Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Nov 30, 2022

Nailed 2022

Naturally, they thought she was helpless and stupid because she was a woman wandering the aisles of the hardware superstore.

Nov 29, 2022

Lepo'ula 2022

Rust-colored dirt beneath my feet interspersed with flakey salt deposits.

Nov 27, 2022

Coffee 2022

Every morning she'd sit there with a hot cup of coffee she would never drink, a breakfast she would only half finish, and a magazine she'd stare at without reading.

Nov 26, 2022

New Punk 2022

 The little cracked seed store in Ala Moana was never for a moment dull.

Nov 24, 2022

Kūkulu 2022

Men who work paving roads, filling in potholes, and other such labor have told me that they hate working late at night in the rural areas of ʻOʻahu. The vibe gets really creepy, really fast. They told me that one night they were filling in potholes on Kaukonahua road as it goes up to the egg farm. No one noticed the absent traffic and how quiet it was save for the sound of their equipment and the scraping of shovels. The men said they would never have seen it if one of them had not paused to remove his helmet to wipe the sweat from his forehead. In hindsight, they felt that it was better if they stayed comfortably numb. It was a massive army of Hawaiian warriors, and they, the road crew, were in the middle of it. It was not night marchers because not one of the ancient soldiers held a torch. It was a sea of them, and they filled the entire area. The foreman shut down all the machinery while simultaneously hissing at his crew to stop and remain quiet. The whole army took one collective step forward, making a deafening thud that shook the road crew to their core. A second step and the men gathered large monkey wrenches in their hands, shovels, and anything else that could serve as a weapon. There was no third step from the ancient army; instead, they released a horrific war cry and surged toward the road crew in full force. Knowing there was no hope in living through what was about to transpire, each road crew gave the other a nod, making an unspoken pact that they would fight to the last man. But no harm came to the skin of any of the men; the phantom army faded into a smokey mist, their battle cries echoing into the distant air. Then, they were gone. 

"True story, uncle," the foreman said. "We all seen ʻum,"

Credit: Jai Masson

Nov 23, 2022

Manawa iki 2022

 It was humid, and I was rushing to get to my car, turn the a/c on and just sit there for a couple of minutes before heading to the drive-thru.

Nov 22, 2022

Trouble 2022

One never expects trouble even though trouble could be lurking about, waiting for an opportunity to make itself known and presentable when you least expect it.

Nov 19, 2022

1977 2022

There weren't too many places in Waipahu to park late at night and enjoy a dinner plate from Graces Inn with a jumbo-sized drink to wash down your mixed plate of shoyu chicken, Terri-beef, cone sushi, fried noodles, and corned beef hash.

Nov 17, 2022

Again 2022


Because of my uncle Thomas, my parents could buy the family station wagon at a good price. He owned a local car dealership and gave my dad a good deal; it goes without saying that uncle Thomas didn't make a huge commission on the sale, but after all, he was my dad's younger brother. It was just something you did back then. Uncle Thomas was always well dressed but in a Peter Fonda kind of way; he was cool, that's for sure. One evening my dad decided to take everyone out for a Chinese dinner in town, and he invited uncle Thomas to come along. I got to ride in his 1971 Mustang Mach 1, which was one of the big thrills of my childhood. We listened to Santana on his brand new 8-track cassette player while we drove to our destination. Once the album completed itself, he lowered the volume and asked, "So, what will you be when you get bigger?"

“I don’t know, maybe a fireman or drive a stock car,” I replied

“Dad takes you to the stock car races all the time, yeah?” Uncle Thomas confirmed more than asked.

“Yes,” I nodded. “It’s fun.”

“What kind of girl you gonna marry?” He proceeded to go down the list. “Hawaiian? Popolo? Japanese? Podagee? What kind?”

“I like Aunty Ruby; I might marry her,” I said thoughtfully.

“You probably could,” he said seriously. “She’s just your calabash Aunty, not your real aunty. By the time you’re my age, she’ll be too old to marry.”

Not blinking an eye, I replied, “She said she’d wait for me, so she’ll only start getting old once I’m your age.”

Uncle Thomas laughed so hard that he started coughing. I thought I’d said something wrong. When he finally recovered, he looked at me and giggled, “My man, you’re a funny little brother.”


As I mentioned previously, uncle Thomas was my father’s younger brother, they were as close as two brothers could be, but I could always sense an underlying tension between the two. I was never sure what it was until my older brother Val started hanging out with Uncle Thomas a lot more. He was starting to get in trouble for a bunch of things aside from the regular juvenile behavior. Val would be forced into the military later on because it was the only thing that would save his life. It also prevented Uncle Thomas from killing him. I digressed a little from my point; Val was getting into more trouble than he was worth, at least that’s what my father said. Besides, when Val got into trouble, he wouldn’t come home because he was more afraid of the beating he would get at my father's hands than being arrested. Mind you, this was the late 60s or early 70s, so you’d pay with your ass for the stupidity you enacted.

Val was stupid a lot.

Dad called Uncle Thomas one day and asked him if he would hire Val at his job and take him under his wing a bit. Uncle Thomas agreed, and after that, my brother came home at a decent hour, woke up early, and came down to the breakfast to eat with us. He pleasantly discussed his job with our father and kissed and thanked our mother for breakfast before he left for work. A month later, Val came home with a girl named Vanessa. He had her sit in the living room and introduced her to my mom and dad. I could only sit by and watch. I was not allowed to talk. She was beautiful but in a sweet way, and my parents loved her because when it came time for dinner, she asked my mother if she needed help. Mom really liked that, and they got to talk and know one another. In the meantime, Val and dad talked about his job. The funny thing about that discussion is that although Val talked to Dad about what he did at work, I still didn’t know exactly what it was that Val did. After all that, my father then asked Val, “How in the hell did you get that girl, Val? She’s beautiful!”

“Uncle Thomas introduced us,” Val nodded toward the kitchen. “Don’t tell mom, but she’s twenty-two.”

Dad’s face fell to the floor, and he slapped Val on the shoulder and whispered harshly to my older brother, “You are a dog!”

It was the first time in a long time that I saw my older brother and my father laughing and talking together like that. It was nice to see, and it made me laugh and smile. That’s when they looked at me and shook their fists, “You better keep your mouth shut!”

The evening was successful for Val, and after the goodbyes and thank yous, Val left to drive Vanessa home. Mom and Dad were pleased, and it seemed that Val had turned around his wayward habits thanks to Uncle Thomas. After dad helped mom clean up in the kitchen, he got a beer from the fridge and picked up the phone.

“Eh, Tommy.....thanks for helping with Val. He’s doing good; we’re proud of him,” Dad got kind of emotional right then, and I could just hear Uncle Thomas on the other end of the phone, “It’s okay, brah, no worry.”


It was a day when mom and dad were out shopping. It was Val’s day off, and he was upstairs in his bedroom with Vanessa. I was downstairs in my room playing with my brand-new hot wheels. Just then, Uncle Thomas pulled up in the driveway in his 72 Camaro, it was a deep purple color, and he let it rumble a bit before he finally cut the engine and walked into the house. I peeked out of my room and saw him head upstairs, “Hi, Uncle Thomas!” I waved.

He looked at me without missing a step, “Is your brother home?”

“Yes, uncle, he’s upstairs,” I pointed. Uncle Thomas winked at me, and pretty soon, I heard a scream. It was Vanessa, she came running down the stairs with only her skirt on. In her arms, she carried her sandals and her top. She was hysterical and crying, she had the keys to Val’s car in her hands, and she jumped in it and drove off down our graveled driveway. A few seconds after that, Val came walking down the stairs with Uncle Thomas behind him. He had a gun pointed at the back of my brother’s head.

“Stay in your room, Junior, don’t come out,” Val said calmly.

“Val and I are playing Cowboy and Indian; he’s my prisoner today. I’ll bring him back later,” Uncle Thomas winked, and he and Val walked out the door. As they headed to uncle Thomas’s car, my mom and dad drove up. My dad was mad, and he and Uncle Thomas got into a fight. Val and mom stayed out of it. Uncle Thomas was mad at Val because he stole a kilo of what Uncle Thomas called ‘his stash.’ It was worth a lot of money; I heard my dad ask Uncle Thomas how much it was worth? Whatever amount Uncle Thomas said it was, my dad drove to the bank, withdrew that exact sum, and gave it to Uncle Thomas. After that, dad told him that they were no longer brothers. Uncle Thomas left, and we never saw him again until the day of my dad’s funeral many years later. However, at that moment, Val got smug and said, “That’ll show him, right, Dad?”

Wrong; my dad told Val that even though he paid Uncle Thomas off for what Val stole, he was still a target. If Uncle Thomas didn’t get him now, he’d get some time sooner or later. That’s when my dad beat the holy hell out of Val. The next day he took Val down to the army recruiter's office and made him sign up for the military. My brother had no choice. Dad told him that it would be years before he could ever come back home. Dad was right, and Val was another one that we would never see again until dad passed away. Even then, Val could only express his sympathies via Skype. If you haven’t already figured it out, my Uncle Thomas was a gangster whose car dealership was a front. Val was one of his runners who eventually became one of Uncle Thomas’ best earners. However, greed got the best of Val, and he figured that no one would miss just one Kilo.

He was wrong.

Vanessa came to stay with us until Val completed boot camp; dad got her a secretarial position at the warehouse where he worked at. Dad had to be at work at 5:30 in the morning, but Vanessa didn’t start until 8:00 am. Luckily she had Val’s car to drive around with; that was also another matter that dad had to settle with uncle Thomas. No harm was to come to Vanessa. Otherwise, dad promised there’d be trouble for him. Vanessa’s family lived in Maui; she worked a full-time job and lived on her own until things blew up between my brother and uncle. That’s when mom insisted that she live with us for a while.


My dad was eighty-three years old when he passed away this year. He had no health issues of any kind; he just passed in his sleep one night with my mother fast asleep beside him. The next day, he never woke up. He died of natural causes, whatever that’s supposed to be, but at least he didn’t suffer. The services were simple; it was held at his favorite beach house at Naue on the island of Kauai. Dad didn’t want anything religious; he just wanted the people he loved to gather as one while the sun set in the west. Once that was done, he wanted his ashes scattered in the ocean. It was a stunning orange and purple sunset, and I had the opportunity to tell my children and grandchildren about the kind of man my father was. While I looked back at the beach house, I saw an elderly man hobbling toward us in a bright blue buttoned-down shirt with blue slacks and shined-up shoes. He had a full head of white hair that was combed back and weighed down with mousse. It was uncle Thomas. I walked over to him and gave him a great big hug, and he hugged me right back. He was four years younger than my dad, so that would make him out to be seventy-nine.

“You’re still alive? That means you must be out of the life?” I beamed at my childhood hero, and I was amazed at how much he looked like my father.

“I’m barely alive and almost out of life,” he chuckled. “Look at you,” he patted my cheek with his old withered palm. “You’re a grown man with a wife and a big family. I’m proud of you, Junior; you did well for yourself.”

“Yeah,” I nodded. “I can’t argue with you on that one.”

Right about then, my kids and grandkids walked up, and I introduced them to uncle Thomas. I made sure that they didn’t overwhelm him too much. After, I had him come to sit with me on a couple of chairs where we could talk and catch up. I asked him if he wanted some water to drink or some juice, but he asked for a beer. “Are you supposed to be drinking beer at your age, uncle Thomas?”

He waved me off and shook his head, “I lived this long because I’m a sipper, not a drinker. Drinkers don’t last for the long haul. Sippers take it slow; that way, they have time to appreciate the finer things in life.”

I returned with two beers and handed him an already-opened bottle, “Your mother called me all the time and kept me up to date with what was going on with your father.”

“Is that how you found out about today?” I asked very curiously.

“And other things,” he nodded to one side. “There were so many times I wanted to come and say how sorry I was, but your father is stubborn, so I kept my distance all these years.”

“Dad knew you were keeping tabs,” I told him. “He didn’t say anything about it, but he knew.”

“So much could have been solved if he’d have just let me apologize,” uncle Thomas shook his head. He leaned across the arm of his chair and asked, “I haven’t seen your brother. Is he here?”

“You know he’s not here, uncle Thomas,” I looked him in the eye, so he understood that I knew. He took a sip of his beer, and after placing it on the arm of the chair, he reached his arm over to me, “Help me up, Junior; I have to get going.”

I walked him out to the road, where a black limo was parked. Two men were standing in front of it while one sat in the driver's seat with the window rolled down. “Dad was right; he said you’d never let it go, and it's been what? Forty-six years?”

Uncle Thomas turned around, gazed at the beach house, and then looked up at me, “This could have been my life, being an uncle to you and Val and your father’s brother and your mom’s brother-in-law. I could have been here today with a family of my own just like yours, but I was too greedy, and by the time I wanted out, it was too late. I wasn’t mad at your brother so much because of the drugs he stole from me; I was madder because of Vanessa.”

“Vanessa? Why? Was she your girlfriend or something? I remember Val saying to my parents that you were the one who introduced them?” If she wasn’t your girlfriend, then what was the big deal?

“She was one of my office girls at the dealership, and the introduction was casual because I was showing Val around the place and introduced him to everyone,” uncle Thomas began. He made it a point to speak slowly and purposefully. “I never thought that they’d get together.”

“I don’t understand?” I told uncle Thomas. “What was the big deal?”

“Vanessa was my illegitimate daughter I’d had with a woman years ago; I was really young. When Vanessa’s mother discovered she was working at my dealership, she called me one day and told me who Vanessa was. By the time I had to guts to go talk to her, I was hit with a double whammy, Val stole a kilo of my drugs, and he was dating his first cousin.” The old man’s face began to turn red as tears and snot dripping down his nose. He quickly removed a handkerchief and cleaned himself up. “The damage was already done; anyway, I never told your parents,” he gave me one last hug and hobbled his way across the road into his waiting limo but not before he turned back and looked at me, “Tell your mother I was here…..I didn’t want to bother her and bring up all this stuff, you see ?” He nodded to himself and got into the vehicle. The two other men got in with him, and the vehicle drove off.

I mean, Uncle Thomas wasn't as lucky as my father in how his life ended. My father went the way he wanted to go, but uncle Thomas was run over and killed by a man who was paying attention to his text message while driving at the same time. He never saw my uncle in the crosswalk. There's one saying that goes you can't help who your family is. There's another saying that says you never really know who it is you're related to. I always say that it's important to keep your family close but to never go into business with them if you want to remain family.

Nov 16, 2022

Iwakaluakumaha 2022

On the 24th, Barry Kalaluhi waited in the small church in the warehouse district in Kalihi.

Nov 15, 2022

Kalina 2022

Empty space without even a residual echo of all the glory, life, heartache, and sadness imprinted into the very fibers of the floor, the twisted mesh of the screened windows, and the sturdy wooden pillars and beams.

Nov 14, 2022

Uncertain 2022

 She was the strongest person we knew; she held the ʻohana together after our father passed away.

Nov 13, 2022

Homeful 2022

Having these last few beers on the most beautiful day I've seen in a while was not easy.

Nov 12, 2022

Paʻakai 2022

My old neighbor was a Hawaiian mother who advocated using natural salt from the sea, for blessings, to salt meat, and for regular table salt.

Nov 11, 2022

Free Me 2022

 ...continued from yesterday

Between us were the kitchen counter and the rack of knives.

Nov 10, 2022

Free More 2022

...continued from yesterday 

I had no choice but to return home. 

No matter where I ran, I realized that it, or Merla, would follow me, whether it was a hallucination or real. It was embedded into my consciousness and wasn't going to let up. Straight from the airport to the house in Hawaii Kai, I went. Merla's parents were waiting out front; the two looked like living corpses. "Go!" I shouted to them while pointing to their car. "Go!" They got into their Lexus, reversed out of the driveway, and headed straight toward me. I got out of the way just in time. They went for me again, their faces twisted with madness and ill intent. I jumped out of the way the second time as the car plowed into the concrete wall, which separated their property from the main road.

The car shot into reverse; by that time, I was already in my own car, speeding out of the long driveway toward Kalaniana'ole, hoping that no oncoming traffic would make me pause at the exit. In mere seconds I screeched out to the main road with the Lexus missing me by inches as it shot out to the four-lane highway. Merla's parents were T-boned by an oncoming delivery truck. The two were severely injured but very much alive. When the police and the EMT arrived, I explained the whole situation as best I could, leaving out the whole exorcism thing and Merla running around like a Great Dane chasing me along Kalaniana'ole and all the way to Las Vegas, where in her demon form she bit a robbers head in half. No, I couldn't tell them that at all. When it was all over, and I finally made it back to my place, I threw my bags on the floor at my front door and laid the keys on the end table. Making my way to the kitchen for a drink, I stopped dead in my tracks as soon as I heard it.

"Welcome home," I jumped and screamed and grabbed a kitchen knife from the counter. It was Merla standing there on the other side of the microwave. be continued

Credit: Vista Create

Nov 9, 2022

Free Again 2022

 ...continued from yesterday


Admittedly, it shook the core of everything I thought I was up until I met Merla in her dog and human incarnation.

Nov 8, 2022

Free 2022


There's something to be said about how the Las Vegas machine has everything big, bright, and in your face.

Maha'oi 2022

 “ I don’t even know if get fish in Manoa falls; I was the only one here this morning right at sunrise. Since nobody was around, I figured I could take my clothes off quickly and stand under the falls. It was so cold but was really refreshing and invigorating, kinda wakes you up. After I was done and I went to get my clothes, he was standing there with his tackle box and fishing pole. I think he stepped on my clothes accidentally, which is maybe why he was looking down at them. I figured, why cover up, right? He could see me already so I asked him if he could give me my clothes? He did, of course, but he was really a shame, you could tell. He said sorry, and he gave me my clothes, and I left. I never saw him after that.” The Hawaiian woman said.

“You say you never saw him after that, and yet you’re the one who found his body,” the detective asked. “That’s conflicting information.”

“I said he gave me my clothes but not my shoes; I came back to get my shoes,” the Hawaiian woman replied.

“So, you walked off naked, holding on to your clothes, and obviously, you’re barefoot; when did you notice that your shoes were missing?” The detective was pressing now.

 The Hawaiian woman gave the detective her best resting bitch face, “When I found a place where I could put my clothes on,”

“You just said earlier that you didn’t attempt to hide that you were standing there with no clothes on because the victim had just seen you naked. I mean, since you were so casual about the whole thing, why didn’t you just get dressed in front of him?” The detective was nearly shouting his inquiry. The Hawaiian woman removed her shirt and shorts and stepped out of her shoes. The detective was taken aback at how charming she was. Her face was already perfect, but her body was the complete punctuation that brought the sentence to life.

“Because, fuck you, that’s why,” she replied.

She surprised the two-hundred-and-forty-pound detective by picking him up over her head and tossing him into the pond. She dove in right after him and disappeared under the dark waters. It wasn’t until later that morning when Josh Kreager and his family, who were visiting from a small town in Iowa, came across the bodies of the fisherman and the detective floating in the pond. Both would be found fully clothed with car keys, wallets, and cell phones in their pockets. Their lips were swollen over black; their eyes were wide open, and there appeared to be some thick black liquid dripping from their mouths. Under their fingernails was dull dark moss; their shoes were gone, but deep, bruised finger marks were just around the bottom of their ankles.

It was the Kreager family’s first day in the land of aloha, and they spent the first twenty minutes of it screaming in horror.

Nov 6, 2022

Five 2022

Can animals become ghosts or spirits after their body no longer lives?

Nov 5, 2022

Four 2022

 We encounter spirits all the time, not like how we see them in the movies but in real life.

Nov 4, 2022

Three 2022

One does not have to be alone to have an otherworldly experience. For example, consider the weekend group staying in the cabins at Palehua. They were all very close friends since grade school. They thought a weekend of roughing it might be a good, fun experience. It wasn't long before the novelty wore off. It stemmed from one of the girlfriends in the group complaining about being groped by one of the husbands. The distention germinated from there until everyone was at each other's throats. Before things got worse, one of the wives calmed everyone down and asked for the accusing girlfriend to verify her story, except there never was an accusing girlfriend. If this was true, then who started the trouble? No one knew because no one remembers that person.

Nov 3, 2022

Nov 2, 2022

One 2022

 The first time I saw a spirit, I became immediately nauseous after the experience.

Nov 1, 2022

Six 2022

I lurk around old memories, old feelings, and the nostalgia of peaking during high school and never being able to live beyond it.

#106 2022

 My life is like swimming in the shallow end of a pool, where I was too afraid to venture anywhere profound because I’d gotten used to the life that I was told I was supposed to have.