting drunk. I don't understand?" By right, Uncle Drake could have hauled off and beat my ass, and then my father would beat my ass more for disrespecting his brother. But all Uncle Drake said was, "You don't know your ass from a hole in the wall." I thought I was grown enough to offer a rebuttal, but my uncle Drake whipped his half-filled can of bud-light at my head. "The next one is gonna be my foot up your ass," he croaked. "Fuck off."

And yes, my dad did find out about it, and he beat my ass, deservedly so. But unfortunately, after I was forced to apologize to my uncle Drake, he was too stoned to care by that time. "Your uncle fought in the war, and he's seen and done a lot of things that are having a bad effect on him," my father told me.

"How long is it going to last?" I asked.

"The rest of his life," my dad said. "That weed is the only medication that works; all that other stuff just made him loopy. So, you could stand to be much more kind to your uncle Drake than you have been lately, do you understand?"

"I understand," he nodded. "He just makes me feel creepy, that's all."

"Your uncle would never harm a hair on your head, son," my dad rubbed my shoulders. "Right now, he's drowning in his own guilt, and I don't know if I'll ever get him back. The best I can do is give him his space, but as long as he knows we're here and love him? After that, he should be fine, Drake might come around when he is ready, or he might not. It's all up to him."


A few months later, my parents had to go to town for a business dinner. They weren't too comfortable with those kinds of meetings, but it was necessary to support their company, so they went. That left me in the care of my uncle Drake for the evening until my folks returned home. I completed my chores and homework early, and I was surprised to find my uncle in the kitchen whipping a pot of beef stew with a steaming pot of Jasmine rice on the side. I loved it; it was delicious, and I couldn't help but compliment the chef. Uncle Drake chuckled, reached into the freezer, got out a ten-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, and handed it to me. And then he pulled one for himself before sitting down to enjoy his bowl of stew and Jasmine rice. "This is excellent, Uncle Drake; where did you find this rice?"

"At the Vietnamese market down the street," he replied. "It's pretty good, huh?"

"Yeah," I nodded. "It really makes the stew taste better. I mean, it's already good,"

"No sweat," he chuckled again. "I know what you mean."

"Uncle Drake, I'm sorry about how I acted before; I didn't know what the war did to you," he didn't reply right away. Instead, he kept eating his stew before finally putting his spoon down and looking at me. "After we're done here, we'll sit outside on the porch, and I'll explain a few things to you."

"Ok," I nodded.


Our house in Kapolei faced the undeveloped part of our growing neighborhood. The brown grass was very tall as it moved with the gentle wind that filtered through it. The trees were still green and fruitful beyond that, and then the ocean was not less than a mile away because you could smell the sea salt in the air. Between Uncle Drake and I was a medium-sized table where he placed a bowl of pretzel sticks and another ten-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola. This was magic because I never had more than one drink after dinner. If I peed a whole lot later on, my folks would figure it out, and I'd be busted. My uncle Drake sensed my hesitation because he chuckled yet again. "You only live once." I grabbed the bottle and undid the cap, and a sigh of sinful release fizzed out of it. I took a gulp and let it burn through my system. I followed that with a handful of pretzel sticks until Uncle Drake finally decided that the time was right to speak up.

"The short story is, I stay stoned and drunk most of the time because if I'm sober, they'll show up, and they will kill everything and everyone around me," he was straightforward with no inflection in his voice. "It's because of that that I was on my own and alone for a very long time until your father found me and moved me in." He looked at me for a second and knew I had no idea what he was talking about. So, he told me this. "No matter what happens, don't ever let me be sober." That's all he said. We sat there silently for the rest of the night until my folks got home. My dad came to see me before bedtime, and he asked how everything went. I told him Uncle Drake made the best beef stew I had ever tasted. "Yup," my dad agreed. "Your grandpa taught your uncle and me how to cook, which makes sense." Then I told my dad about what Uncle Drake had said about why he stays stoned and drunk. "Alright," my dad kissed me on my forehead. "Good night, my son. We'll see you in the morning."

An hour later, I was awoken by my dad and Uncle Drake yelling at each other. I could hear my mom intervening, trying to make the two men see reason. It wasn't working. Uncle Drake moved out that night. Later that year, I found out at my uncle's services that he and my dad got into an argument over what Uncle Drake told me about being stoned and about "them" coming to kill everyone and everything if he ever got sober. "Don't you ever drag my son into your shit, do you understand me?!"

"This isn't shit!" Uncle Drake screamed back. "I told you not to bring me here, but you insisted even after I told you everything!

"That's because you were half out of your mind when I found you, Drake! You needed a safe place where you could be with people who love you, you fucking idiot!" My dad countered.

" Mike, you fucking bean head, this is the last place I wanted to be, but seeing you that night after all this time, I went with you against my better judgment because you're my brother, but you know what? I'm going, alright? This is too dangerous." That was the last time I saw Uncle Drake until the day of his services. After he left our house, he moved into a transient motel near the corner of Pi'ikoi and South King. He'd been there for the better half a year until it happened. The building manager said Uncle Drake was a good tenant who kept to himself and bothered no one. However, one late evening, there was a big commotion in my uncle's room: yelling, screaming, broken furniture, and a wild animal growling. The old lady said she couldn't get into the room despite having the spare key. Some other men in the motel tried to help break the door down but to no avail. Finally, when the ruckus was over, the lock undid itself from the inside, and the knob turned, and the portal swung back. The room was a wreck, and there was blood everywhere. In the middle of it was my Uncle Drake's body torn to shreds. The medical examiner said it appeared as if he had been attacked by a giant bear. Aside from the zoo, we know there aren't any bears in Hawai'i.

After Uncle Drake's services, my dad and I were finishing off a plate of fried noodles when he told me about something that Uncle Drake described as the 'Batutu' in Vietnam. It was like ape-like creatures who had supernatural powers. My uncle's unit got turned around in the jungle while on patrol and encountered the creatures. They'd killed most of the men in his unit, with himself and one local boy, Trey Mahelona, as the only survivors. The two managed to kill three of the Batutu and thought that was its end. However, Uncle Drake believed that somehow, they followed them back home through supernatural means. Uncle Drake and Trey discovered that as long as they stayed stoned and inebriated, the Batutu could not manifest and do them harm. My dad said Trey couldn't keep up and decided to devote himself to his family's church. He was found torn asunder a short time later in his home. His wife barely escaped. "I thought my brother had lost his mind from all the medication and drugs he took," my father cried. "I brushed it off, and I thought everything would be alright if he just came home."

Years later, stories about supernatural ape-like creatures have begun to serve on social media from Vietnam veterans and former North Vietnamese soldiers. It's very sobering.

photo credit: exemplore


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