Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 30, 2023

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2023. #39. Lori.

Jealousy lived in our household because of old family grudges we inherited from our parents, and their parents, and so forth, and so on.

You could hear it in our interactions with one another, the way we interacted. The words we used and the things we didn't say. We couldn't get a sentence out and not include some negative connotation or reference. Some of us became so used to it that it became our usual communication pattern with others. Those lucky enough to go to college on the mainland did the intelligent thing: finished college, met someone, got married, and stayed there. I waited until I couldn't stay, then moved far away. I met Lori at work. I didn't say much to her because at least twenty of us were on one shift. We were a fish market from Dillingham that also made and sold Hawaiian food, so we were always slammed. I was also taking part-time classes at LCC, so imagine my surprise one day when I saw Lori standing in line in front of me in the student cafeteria. She didn't notice me because she had headphones on, so she walked past me without looking up. I waited until I got my food tray, walked to her table, stood before her until she looked up, and waved. The face she gave me was stone-cold until she recognized me. Then she smiled and took her headphones off. 

"Come sit down!" She patted the chair next to her. "I didn't know you take classes here, too?"

"Yeah," I put my tray and book bag on the table. "I forgot to get a drink," I pointed to the soda fountain. "Did you want one, my treat,"

"Sure, okay," she nodded. "Thank you!


We were both there studying to get an MBA, and we laughed at how strange it was that we were not in the same class. I was also trying to get an AA in Hawaiian studies beginning next semester, so I'd have to work the late afternoon to closing shift. It turns out that she was thinking the same thing. I didn't want it to be weird, so I hid my excitement. We had a great conversation and an even better lunch, and there was something about her that was so nice and pure that I wanted to mirror her example in my daily life so I could be less like the people I called my family. At work, we would see each other and wave or give a nod or talk briefly. If not on the floor or during a break, then at the parking lot after. The rest we'd catch up with at school. Being around one another was so easy and straightforward. She got to know my friends, and I got to know hers. Then came the night that we would catch a movie after work. I followed her to her house, where she would shower quickly and get ready. Afterward, we'd ride together in my car. Meanwhile, she had me hang out in the kitchen with her parents. I'd made it a point to bring them some poke', siu yuk, 'opihi, lau lau, and poi. 

"So, you work with Lori then?" Her mother asked.

"Yes, we also found out we go to school together," I began. "I didn't know until we ran into one another in the cafeteria,"

"She said you going get your MBA just like her?" Her father shook my hand and gave me a bowl of poi with the poke' on the side. "What you thinking about doing with that?"

"Maybe something with one of the unions," I replied. "The money is good, but it's also good security for the future."

"Wait 'til she pau shower and come out here, then ask her what she will do with her MBA. You going be shocked," he laughed.

"Don't make trouble, Henry!" Mrs. Paumakua scolded her husband. "He gives her a hard time about what she going do with her MBA, but he is the very one going end up helping her; you watch!"

When Lori was dressed and ready, her father asked her to tell me what she would do with her MBA. "That again?!" She growled. "I want to open up a chain of Hawaiian fish markets, not only locally but places in the mainland where Hawaiians and locals live,"

"Oh, so, what's wrong with that?" I asked. 

"See. Henry? What's wrong with that?" Mrs. Paumakua asked her husband a question she'd been asking him for a while.

"Maliko," his eyes were intense, and he was about to ask me something that he hoped I'd agree with, other than the possibility of me never stepping foot in Lori's house again. "If she does that, she going put other fish market shops out of business. How dat going look?"

"Dad, I'm not trying to put you out of business; I'm trying to expand your business reach to a wider customer base," she sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you that?"

"Yeah, but that means you're going move mainland, right?" Henry's eyes were turning red.

"I dunno where you keep getting that idea, Dad! I'm not moving; if we expand to the mainland, don't you think we all have to go to see where we'll be building our stores?" Lori was trying to make her father see reason.

"Wait," I whispered to Mrs. Paumakua. "You guys own a fish market, too?"

"Yeah," she deadpanned. "The one you and Lori work at,"

"Oh my god, oh my god! I brought you food from your own store! Oh my god, I'm so sorry!" I was beside myself with embarrassment. It was time to go.


Lori assured me I wouldn't get fired and should continue as I always had been, keeping my head down and working hard. "You've never met my parents because they work in the office, a separate location in the Kalihi business district. I run the actual store."

"But how, I always see you in the trenches, so to speak, with the rest of us gah-roots," I shook my head.

"No worry, beef curry," she laughed.

We never officially announced ourselves as a couple, much less said it to one another. At the movies, I held on to the popcorn, and she snuggled up against me while holding our monster-sized drink cup for us to sip. By the night's end, we were in each other's arms. Everything stopped when she suggested we return to my place since she'd never been there. Remember how I said I wanted to mirror her positivity and a good outlook on life? I knew instantly that taking her home might make her look at me differently once she had the misfortune to meet my family. I told her as much. I told her they were horrible people and had little decency in their fiber. "But you'll protect me, right?" She asked.

"Of course, I'll protect you," I said. "That's not even a question."

Fortunately, no one was awake when we got home. In the morning, we woke up early enough that I could get her home in time for her early morning classes. That left me enough time to get back and get changed for work. My parents and siblings were eating breakfast, and my two uncles sat on the couch, fighting over control of the remote, calling one another every name in the book. "So, you had company last night?"

"Yup," I replied while walking down the hallway to my room.

"And what? You no like introduce her to us folks?" My father said while sipping on his POG.

"Nobody was awake before we left," I said, closing my bedroom door. I got a text from Lori informing me that she left her gold locket on my end table. It had a picture of herself and her parents in it. I turned my room upside down for an hour but didn't find it. I texted that I was headed to work but'd look for it once I got home. No luck. I didn't know that while I was at work, Lori finished her last class at 10 a.m. and stopped by my house. My parents were out shopping, but my two uncles were still at home, bitching at one another for being alive and breathing. But I'm skipping ahead, so bear with me. Lori disappeared between leaving the college and getting to the fish market. There was an extensive search by the authorities. Eventually, Lori's parents were on the news, pleading for her to return home or for whoever was responsible for her disappearance to come forward. 


The fish market stayed open until it wasn't open anymore. I understood. How could Lori's parents go on without their daughter to keep the legacy going? I found work at another fish market and completed my MBA in the mainland. It would be a while before I could venture into another relationship. Before all of that took place, a month had passed after Lori's disappearance. One day after class, I'd come home to take a nap. It was my day off from the fish market. As usual, my uncles Terry and Burt were on the couch, covered with Bugle chips, crumbs on their shirts, and beards. The two idiots were wards of the state because of their anxiety and nervous breakdowns.

I didn't notice it immediately until the light outside the living room window glimmered on something around Uncle Burt's neck. I did a double-take when I realized it was Lori's gold locket on her gold chain. Without going into details, a big fight ensued when I questioned my uncle about where they got Lori's locket, and rather than answer the question, they told me to go fuck myself. I kicked Uncle Burt in his sternum, and he hit the carpet, throwing up. Uncle Terry threw the glass ashtray at my head and just grazed it. I pummeled his nose repeatedly until my parents came rushing out of their bedroom, trying to break up the fight. I told them what happened about Lori's gold locket, and they both gave me a look like I'd just found out a terrible family secret. They claimed that Lori had come by, asking if she could go into my room to look for her locket. Only my uncles were home, and they told her it was okay for her to do so. They said a minute later, Lori came out of the room naked and tried to seduce my uncles, Burt in particular. However, they asked her to put her clothes on and leave. They claimed that she'd given Uncle Burt her gold locket before she left in exchange for his silence about what happened. 

"Sure," I said. "I can understand that." 


I never thought I'd enjoy a sunset anywhere else but in Hawai'i. I have to say, the one here in Vegas is not too bad. Not too bad at all. Its yellow-orange glow nearly looks like the same fiery glow that my old house in Kalihi took on as it burned to the ground with my parents and my uncles in it. While they were tied up and unable to move, each one bleeding from their nose and mouth, with the fire raging around them. I asked Uncle Burt to tell me where Lori was, then I'd let him go. He said she was buried in their converted pakalolo garden in their bedroom. It's too late to dig her up and rescue her; she's gonna go with them, but not without her death being avenged. Her car was found a short time later, parked overnight at the Ala Moana shopping center. Her purse with her phone, keys, and wallet was in it, with a pair of her bunched-up panties at the bottom. They found sperm on it, which they later determined was Uncle Terry's and Burt's. I knew then, and there they had to go. Really, I didn't care if Uncle Terry and Uncle Burt killed Lori and whether my parents participated in it or not. What I did care about was that this thing that my family passed down from my grandparents furthest back to my parents and my uncles now wasn't just this thing about how we treated each other; it was about what they did to the people who came into our life. Lori didn't deserve it. So, they had to go, family or not, they had to go. Decent people couldn't afford to have my kin roaming the earth. 

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