Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Apr 5, 2022

ʻĪkoi Hā 2022

"I cannot count the noodles," ʻĪkoi lamented. "It slippahree,"

"Stick to counting french fries; just eat the noodles for now," I told him.

"My ʻōpū was really sore," he slurped the noodles off his fork. "Now itʻs all happy."

"How do you take a shower and go to the bathroom?" I asked him while filling his water cup and handing it to him. I glanced over at Mrs. Seng, who watched her little portable TV behind the counter. It previously belonged to her late husband. The two of them would watch the news together every evening after closing. There was a lot of sentimental value there.

"In the park bathroom, I make shishi and doo-doo, and then my mama uses the water hose from the faucet," he said. "And then I go with my mama to the salamation army to get my clothes and shoes and Kah-slippahs," he went back to his bowl of noodles and completed the whole bowl in no time. I ordered him a small bag of french fries before we left. We walked back to the office, and I couldn't help but notice the bliss in which 'Īkoi was caught up. He counted each french fry and joyously ate them with an infectious giggle. Until we walked up the door where Kealoha now stood, ʻĪkoi could not have been happier. Once Kealoha pushed the door open that led into where the birdcage elevator waited for us, ʻĪkoi came to a dead stop and would go no further. He looked up at Kealoha and then at me; he suddenly recoiled and hissed like a cat defending its catnip. He was covered in perspiration, and his hair was matted to his forehead. Deep dark circles formed under his eyes, and his teeth were sharp fangs dripping with rivulets of saliva. 

"Boss," Kealoha whispered to me. "I can't hear anything. I can see and feel everything, but there's only silence but no sound!"

With no indication of what I would do, I grabbed 'Īkoi by the scruff of his shirt and tossed him through the door and toward the birdcage elevator. He evaporated from head to toe until nothing was left except his few uneaten french fries. Then, finally, Kealoha could hear again, and he was in shock. "What happened, boss? What was that small boy supposed to be?"

"I wasn't sure until my lunch break," I replied. "That was a lapu, a hungry, wandering ghost pretending to be a little boy."

"Why was he here?"

"He was originally attached to the two soldiers from Schofield barracks, but somehow, he latched on to me after I met with them," I replied. "Today, while Mrs. Seng was watching her portable TV at the noodle shop, I glanced over and saw something about the body of a six-year-old boy being found in the stadium park restroom. Apparently, he'd been dead for a while, but no one knew the body was there because so many homeless people were living in the bathroom. Of course, no one thought anything about the foul odor since it was a bathroom. His name was Chase Keolu; his mother and her new boyfriend were homeless and living in a car on Isenburg. The boyfriend killed Chase and hid his body among the belongings of the homeless."

"So the lapu that was already following you took on the likeness of that boy?" Kealoha asked.

"Something like that," I replied. 

"Was it trying to kill you, boss?" My monstrous doorman and bodyguard were very concerned.

"Once you feed a hungry ghost, you have to keep feeding it; otherwise, it will feed on you," I said. "So, when I wasn't feeding it, it was feeding on that family at Schofield barracks."

"It's not my place to say boss, but it doesn't explain why you wouldn't help those people?" Kealoha was cautious.

"When people screw up really badly, they tend to offer a band-aid apology. That tells you they don't mean it, that they just want the problem they caused to be ignored and go away until they screw up again. Those two guys need to suffer through this so that they truly know what being sorry is all about. Then, they can tell their other friends on base about what they did and what happened to them so that the word gets out that you can't screw around in places like Pu'uomahuka and other sacred sites. There are things in our culture that have no room for gray matter; it's one hundred percent one way or the other," I said. "We'll be hearing from them very soon."


That hungry ghost called himself ʻĪkoi because that is what he was, like a fishnet or buoy floating about. He was part of that heiau for centuries. His hunger became excited when Corliss stabbed himself in the love handles and began bleeding out. That blood gave him a taste of what was supposed to have been a whole meal. That hungry ghost followed Corliss and Steerforth home. Then, as punishment for their sacrilegious act, it fed upon their wives and children, and it wasnʻt going to stop until it was satiated from their demise. I believe it followed me because of a sense of ancestral familiarity. I am part of a long, endless tradition of kahuna, especially the kind that lived in heiau, like Puʻuomahuka. There was a kind of recognition there for it. It was diabolical in that it knew how to talk to me and how to innocently gain my sympathy by using the memories of the body it possessed. I would never have known if it had not been for Mrs. Seng's portable TV. The one place where a hungry ghost cannot enter is a consecrated sanctuary or a pu'uhonua. My office is such a place. My uncles Ivan and Tiny blessed it when they first moved into the building. So, why am I sad at having to have expiated that hungry ghost? It was what had to be done; you can't let a hungry ghost linger because it will continue to harm people. So, why am I bothered? I suppose I saw 'Īkoi as a possibility of what I constantly desired but could never talk about. 

A son.  

To raise, to teach, to spoil, to love unconditionally. But simultaneously, the thought was bittersweet because my parents were no longer here to see their mo'opuna, hold him in their arms and give him the world. But with what I do for a living, there is always a constant fear of my loved ones being hurt, and I have to protect them because of that fear. That same fear makes me hesitate to love someone and start a family. The hungry ghost knew that, and it was methodically using that knowledge to its advantage.


The family from Schofield met me at six in the morning in front of the Shriner's beach home, where I cleansed and blessed them in the ocean as the sun rose in the east. After, we went to Pu'uomahuka, where we had a kind of ho'oponopono where sincere apologies were made, and the proper offerings were given by Corliss and Steerforth to acknowledge their fault. Life went back to normal for them in that the ordeal they endured helped sober their ignorance of not only our culture but any culture that was not their own. Things were peaceful at the office, and cases came and went, but one day, Aunty Rita made a remark while we enjoyed lunch at Uncle Tiny's house. "You're a hardass just like your mother, Hanson,"

"I told him before his father, Kahi, was the muscle, but his mother was the one who pulled the trigger," Tiny added.

"Now, c'mon, Kahi was ruthless too when it came to Lua; we all know that," Ivan contributed his opinion to make things even.

"I'm my mother and father, and all of you combined," I replied while placing a few more scoops of the steamed pork laulau on my plate.

"While we're on the subject," Aunty Rita looked at me. "What about Keiki? The three of us would like to spoil your children while we are still alive,"

"Yeah," Tiny nodded. "Time to find a nice girl, have Keiki, settle down, you know? None of us getting any younger."

"It would be nice to fill the walls of this building with the sound of screaming and laughing Keiki running around, right?" Ivan looked at all of us. 

"It's enough of a headache keeping the three of you from trying to kill each other," I chuckled. I knew my uncles and aunty meant well, and I loved them for it. I would love it too, but I am afraid of loving someone too much because every time I do, they get taken away. They die, and I can't risk that. I can't.


credit: Twitter



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