Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Mar 18, 2022

Ulana 'Ehā 2022

"What about the curse I have, grandpa?" I heard myself ask on the digital recorder.

"You heard everything when your father was here yesterday?" My grandpa confirmed more than he asked.

"Yes, I did," it sounded like I could say what I felt in front of grandpa without worrying about getting into trouble.

"Your father doesnʻt know that the woman heʻs been seeing is upset with him because she wants your father to leave your mother and be with her, and your father wonʻt. So he refuses, and to get back at him, she sent this pneumonia as a curse to you to hurt your dad," he sighed. "Do you understand?"

"Yes," I replied. "Is this why Iʻve been sick for so long?"

"Longer than you should have been," my grandpa said. 

"Thatʻs why you were mad at my dad," I said. "Are you still mad at him?"

"Yes, but only for a while," grandpa eased my worry with his soothing tone. "Then soon everything will be fine."

"That woman, is she hurt too because of my dad?"

"Very much," grandpa said. "Right now, sheʻs like Namakaokahaʻi, and your dad is like the young Pele."

"She wants my dad to hurt the way sheʻs hurting," it was all becoming much too clear for a little boy my age. I didnʻt even realize I was crying at that point until I heard myself sniffle. After that, there was a minute of silence. I think my grandpa is hugging me because I can hear him softly saying, "Sshh...sshh.."

"The difference in the story is that your father hasn't burnt anyone's homeland to a crisp, but the raw emotion that this woman is feeling is nearly the same, but she's not trying to commit murder; she's just lashing out," grandpa said.

"Isn't that what Namakaokaha'i is doing? Lashing out?" Did I just hear those words on a digital recorder come out of the miniature boy version of myself?

"By the time young Pele set foot on the island of Maui, she knew that she no longer had any options left. In her heart, she knew that no matter where she traveled, her older sister would be close at hand, always muting out her fires, never allowing her and her family a moment of peace. She had to make a final stand and put an end to everything. Knowing this, her family stood by her, prepared to fight and die if they had to. But Pele would not allow it, "This day belongs to myself and Namakaokaha'i, and none will interfere. Let the battle take its course and be done."

"You see," grandpa looked me in the eye. "Pele shouldered a great responsibility by sailing on Honua-ia-kea across a vast and unfamiliar ocean. She, and she alone, was solely responsible for the lives of her entire family; if anything harm came to them, the fault would be on her shoulders. In that journey, Pele was no longer the irresponsible tempestuous girl with the fiery temper. She'd become as a mother and leader to her kinsman. She would rather fight the battle herself and save everyone else's lives than have them die fighting her war. So, she made her stand at a place near Hana with her otherworldly digging stick, Paoa. Meeting Namakaokaha'i head-on, Pele fought with great ferocity, and the two were evenly matched, trading blow for blow. Still, the advantage went to Namakaokaha'i when the pair of her mighty mo'o appeared and held Pele down. At the same time, the goddess of the ocean struck the fatal blow that killed Pele and took her life. All that was left were her bones, and so that place on Maui is called Ka-iwi-o-Pele, the bones of Pele." There was silence as my grandpa let everything soak in, then he continued.

"But, Pele's family took her bones and gave her the ceremony of ʻunihipili. They deified her and transfigured her into a protective guardian of the fires. She became their ʻaumakua. In full view of Namakaokahaʻi, who gloated over her victory to Peleʻs kinsman, a horrible blast from Hawaiʻi island split the air. There rose a mighty fountain of fire from Kīlauaea, and there appeared Pele. Namakaokahaʻi recoiled at the sight as did her moʻo. The great ocean goddess knew that hers was a shallow victory because, before her, larger than life, was Pele, her younger sister, now the eternal goddess of the volcanic fires. Namakaokahaʻi acknowledged Peleʻs new incarnation and returned to the ocean with her moʻo in tow. Finally, Pele found a home for her family, free of worry and strife. The end." My grandpa concluded.

"My dad has to change, like Pele," I understood why grandpa told me that story.

"He wonʻt die, but yes, like Pele, he has to mature and change for the good of his family," grandpa agreed.

"When will I know if the curse is gone?" I asked him suddenly.

"When youʻre better," he replied. At that point, the recorder went off; that was its end. Yet, in this box are a bunch more digital recorders left with my name on them; I wonder what else is on there? I got better, and the woman who wouldnʻt end up with my dad got really sick, but she recovered after a long illness. We lived with my grandparents until the day they passed away within hours of each other. They went; naturally, they were healthy and mobile and not sick. Grandpa just said, "Well, I think Iʻve done everything there is to do." I like to think that my grandma said something like, "No sense in me hanging around, Iʻll be right with you!" However it transpired, in my heart, I figured that there wasnʻt anyway that one of them was going to be around without the other. I expect to go that way when my time comes. I think itʻs beautiful.


The flaming orb of fire raced across the heavens and caused all the people of Kaʻaʻawa and Kahana to drop to their knees with their hands covering their heads. It was Pele in all her fury. Someone must have done something to raise the ire of the volcano goddess. The great fireball sucked up all the air when it crashed on the ridge overlooking the nearby ocean. The people gasped for air but only momentarily. Pele had become so caught up with her duties and responsibility to her kinsman that sheʻd forgotten about her precious pet dog. So, she kept her promise and returned to bring him home with her, arriving in the very guise in which the animal would know her. Indeed, he had waited faithfully for her return, but the time had been long, centuries had passed. Her precious dog had turned to stone. Observing protocol, the Kaʻaʻawa people approached her while adapting a low stance and said, "For so long this mighty animal waited, refusing food and water, but constantly gazing toward the heaves with red glowing eyes. None of us were aware of his name and so we called him 'Kauhi-i-maka-o-nālani,' the red-eyed one gazing toward the heavens."

"How now, you people of Kaʻaʻawa? You who have no blood tie to this dog of mine, and yet you made efforts to feed him and bare him water? What aloha is here for this malihini that you do not know? So the name will be in remembrance of my fault in leaving him here for so long." With that, Pele embraced her pet now frozen in a stone tableau and wept mournfully. It was a rare thing to behold, the dreaded mother of all fires in the island chain expressing grief for a pet that she'd forgotten about. The natives in the area wept as well, seeing that Pele in her incarnation as a goddess was more vulnerable and more human than she had ever been.


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