Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 24, 2022

Tiny 2022

 Chooky's was Tiny's safe place when his PTSD came on.

Chooky understood the situation because her late father and uncles were war veterans. So if she didn't see Tiny up front at the counter, she knew he was there by the order he placed. Five royal Teri-cheeseburgers, five french fries, and a mini-tub of cherry coca-cola. Today was one of those days, except today, Tiny had company. It was a younger Hawaiian man in a coat and tie. He was very handsome but had an intensity about him. He ordered the same burgers and fries as Tiny but got a mini-tub of peach iced tea. Chooky personally brought everything out to the two gentlemen. It wasn't until she put the food down in front of Boy did she finally recognize him. 

"Hanson Nāpualawa, is that you?" The two embraced, and Chooky stood back and gave Boy the once over. "I neva even recognize you! You are all grown up and so handsome in your suit!"

"Thank you, aunty Chooky; you're too kind," Boy bowed slightly.

"So, what're you doing here with this grouchy old man?" Chooky slapped Tiny and the shoulder and let out a big laugh.

"He's my nephew," Tiny said with a mouthful of fries. "He's keeping me company today."

"Ah, I see," Chooky nodded. "Whatever happened to your cousin, da one named aftah, the volcano on the big island?"

"Oh, you mean Buddy? He passed away a few years back. Bad indigestion; he was found dead in his car at Zippy's," Boy said.

"Oh, too bad for him; he had such a bad temper," Chooky contemplated. "Anyway, you folks enjoy your meal; I gotta get back in there and crack the whip before they get lazy,"


"Uncle Ivan says you come here because of what happened in Vietnam?" Boy asked.

"What happened in Vietnam, happened in Vietnam," Tiny replied as he took a big swig from his mini-tub of cola. "Then, sometimes, Vietnam happens long after it's over. Like this morning, I don't know why but just the way the water sounded in the office bathroom when I turned it on. It triggered something I neva thought about for a long time,"

"You don't have to talk about it if it makes you uncomfortable, uncle Tiny; I'm sorry for asking. I wasn't trying to make it worse," Boy apologized.

"It would've come out one way or another," Tiny said while dipping his fries in a pile of ketchup sitting on his burger wrapper. "No need to be sorry. It was a random thing; we were in country, and I can't recall where, but we were crossing a stream, and the sound of the running water was exactly the same as the office bathroom faucet. That's what triggered everything, so here I am. Good thing you were in the office; I needed the company today."

"Uncle Ivan says the two of you enlisted together on the same day?" Boy was curious to hear the whole story.

"You know your uncle Ivan hah? He tends to tell less than half the story all the time," Tiny began. "He stopped by my place one day to take me out for a last drink because he was on his way to sign up for the war. I went with him, and we enlisted same time,"

"I didn't realize you were so patriotic," Boy said.

"I wasn't," Tiny replied. "I just needed to get away from home, go do something else in a different place. Otherwise, I was gonna end up going nuts."

"How come?" Boy was curious but not at all trying to pry.

"I can't talk about how come," Tiny said while inhaling his last burger and handful of fries. "Let's just enjoy our food, okay?"

"Of course, no problem," Boy agreed. "Chooky knows how to make a good teri-cheeseburger though, I'll say that."

"You're not wrong," Tiny laughed. "I could sit here and eat all day, but then it would be bad for my health."

"You sound like aunty Rita now," Boy laughed. "Um, about that,"

"Even though I can't talk about how come, I overcame how come just enough to let myself be open to love," Tiny said. "I've always loved Rita, but I was in denial for a long time. Up until yesterday, that is,"

"Okay, uncle," Boy reached across, placed his hand on Tiny's, and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Let's enjoy our meal."

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