Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jun 13, 2022

Leimaliko 2022

Hoʻoleiʻupena is the act of casting out the fishing net as you would a lei around the shoulders of a beloved person.

This was my father; this was his sweet spot, his way to cleanse himself of the work day or figure out a problem that troubled his mind. My mama knew this and never bothered him because she knew that everything else that needed to be done would get done once he was done net fishing. Once in a great a while, he would allow me to go with him, but I had to sit quietly and not speak. I could only observe while eating my slices of raw fish and poi. He could have been a dancer if he wanted to, with how his body prepared for the net throwing while the net itself lay over his shoulder. His muscles were like steel cables as they rippled like waves in a pond while his whole form threw the net, not just his arms. It was poetry. He was a pillar of strength my father and powerful but gentle and understanding when it came to my mother. . It might have been rare for those times, but he never raised a hand to her, neither did he raise his voice. They genuinely communicated and truly loved one another. Finally, one afternoon, my father came home exhausted. It had been a long day, and he just got off a thirty-six-hour shift. The next day was Saturday, so my mama encouraged him to rest for the evening so that he could be fully refreshed the next day to throw out his net. This is where my parents would have mild disagreements because of how stubborn my father could be. He insisted on going, and my mother insisted that he stay home, and then no more was said. He gathered his net and walked down to the water, I followed him, but he shooed me home, telling me that it was too late in the evening for me to go along. 

"Go home and stay with your mama," he insisted. 

Returning home, my mama scolded me for not going with my father, but when I explained to her what he had told me earlier, her face scrunched up with anger, and she put on the windbreaker jacket that belonged to my father, got out one of his spare flashlights and pulled me out the door. I led the way to where my father usually threw out his net, but he was not there. So we spent the next hour or so walking up and down the rocks looking for him, with my mama calling out his name the whole way. 

"Maliko! Maliko!" My mama had such a beautiful womanly voice that it was now disconcerting to hear her yelling and screaming for my father. "Maliko! Maliko!"

Soon, the batteries in the flashlight were wearing out, and the light began to dim. So my mama made me stay right where I was while she returned home to put fresh batteries in the light. "Do not move from this spot in case you see your father, do you understand?"

"Yes, mama," I replied.

"Iʻll be right back," I promised.

My father never showed up, and my mother never came back. I fell asleep right where I was until the heat of the rising sun woke me up. I dusted the sand off and returned home to find all the neighbors in our house, along with the police. They all sat around my mama, asking her questions as best they could, but she was too grief-stricken. I ran into her arms, and we both cried together as she gathered enough strength to tell me that the neighbors came across a body on the beach a mile down. It was not my father, but that only caused my mother more worry and concern. In the end, he was never found, not a trace. My mama never stopped looking for him up until the day that she, too, passed into the realm of our ancestors. While the light began to fade from her eyes, she charged me to never stop searching for him, that he was out there somewhere. It is years and years later, and I am working in portfolios and investments. When I was thirty, I bought our old house in Makaha and converted it into a summer home for ʻohana, friends, and guests. I am there on weekends when no one has reserved it for any use. Presently, I am at the age that my father was on the night of his disappearance, fifty-nine, but with no wife and no children to speak of. There was never any time for it as I was coming up in the business.

Do I have regrets over it? Yes, but I have also accepted that perhaps this was my fate? Or, it could be that somewhere deep down, I became concerned about a jinx that I would pass on to my wife or child if I had one, a kind of jinx or worry that I, too one night, would disappear while doing my favorite thing. I have had that thought all my life, but tonight it seemed to bother me enough that I had to take a walk along the beach and then the rocky shore. Of course, I knew the place like the back of my hand with a flashlight, but I wasnʻt foolish to walk in the pitched black. I was out there for an hour, lost in my thoughts until I decided to head back in. I finished up some writing and called it a night. I can tell you honestly that I was in a dead sleep when I sat up in bed and parted the window curtains for no reason, looking out toward the rocks. Under the full moon's light, he was silhouetted like something out of an old Hollywood movie. I jumped out of bed, burst open the back doors, and ran barefoot to the rocks, keeping his form in my sight the whole way. It was him; there was no mistake about it.

"Papa," I said more as a statement to myself, to verify or acknowledge that I was not dreaming.

"Tsa, you!" He hissed. "I told you, hāmau leo, so the fish do not run away! So go sit over there and eat your fish and poi!" He pointed behind me.

"Papa, how are you here? Where did you go? Mama looked for you for all those years, and myself too, but we never found you," the tears would come soon, but right now, I was shocked. He looked the same way he did all those years before we lost him. 

"What do you mean? I have been here the whole time," he silently insisted. "I never left; what is wrong with you?"

He must have noticed the look on my face because his countenance changed, he stood upright, and his expression became warm, almost nurturing. "What is hoʻoleiʻupena? What does it mean?"

"You always said that it was a nicer way of saying, throw net," I replied.

"Right, because sometimes kiloi can also mean to discard something as if it is ʻōpala, that is why we donʻt say throw net," he confirmed. "But what else? Why is it hoʻoleiʻupena?"

"Because when the net is cast out, we think of it as an adornment, like a lei," I answered.

"I am now at Kānehūnāmotu, the realm of our ancestors," he began. "Your mama is there also, waiting for me to return. She asked me to come here tonight to say these words to you. Do not worry about how I died, my son, but remember how I lived and what you and I and your mama meant to one another. That is what is most important."

Now, the tears came, and I could not control them. I, a fifty-nine-year-old man, sobbed like a child. Finally, my father and his last words went like this, "Now you understand, and so I cast out my net as a lei for the last time."

He took a step back, and with his hoʻoleiʻupena, he cast and spread it out above me until it lay over my body and sent me back to sleep until I awoke the next day, rested and refreshed. That was the lei of aloha from my father and my mama until I would see them again at Kānehūnāmotu. 





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17A Productions Presents

Lopaka Kapanui at Hawaii Theatre
LOPAKA KAPANUI - CHICKEN SKIN GHOST STORIES

A LIVE and IN-PERSON storytelling concert at the historic Hawaii Theatre. This master storyteller is one of Hawaii's most popular teller of tales and has been in the business of scaring people for more than 20 years. Lopaka is terrifically skilled at provoking that sudden chill going down one's back or causing the small hairs on your arms to stand up. Chicken skin is what we call it in Hawai'i. Others might refer to it as chills or goosebumps. Sharing real accounts of Hawaii's supernatural culture, Lopaka often leaves audience members questioning the darkness on their drive home and anxiously leaving the light on at bedtime.

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