Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

May 30, 2024


You received a card with someone's personal information on it: first and last name, date of birth, address, and phone number. Then, height and weight, along with religious and political affiliation. Last is if they are male or female. You then transpose that information to your computer, click the send button, and repeat and repeat for eight hours, not including your lunch break. Where the information is going and who receives it isn't the point. The point is that you type it up and send it off. I get paid six thousand dollars a month to sit in my little cubicle in the far left corner of a basement office in a state building off Beretania Street. Rather than a partition for my cubicle, I was allowed to have a shoji screen. For this little bit of freedom, I was grateful.

I'd completed a year of employment when my supervisor peaked at me from behind my shoji screen. His name was Troy Inazuma. He was the great-grandson of a well-known local boxing coach from Kaimuki. Troy wore a blue blazer, a light blue dress shirt, khaki pants, and loafers. To complete the ensemble, he also wore a silk blue paisley ascot. Needless to say, Troy was nothing like his great-grandfather. He went to Soka University straight out of high school and returned to U.H. for his law degree. He never became a lawyer or an attorney. The degree was his ticket to politics, but instead, it landed him his supervisory position in a state office. 

"Good morning, Keoni-san!" He sang his greeting in the karaoke voice he was known for. 

"Good morning, Mr. Inazuma!" I returned his salutation and stood up to shake his hand.

"What is this shake hand kine stuff?" He pulled me in for a hug. "It's Troy, too! None of this, Mr. Inazuma! You make me feel so old!"

"Okay," I chuckled.

"So, how are you doing down here? Do you not get stuffy and claustrophic in this space?" he asked like a concerned parent. 

"Well, they let me have a shoji screen rather than an off-putting partition, so I'm happy," I smiled.

"Come, we go eat! My treat! Get this lunch truck on Mililani Street; they have the best adobo!" Even before I could politely refuse, protesting that I was still on the clock, Troy reassured me that I shouldn't worry.

"I go mark um down as time and a half! Who going to know anyway? I'm the boss of the whole division!"

Ever precautious, I carefully clocked out anyway and made a notation that Mr. Inazuma said this would be marked down as time and a half in case I came back late. The walk from my office off Beretania proceeded across the street, through the rotunda of the state capitol, the back gate of the palace, through the grounds, and out the Kauikeauoli gate. Then we crossed South King and ended up at the holy grail of lunch trucks, Masa's Yellow Wagon. The whole while, Troy droned on about work, karaoke, traffic, his lack of a love life, and a new kind of organic shampoo used for dog grooming. He didn't notice the pigeons near the queen's statue committing gang violence on a single myna bird. Nor did he acknowledge the homeless woman who tried to return a pen that fell out of his pant pocket. I noticed, and while taking the pen from the woman's hand, I gave her ten dollars in exchange for her kindness. Troy was clueless as I inserted the pen back into his shirt pocket and kept up with his pace. After we got our food, we ended up sitting on the wrap-around benches at the Bayobab tree on the palace grounds. I ate my food, waiting for the point of Troy's endless diatribe about everything and nothing. When we were done, we walked to the nearest trash bin and deposited our recyclable lunch plates. 

"Anyway, Keoni. I wanted to say that you will get one promotion, and we will move you over to the receiving office in Pohukaina! Nice, yeah?" He clapped his hands together like hummingbird wings. Rather than be happy, I was exhausted because Troy had already sucked all the air out of the little bit of atmosphere that was left between us.

"You mean accounting and receiving? I tried not to sound too unenthusiastic.

"No, just receiving," he nodded.

"On Pohukaina street?" I wanted to be sure.

"Yes," he replied as he stuffed the address on his lunch receipt into my pocket. "You start tomorrow! So exciting!" He stood on his tippy toes, clapping only his fingertips together. I suddenly felt the urge to punch him.


The following morning at eight sharp, I pulled up to the address, a nothing Quonset hut made from corrugated tin. It stood between a car repair shop and an elder hostile with large ti-leaf plants in front of it. You'd walk right past it if you didn't know it was there. I'd find out later on that that was the purpose of the whole thing, that it not be discoverable to the general public. Then, why have the warehouse at all? Troy was already waiting out front, sunny and vibrant as ever. 

"So Keoni-san, all you have to do is receive the inventory brought to you. Ensure you get a correct count daily. The people who bring you the inventory will put it inside and then leave, and that's it!" He stood on his tippy-toes and clapped. Whispering to me, he continued. "This is a big jump in pay for you! You were making six a month, but now you are making ten! Sssshhh!"

"What's the inventory?" I asked him.

"Lauhala baskets, neatly wrapped with different kine-colored raffia," he got closer, and his face became deadly serious. Very contrary to his almost manic happiness. "Keoni, don't look in those baskets. You are going to lose more than just your job. Do you get it?" He pinched the skin on my forearm, and I jumped back, squealing in pain and shoving him simultaneously. 

"Owwww! What the fuck is wrong with you?" I bellowed.

"Just receive the inventory," Troy's eyes made him look like one of those ajumma from those Korean dramas who was about to whip up on you for being insolent. "Once the Quonset hut is full, you're done for the day." Pointing to a switch by the roll-up fence, he continued. "Roll the fence shut, apply the lock, and turn on that red switch. I'll give you a number that you have to text to tell me when you started and what time you finished. That's it!" His happiness came back, and he turned and literally skipped out the gate.

For the rest of the day, random guys wearing dark blue overalls wheeled piles of Lauhala baskets on hand trucks and dollies into the hut until it was filled from floor to ceiling. Before I could text Troy and ask him about my lunch break, lunch showed up. A nice big bento with a large can of Coke. That was the routine, every day for ten grand a month. Closing up time came around two in the afternoon. However, I discovered that no matter how many hours I was there, I still got paid for a full day. The fenced gates closed without a problem, and applying the chain and lock was no big task. Flipping on the red switch, though? That was literally a shock. This sudden loud buzzing came on, and I jumped back. The fence was amplified with a massive wattage of electricity. Did I forget to mention the crispy-cooked minah birds, cats, and the occasional dog I'd find in the mornings? Within six months of making that much money, I got lazy, over-ate, and drank a lot. In hindsight, that's what Troy and the state hoped for when they paid someone that much money once a month. That way, that person isn't curious about the Lauhala baskets being wrapped with different colored raffia, why they were piled separately in the Quonset hut, and why, the following day, when that person came to work, all the lauhala baskets were gone.


Usually, I have to wait outside in my little shed until the guys in the blue overalls show up and start loading up the Quonset hut. That's anywhere between ten and ten-thirty. It's 1:33 pm, and no one's here. There's no fan in the shed; today, it's hot. I'm not catching any sort of breeze at all. I know there's a fully working a/c inside the hut, so I opened it up and made myself comfortable. Man, the cold air feels nice. It's so relaxing that I lay myself on the floor; before I know it, I'm out. Fast asleep. 

It wasn't a sound that eventually woke me up. It was the feeling of slight pressure around my ankles and the sensation that something was pulling me across the floor. I woke up to see a massive shark with my foot in its mouth—not biting me, but securing my foot in its jaw as it wriggled backward towards an open hatch in the floor. I kicked it in the snout with everything I had, and it let me go. I got up and ran toward the door, down the short lane, through the front gate, past the ti-leaf plants, and onto Pohukaina Street. I didn't stop there. I ran to the Ala Moana shopping center until I sat in the most overcrowded place I could find. The food court. I felt safe there, and that's where I stayed until Troy showed up after I texted him. Instead of sitting across from me at the table, he sat next to me and tightly gripped the back of my neck.

"I gave you instructions on what to do! How come you didn't do it?" He hissed in my ear. I shot up from my chair and shoved him away a second time. Everyone at the Poi Bowl saw the commotion and stared wide-eyed at us. 

"I'm gonna beat your fucking ass! Do it again!" I dared him.

"For ten grand a month, you'll lick my boots if I tell you to!" He growled at me.

"Fuck you and your ten grand! It's not worth that shit!" I was in his face now. "I don't work for you anymore!"


So, what was really going on at that state-run receiving warehouse? Those Lauhala baskets contained very ancient Hawaiian remains—extensive in number, almost too many to count. They were all dug up in and around the Kaka'ako area. The different-colored raffia ribbons denote male or female, child or elder, Ali'i or commoner. The Quonset hut stood over a lava tube that led out to the ocean. The 'aumakua shark of the area would come and take all the bones in the lauhala baskets and bring them to the open sea, where they would never be found or disturbed again. It was a top-secret hush-hush job, so it paid very well. They can't access every single set of remains, but with the ones they can secure, whoever THEY are, those remains end up in a natural repository somewhere in the deep blue Pacific Ocean. Crazy, right? As for Troy? He got his dream job working as a district representative in the state capital. Imagine his dismay when he saw another person wearing an ascot? That's not the end of it. What strikes me as strange is that the receiving warehouse is a state-run operation. Since when did the state give a shit about anyone or anything Hawaiian? Yet here's this nothing Quonset hut sitting unseen in the middle of Kaka'ako unless you were looking for it, where ancient Hawaiian remains are taken by a shark god to be repatriated to a safer location. Either some higher-up in some state office really did give a shit, or this is something else entirely. I think I was chosen for the job because of what my previous job entailed: transposing pointless information and sending it up the line for nine hours a day, five days a week, without one complaint or asking for a raise. Perhaps that's what was needed for the receiving job, a state drone that did what they were told without question. 

I ran into Troy one night as he was coming out of a bathroom stall at Ward theaters. Even in a fitted shirt and jeans, he still wore an ascot. Something overcame me, and in an instant, I had his face wedged up in the stall door. 

"Aaaah! Aaaah!" He screamed. "That hurts Keoni-san!"

"I'm glad to hear that, you fucker," I slowly applied all my body weight to the door.

"I'll have your ass for this!" He screamed again. So, I applied more pressure. "Aaaaah!"

"You wish, you fucking psycho hummingbird," I sneered at him.

"Aaahh, what do you want?" He tried using his own weight to push back, but no luck.

"Nothing," I replied. "I just saw you and knew that I wanted to hurt you. That's all."

"I'll make sure you get hurt, financially, publicly, legally. I'll come at you with everything I've got!" He promised with his face all scrunched up. I'm sure that the edges of the stall door were going to leave marks on his cheeks.

"And I will stream live and tell the world what the fuck is going on in that Quonset hut, and I will name names. Mainly, your name, representative Troy Inazuma," I let the door go and watched as he stumbled backward until he sat on the toilet seat, rubbing the pain away from his face. By the time he was ready to get up and rush me, I was gone. 


That following Tuesday afternoon, just a little close to one fifteen. A black limo with two smaller black cars pulled up to the driveway. A security detail emerged dressed in aloha shirts and dark slacks. With them came a well-dressed woman who was obviously an assistant. I knew that because the governor stepped out of the car after her. The whole detail walked toward me without a word until the governor and I were face to face. She extended her hand, and I took it.

"Let's go inside," she said, pointing to the Quonset hut. The detail followed, but Governor Sheldeen Kalama turned and pointed to one guard. "Just Brad, everyone else, wait here." She was already five feet eight inches tall but towered over me with heels on. I had no problem with that; after all, she was our first female governor of Hawaiian descent. "I heard you and representative Inazuma had a personality conflict the other night?"

"We did," I nodded. "I reacted childishly, I should have known better, but I let my emotions get the best of me. I apologize, ma'am. I was wrong. The punishment must be big if you had to come here and tell me personally."

"It's not the beef between you two that is the issue," she began. 

"Eh, you guys like throw blows then go, I no care. Representative Inazuma can be or is too much. He vacillates so much sometimes I cannot tell who the hell I'm talking to! Keoni, what bothers me is the threat you made to him about exposing this place," taking a step closer, she leaned in and spoke in a low tone. "I'm the one who secretly initiated this whole thing," she said as she gestured her arms around the space we were standing in. "This whole thing."

"You did?" I was shocked and surprised.

"I cannot go into detail, but how this place became developed took a lot of Kapu and a few sacrifices, if you understand what I'm saying," she raised her eyebrows.

Nodding, I replied. "I understand,"

"Good," she slapped me on the shoulder. "If you see Troy in public from now on, just do me a favor, please? Ignore him and walk the other way. He was crying yesterday about filing a restraining order on you, but I told him to cowboy the fuck up and stop being so irraz."

"Yes, ma'am, I can do that," I promised.

"Okay, good 'den," she smiled and gave me a big hug. "K, Brad, let's go Boot's and Kimo's, I'm starving."

They all returned to their cars and were soon gone, and I returned to work. Soon, more lauhala baskets were going to arrive, and I'd have to count them all and close up once that was done. I felt a lot better now as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt better about my job and didn't feel like a human metronome. It wasn't monotony anymore; there was a purpose to it. Now I understood why this place was chosen. In order to do what the governor needed to do, the location had to be non-descript and highly secure. Makes sense. Thinking about it now after talking with the governor, maybe I don't dislike Troy so much? Nah, I dislike him, but I won't risk this job because of him. 

Mar 22, 2024

Jamba 2014

 You can tell I’ve had a hard night on one of my ghost excursions because you’ll find me the following morning at Jamba Juice having a power-sized “Mango-a-go-go” with no boost.

Feb 14, 2024


 It was earlier than I cared to be awake, but a job is a job.