Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jan 9, 2019

Sister's Sacrifice


Too bad this drive is taking so long; here I am heading in a pointless direction where I do not care to go. Yet, as a result of the badgering and nagging of my older sister, I have to be there. You know what sucks even more? This is my sister’s idea but she’s not going, how’s that for shit? I apologize if I’m not being clear as to what this rant is all about. My old wrestling coach from high school passed away and so the guys from the team called and said that I should attend the services but I flat out refused. Coach Henry Chun was a complete dick with unresolved issues. However, my sister suggested that going to the old bastard’s funeral might help me resolve a few issues of my own.

I didn’t think so.

There’s definitely no love lost between me and the coach; maybe he’s not worth any of my ill will but if I got news that he suddenly dropped dead or was killed in a car accident? It wouldn’t ruin my day. The services are at 1pm at the little green church in Hau’ula and it’s 11:58 in the a.m. I’m still thinking about turning around and heading back home; that’s when the bing on my cell phone chimes in and I see a text from my sister,

“Go to the services! Do not go back home!”

“Why do you give a shit?” I voice text her back.

“Because you’re insufferable as it is, and you need closure,” she texts back.

“Fuck closure, I don’t give a shit about this guy,” I am scream texting at this point.

“Stop texting and driving,” she returns.

Hate her, just hate her. There’s a large open grass lot next to the little church where the neighbors are nice enough to let everyone park. It’s crowded and it looks like the better half of Hau’ula is in attendance. The tarpaulin tents are up and the smoke rising from the imu (underground oven) wafts the aroma of the steamed pig through the congregation and causes everyone to squirm in their chairs. It’s almost ready to be brought out and eaten and no one can wait. People are bunched up together outside on the lawn fronting the steps of the church. On the inside, it’s shoulder to shoulder and everyone including the good Pastor is sweating buckets. He’s a good guy Pastor Jacob; he used to be the resident drug dealer but ended up getting busted by the local P.D. That’s after his friends rolled on him in exchange for lesser time spent. He ended up losing everything and had to do a nickel in an Arizona lock up. That’s where he found god and changed his life. After paying his debt to society he headed back to the little green church in Hau’ula.

He’s been here ever since.

There’s my old teammates, overweight, balding, bags under their eyes and surrounded by wives, girlfriends, and kids; lots of kids. They’re full of smiles and meaningful hugs and how have you been and what’s ups; only slight remnants of who they once were can be traced beneath the crows feet and the wrinkles. I make myself busy and keep the conversations short so that I don’t have to sit and catch up with anyone. I politely accept invites to their homes for dinners or lunch with no intention of ever showing up. My eyes are on the casket where Coach Chun lays with his hands crossed over his chest. He’s wearing a nondescript suit and tie which seems awkward; after only ever seeing him in his coach uniform I take this as a sign that he is indeed really gone. I make my way through the crowd of people until I am finally looking down at him. His casket is more like a cardboard box and the handles by which the pallbearers are supposed to carry him to his final resting place look more like handles on a common dresser drawer. This is the culmination of a life spent torturing and belittling hopefuls on a wrestling team; a life spent breaking them down rather than building them up. Of course Coach Chun had favorites and it was a painful thing to watch. His favorites were the ones who took advantage of him and treated him horribly because he let them. They were his state hopefuls, his national hopefuls, his Olympic hopefuls and they had no appreciation of him and did as they pleased. His hopefuls were indeed successful and in time went to state, nationals and the Olympics.

Just not under his tutelage, but by some other coach. There was never an acknowledgment of his teachings, not a mention of his name nor a thank you. How’s that for shit?

For all that he invested in his hopefuls, not one of them is present today. For my former teammates who put in long torturous hours and suffered under his personal attacks and tirades and his hours of treating them like shit? Here they are; ever loyal lapdogs, arm in arm shedding tears, each with their own war story regarding Coach Edmund Chun.

I stand here now gazing at his withered form, it’s only a shell of what he used to be. He was a bull of a man and he had the strength of one as well, but now he lays here with too much make up on his face and it gives him such a maudlin appearance that I almost half expect him to sit up in his coffin and lead everyone in a chorus of ‘Danny Boy.’

There is so much that I hated him for, but at this moment I feel nothing. My mind is reminding me that this is the man who purposely tried to destroy me at every turn and that I should light a match and set his casket aflame with him in it. In order to do that, I have to feel something, but my heart feels nothing.

Not an ounce of sentimentality moves me to place my hand on his, nor does the least inkling of sympathy crack a warm smile across my face. Thoughts of keeping the program handouts for the services as a memento never crosses my mind and aside from my sister’s admonitions that I should be here today, I find that an umbilical bond to this man does not exist. I came, I paid my respects and now I am leaving.

I’m walking back to my car now after having been successful at avoiding any parting sentiments. Before I can open my door one of my former teams mates hands me a large plate of food wrapped in tin-foil. In his other hand is a plastic bag with a couple of drinks in it.

“You were the best of all of us and he treated you like shit,” Hiram Smith said. “I’m surprised you showed up! With everything that happened before, I don’t think I would have been here.”

“Just paying my respects, it’s the least I could do.…or wanted to do,” I replied.

“Coach Chun fucked these guy up so bad; made them so dependent on him that they didn’t even realize it. They still don’t. After high school, they couldn’t move on you know? All they do now is find excuses to have class reunions for every little thing,” Hiram shared.

“Why are you still here?” I asked him.

“I became a firefighter right out of high school like my dad and after paying my dues and putting in the time, I finally got stationed here in Hau’ula. Works out for my family, I don’t have to drive far,” he explained.

Hiram and I shook hands and said our goodbyes, “If I don’t see you after today; I get it. It’s not easy being the coach's son but you did good for yourself, you did. You got that to be proud of because you’re your own man. You didn’t let yourself be defined by how he treated you and that’s a good thing!”

“Yeah,” I say to him as I wave, “take care Hiram,”



….…………….

I’m driving past Kahana Bay and the phone rings almost on cue; I put it on speaker.

“Hello?”

“You did it!” My sister’s voice squeals.

“Yeah, I did it,” I deadpan.

“I’m proud of you, do you feel better?” She asks.

“Yeah, I feel better. Thanks for uhm...well..you know?” I’m struggling but I think she understands.

“It’s okay, no worries. At least you can say you did it, I’m happy for you! Yay!” She laughed.

“I’ll talk to you when I get back home okay? I gotta drive,” I tell her.

“Of course, you go and we’ll talk later! Bye!”

Always the bright spark my sister; I didn’t get it as bad as she did. What I did get from my old man was less of what he’d intended because of her. She saved me from the beatings because he thought that I knew he was going into her room late at night. It used to be his habit to come into my room after and start hitting me with his belt just to shut me up. After that, she began to keep him longer into the night, just so she could save me from the belt.

 It’s on days like this that the drive from Ka’a’awa to Kahalu’u lulls the spirit into a state of comfort where one feels as if all that troubles your life bears no relevance within the comfort of a 1966 Mustang fastback. It’s only when all that beautiful countryside melds into the Kahalu’u district that it becomes apparent that civilization quickly approaches. Another forty minutes later and I am sitting at the top of the Hawaiian Memorial Cemetery gazing at my sister’s headstone; I guess there wasn’t a way that I was going to leave this part of the island without stopping to say hello. The engraving on her headstone was simple; it contained her date of birth, her date of passing and her name where the edges were decorated with lehua flowers intertwined with maile and mokihana. On the last day of her life, her system was filled with a variety of prescription medicines and many more different colored pills. Her last communication to me was by text and then a phone call. A former friend of mines was getting married and I was wrestling with the question of attending or going back home. We had a falling out but he called me at the last minute and wanted to bury the hatchet; I was still mad about not having any satisfaction. That’s when my sister sent me a text to not turn around and go back home but rather to stay the course and attend the wedding services and put closure on the matter.

After the reception, she called and congratulated me,

“You did it!”

By the time I’d gotten home and remembered to call her back, she had already passed away.
So, when things get tough and I start to fall off the grid, she calls me from beyond the ether's
and we have the same conversation. She always manages to put me back on the right path.

Like today.




Dec 27, 2018

"Kekua"



I usually don’t hear my cell phone go off at three ‘o clock in the morning and if I do, the sound seems to come from a deep dark tunnel in the murky distance of night. Or least that’s how it sounds to me. With that said, I don’t normally answer the call until I am fully awake. My friend Terry Higa is a lieutenant with the Honolulu police department and apparently, it was his phone call that I failed to answer the night before. When I didn’t answer soon enough, he and three other officers came pounding on my door with such urgency that it would lead me to believe that it was either my landlord, the police or who the hell knows? But it was Terry.

“What’s happening?” I groaned half awake as I opened my door. "Don't you know it's Christmas morning?"

“ Bra, why you no answer your phone? Anyway, I going give you time to get dressed. You gotta come with us.” Terry said.

I had done terrible things to my body during my years as a professional wrestler and it was finally catching up to me. Well, it only caught up to me in the morning. I limped toward the bathroom and grabbed my jeans and my favorite long sleeved blue buttoned down shirt off of the hook from the back of the bathroom door and got changed. Brushing my teeth and combing my hair very quickly, I applied one sock on to the left foot and hopped around on the same left foot a moment later as I tried to put on the right one. The three officers who came with Terry quickly helped me right myself as I got my three-day-old sock on my foot and slipped both feet into my shoes. A moment later I followed Terry out of my front door as they led me to his Toyota 4 runner that was parked out on the road. I waved to my landlord as I climbed into the front seat of the SUV with a reassurance that everything was ok.

“Howzit Hawaiian? What you did?” The landlord asked.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “But if it’s serious you’ll see it on the six ‘o clock news!”

Buckling up my seat belt I made it a point to ask Terry that same question.

“Am I in trouble Terry?”

“No,” He said. “Me, Carl, Smokey and Scotty was eating breakfast at Zippy’s when I got the call from headquarters to get in touch with you. Das’ why I was calling all night see? I neva’ know dey wanted fo’ talk to you in person so das why we came your house.”

“Oh ok. Do you know what this is all about?” I asked.

“Dey going tell you when you get there bra, no worry.” Terry was now using his cop voice which just irritated the hell out of me. Looking at the three officers sitting in the back seat, I couldn’t help but ask,

“So, is there a requirement at the academy that you all use the same baritone podagee pidgeon English voice in order to get your point across?” I asked.

They didn’t get the joke. They just sat there stoically and stared at the back of Terry’s head.

“Bra,” Scotty said. “You should tell him now Terry. You know we neva’ go Zippy’s just to eat breakfast.”

“Psssh,” Carl shot back. “We don’t even know if ‘dis guy can handle dis kine stuff bra.”

“Mr. Kealoha,” Smokey asked. “Da kine stuff you do, you deal with ghosts and spirits all da time right?”

“Yes,” I nodded. “Every day.”

“See?” Smokey said looking at Terry. “Just tell him already!”

“Tell me what?” I replied as I looked at Terry. “What’s going on?”

Ignoring me, Terry looked back and forth between the rear view mirror and the road as he spoke.

“Eh, I telling you guys right now dis going make better sense to him once he sees it for himself so just relax!”

“Terry?” My mind was racing now as to what the hell was going on between the four of them. What secret were they keeping? He just looked at me with a dreadful seriousness that I had never seen on his face in all the years that I knew him. I didn’t press the issue any further but I could feel the tension and discomfort from the officers in the back seat. We arrived at the station and immediately switched from Terry’s SUV to a larger black on black Chevy Suburban. Suddenly I was covered with chicken skin and I stopped dead in my tracks. I was wide awake now and all of my senses were on high alert. I couldn’t explain what the feeling was except to say that it was something close to dread and foreboding. It was serious enough to make me think twice about going any further with these guys. Everyone else stopped a second later when they realized that I hadn’t followed them into the Suburban.

“What?” Terry said. “What’s the matter?”

“You tell me right now what the hell is going on,” I demanded. “Right now and don’t you bull shit me, Terry!”

“I can’t tell you because I don’t know how to explain it!” Terry pleaded. “That’s why you have to see it yourself bra! Das all I can tell you! C’mon bra, just get in and you goin’ see.”

There were countless times in my past where I knew I should have said no, but I didn’t. This was one of those times. I should have just walked right out of that parking garage and went the hell back home and went right back to sleep! Instead, like a damned fool, I got into the Suburban and went with them. Why don’t I ever learn my lesson? Why?



It was obvious that we were not going to the police station because we had just left the facility, so then where were we going? Was it pertinent to ask at this point? More than likely not, but whatever it was must have been something sufficiently significant to spook three hardened police officers who themselves looked mean enough to scare the color off of paint. Terry was spooked too but he was trying his best to keep it under control. He was always a cool customer in a tight spot but not more than just a few minutes ago, there was a crack in his Kevlar. I saw a hint of maniacal insanity in his eyes. He managed, however, to pull it back and he was the same Terry Higa again. I shook my head as I was now reminded of Carl’s earlier remark about whatever this is being too much for me to handle? If these guys were that badly affected then how was I expected to be of any assistance if that’s what I was really here for? I would find out soon enough as we pulled up to the back parking lot of a local museum. There was a team of men and women dressed in suits with dark glasses on and wearing wireless earpieces. They were standing at the rear entrance and watching them scurry about I could just make out their holstered weapons beneath their coats.

Agents.

Federal, Government, CIA, I wasn’t sure but I was covered in chicken skin again. They all converged on the vehicle once they saw us. Terry and the other three police officers exited the vehicle in no time but the agents ignored them completely. The agent in charge was taller than the rest and appeared to be more seasoned than everyone else. He made a beeline for Terry and immediately began to question him.

“Is this him?” The agent asked.

“Yeah,” Terry replied in his local accent. “Dis is da one.”

“Mr. Kealoha!” the agent barked. “Am I pronouncing that right?”

“Yes.” I nodded.

“Please come this way. I’ll explain everything to you once we’re inside. I’m agent Mac Creedy. I’ll introduce you to everyone else in a second,.”

At that point, Terry, Carl, Scotty, and Smokey began to follow along when agent Mac Creedy stopped them.

“We’ll take it from here, you guys can go home.”

“Whatchoo mean?” Terry said enraged. “This is our case…!” He never got to finish once agent Mac Creedy cut him off.

“WAS your case; this is a government matter now and you have no jurisdiction. Go home gentlemen while you still have jobs and homes to go to,” Agent Mac Creedy cut a fine figure of a man who must have lived through many things and came out of it none the worse for wear. But there was something about him I didn’t like. He was too clinical, too clean, too well manicured and too perfect. The four officers retreated without a fuss after that and basically left me feeling as if I had just been thrown to the wolves.

We took an elevator to the second floor and before I knew it we were standing at the end of a dimly lit hallway with a single spotlight on the other end of it. The left and right sides of the hallway walls were lined with other agents who had their guns drawn as they all pointed their weapons in the same direction. It was hard to see and I found that I needed to adjust my eyes for a second before I could focus on what I was looking at.

At the end of the hallway seated in a chair just beneath a barely visible spotlight was a Hawaiian man with shoulder-length pepper colored hair. He sported a beard that was beginning to turn gray. He wore a long-sleeved blue t-shirt that by the insignia on the left breast identified him as a city and county employee of the parks and recreation department. He seemed to be chained to the chair at first but as I looked at him more closely I realized that he was chained to more than just the chair. Strapped around his waist were sticks of dynamite with wires attached to each cap. It seemed as if each wire was then attached to one common wire which leads to a device which the Hawaiian man held in his right hand.

“Oh my god,” I whispered.


'This guy,' Agent Mac Creedy began. ‘has no record, no misdemeanors, no felonies, never committed a crime in his life. Graduated high school and went to work for the city and county and went home and went back to work the next day. Never went to college, never took a night class, and never got married. He’s lived with his parents his entire life and oh yeah, goes to church on Sundays. Humdrum ho-hum, that’s this guy. Then last night he suddenly walks in here, manhandles the guards, pulls out some sticks of dynamite and chains it and himself to that chair. This guy has had no former military training in his entire life and then all of a sudden he somehow out of the blue gets explosives from somewhere and has the know-how and skill to turn himself into a human bomb?”


“Agent Mac Creedy I think you have the wrong guy. I don’t know what Terry Higa might have told you but I’m not a terrorist negotiator," I stated my case plain and simple, expecting to walk away and call it a night.

“He asked for you by name.” Agent Mac Creedy deadpanned.

“What?” I asked.

“Last night he asked for you by name and asked that we bring you here so he could talk to you.” Agent Mac Creedy was serious.

I was dumbfounded as to how I would even remotely be associated with a suicide bomber.

“I don’t get it?” I said.

“Listen,” Agent Mac Creedy shot back. “He’s already killed five of my best agents with his bare hands! We’re at a standstill and we have nothing to negotiate with! Those men and women he killed have families and loved ones! They are real people do you understand?”

I was at a loss for words for the first time. I couldn’t fathom the situation because there were too many loose ends and there was more going on here that agent Mac Creedy was conveniently leaving out.

“I don’t understand what it is that you want me to do?” I said as I was now confused and mildly irritated.

Just then, the voice that echoed toward me from down the hallway was sweet and full of joy, It was the voice of a true innocent whose heart only knew happiness and purity.

“Kealoha.” It beckoned. “Mai, hele mai. E kama’ilio pu kaua.”  It was the Hawaiian man at the end of the hallway who was chained to death itself.



.........

Everything about this situation was wrong. My senses kept screaming into my subconscious and my conscious mind began to give me a migraine. My logic kept calling me a moron and was questioning the inability of my common sense to make me walk out the door and never come back. Unfortunately, there was a misfire between what my brain knew to be the right thing to do and what actually came out of my mouth,

“Agent Mac Creedy,” I said. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure but I believe that man just spoke to you?” He replied.

“I know,” I said. “I’ll get to that in a second.”

“Alright,” He agreed.

Pointing toward the end of the hallway at the Hawaiian man, I asked, “You said that he manhandled the security guards at this place is that right?”

“Yea,” He replied.

“Where are they?” I asked.

“They’re at Straub hospital,” He answered.

“They’re at a hospital? So they weren’t manhandled, they were incapacitated?” I pressed.

“You could say that,” I could see that Agent Mac Creedy was waiting for me to make my point.

“Did he take out the entire security staff?” I pressed even further.

There was no reply at that point which could only mean that I had hit the mark.

“Alright if we say that’s true and he indeed took out the entire security staff of this facility, then who called the police?” Another non-reply accompanied by a cold stare should have told me to stop right where I was and walk away, but no not me. I was on a roll that was induced by a divine influence, not from above but from my past. In my world, a great many things that I do are motivated by the thoughts and dreams that are sent to me from my ancestors. Their guidance is spot on and never fails to point me in the right direction, but for some reason, that intervention was coming through a lot stronger than before. There was no filter. I was getting a direct signal in a local museum that was filled with sacred Hawaiian items from antiquity, I guess I forgot where I was for a moment.

“After receiving an anonymous tip from someone on the inside, the police know exactly where to find this Hawaiian man. You see on the way over here I rode with four very seasoned, very hardened police officers who’ve probably seen it all, but those gentlemen were genuinely scared of something that happened here, so much so that they wouldn't tell me about it. They insisted that I had to see it for myself and thus far I haven’t seen anything. But I’m willing to bet that it has something to do with that Hawaiian man sitting at the end of the hallway.” I said.

“That’s the problem with you civilians, you watch an episode of CSI and you think you’re a detective all of a sudden.” Agent Mac Creedy began. “It doesn't work that way. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like you to go and talk to that man and find out what this is all about.”

“How come no one has taken a shot?” I asked pointedly.

“What?” Agent Mac Creedy shot back.

“You’ve got 12 of your agents standing at the end of that hallway, six on either side hugging the bulkheads. They’ve got their weapons drawn and pointed straight at that man. They’ve got a clear shot and not one of them has taken it. You could have ended this without me a long time ago. Those five agents you lost must have been your first strike team? Were they sent in to sweep and clear the area?”

“Alright,” Agent Mac Creedy said. “That’s it, you’re coming with us.”

Before I knew it I had a swarm of agents around me who wrestled me to the floor and began to bind my hands behind my back and blindfold me. Even when I think about it now, I can’t really tell you what happened because I didn’t see it, but I felt it and I heard it. I could feel my body being pushed across the floor so quickly that I wasn’t prepared when I hit the bottom of the wall on the opposite side of the room. After that, for a quick second, I heard the horrible, painful screams of people who were suffering in unimaginable pain and then nothing. It was gone. There was silence for a minute and then I began to call out to anyone who was there.

“Mac Creedy? Agent Mac Creedy? Someone? Hello?” Silence.

A mere second had passed before I felt my bonds come loose and my blindfold come undone. As I sat up and looked around there were bodies strewn about everywhere. Mac Creedy and a few others were the only ones slowly coming around. Good, they were still alive.

“Mai,” The kind voice called out from the other end of the hallway. “E kama’ilio pu kaua. Mai nana ia lakou. Hele mai, mai maka’u..”


.........


As I turned to look at him I found that beaming smile radiating toward me through the dimly lit hallway. His eyes sparkled with a life that was pure and without the influence of western thought. He entreated me once more to come closer and indulge him in a private conversation. I can’t tell you if it was his unassuming demeanor or just his presence that made me feel safe even though he was laden down with explosives about his waist. I believe now that it was that distraction that initially prevented me from noticing right off that his mouth was not moving and that he was communicating telepathically.

Agent Mac Creedy’s personality aside, I was glad to see that all of the other agents were not dead as they were all very slowly coming around. That gave me the private audience I needed with my non-verbal friend. I got as close as I could to him and then took a seat on the floor. He looked down at me now and smiled again and while his left hand still held on to the detonator, he extended his right hand in friendship. I was hesitant for a second but in my head, I heard him say that no harm would come to me while I was there and that it was the very Gods themselves who prevented Agent Mac Creedy and his team from taking me away. Before I could think back an answer, he suddenly grabbed my hand and held it firmly in his. A moment later, I saw a brilliant flash of light come between myself and him and the next thing I knew, I had blacked out.

When I came to I stumbled back a couple of steps and managed to catch myself as I instinctively reached out to grab something. I had righted myself up against a wooden wall of an unfamiliar house that I was standing in. The living room was small as it hosted a portable television, an oversized recliner that took up most of the space in the tight space and a two-person couch. The curtains were made from what looked like kapa as it hung on the inside of the three smaller windows. To my left were two bedrooms, one immediately on the side of me and the other about six feet away. Between the rooms was the bathroom and in front of me was the entrance to the kitchen and beyond that was what had to be the back door. From what I could tell it was early to late afternoon and I could hear a man’s voice from outside talking to someone. Curious, I peeked out of the window and there was my friend standing in the yard still dressed in his City and County Dept. of Parks and Recreation long-sleeved shirt and work jeans. He was his same pleasant self and he exchanged kind words with four massively built Hawaiian men who towered over him. They were all dressed in feathered capes and helmets that took on the appearance of the elements, one seemed to be made of brilliant sunlight while the other was made of the ocean and yet a third wore a feathered cape of a pureblood read color while the fourth sported a feathered cape of fine green ferns. I could barely make out the conversation itself when suddenly the Hawaiian man fell to his knees and prostrated himself before them.

Simultaneously the four oddly clad Hawaiian men turned their gaze toward me and I had scarcely a second to look at them when I saw that their eyes were glowing cobalt blue. There was a loud ringing in my ear all of a sudden and then another brilliant flash of light. It’s the last thing I remembered before I awoke again with Agent Mac Creedy hovering over me.

“Mr. Kealoha? Are you alright? Are you able to talk?” He asked.

It’s redundant at this point to say that I was disoriented what with having my thoughts telepathically invaded and then being transported to a house that I had never been in before and then being brought right back to a strange room where I had to wake up to the sight of one of the most unpleasant human beings that I had ever met in my life. My vision was a bit blurry and I felt like a jackhammer had just pounded my head into two pieces. I could barely make out what looked like some heart monitoring equipment from across the room,  I could hear the constant three-second bleep marking red time on the screen.

“Am I in a hospital?” I groaned.

“No,” Agent Mac Creedy answered. “You’re in our main nerve center right below the room that we were just in.”

“How’d I get here?” I asked.

“We found you on the floor in front of your friend upstairs. You were unharmed. He told us that once you came around that you would explain everything so we brought you here and waited.” He replied.

“I’m going to help you up and I want you to swing your legs over to the side of the gurney so that you can sit upright and get that blood circulating through your system again”. One of the agents walked over to him and put a glass of water in his hands. “Here,” he said, “drink this, it’ll clear the cobwebs and fix you up real nice.”

With one gulp of the water, I was suddenly wide awake! My nostrils were burning and my eyes were tearing up. I jumped off the table and grabbed the first plastic water bottle I saw and tanked it down in no time.

“What the hell was that?” I choked. “Are you frickin’ trying to kill me?!”

“It’s liquid Wasabi, our own invention. How do you feel now?” Agent Mac Creedy asked.

“You’re lucky that I’m not the one with the gun,” I answered.

“Follow me over here,” He said. “There’s something I want you to see.”

I trailed behind Agent Mac Creedy as he led me to the area where I saw through my recovering telepathic haze what I thought was a unit of heart monitors but I was mistaken. It was a network of black on black laptops with red yellow and blue charts and diagrams on each screen. There were a series of different colored wires which were hooked up to each laptop from behind and they all came from a common source, a seven-foot-long incubator. Beneath the incubator was a platform of some kind that received each series of wires into an individual port which connected to the incubator itself. Within it was a shorter platform that hosted two armed prongs which held up the largest nautilus conch shell I had ever seen. There seemed to be some sort of darknet that held the shell itself in its pouch. There was one long piece which was braided to either end of the darknet that appeared to be a kind of strap where the bearer of the shell could carry it about his shoulder. As I looked closer I could see that the darknet was comprised of a series of smaller, more detailed braids which made up the whole. The breath left my body as it dawned upon me that this netting was made of human hair. That’s when I noticed an almost countless number of human teeth embedded into the sides of the calico colored shell. The hair stood up on the back of my neck as a slow cold chill ran down my spine. Instinct made me take a step away from it as I also saw a chip missing from the shell just near the bottom.

“No way,” I whispered to myself.

“Do you know what a Clarion might be?” Agent Mac Creedy asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

Pointing at the large incubator Agent Mac Creedy asked, “Then you know what that is?”

“Yes,” I said with a cold bit of sarcasm. “It’s a conch shell.”

Who knew that a little smart ass remark would have been the thing that would light a fire under Agent Mac Creedy’s ass and send him off the deep end? I didn’t, but it gave me a great advantage to negotiate terms my way. I was no longer a tool at this point, the real tool was the one who completely lost his composure.

“Son of a bitch!!!” He screamed. In a flash, he grabbed me by the shirt and threw me to the ground. I landed with a hard thud as the breath left my body and before I could recover Agent Mac Creedy had already picked me up from the floor with both hands and pinned me up against a wall. I kept my chin tucked in tight in order to prevent my head from hitting any hard surface. Agent Mac Creedy already had his fist cocked back and was ready to let me have one right in the teeth when suddenly the entire room of agents began to pull us apart. I, of course, offered no resistance because I figured that the money would come in handy once I took him to court for assault. I just needed him to hit me first but of course, his people got in our way. So in a last-ditch effort before they could separate I spat in his face. Oh, the murderous look in his eyes was priceless! I screamed at his companions to let him go but our moment of barbaric entertainment was cut short.

“AGENT MAC CREEDY!!!” Came the booming voice from the back of the room. A short, stalky man with gray hair and glasses in a greenish colored suit came running out of nowhere and ordered everyone to break it up. The mob obeyed and let the two of us loose and went back to their stations. Whoever this guy was, it was obvious that he was Agent Mac Creedy’s superior.

“You compose yourself right now Agent! Your behavior is deplorable! Have you forgotten why we’re here and what our purpose is?” The man demanded.

“No sir,” Agent Mac Creedy replied. “I have not.”

“You go back to my office and wait for me. I’ll deal with you later!” He pointed. Without any protest, Agent Mac Creedy left and disappeared into one of the back offices.

Extending his hand out to me, the older man introduced himself, “I’m director William Schraeder Mr. Kealoha. Let me begin by apologizing for my agent’s behavior. Are you hurt?” He asked.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Was Agent Mac Creedy able to brief you on what is taking place here?” Director Schraeder asked.

“Uh no, he was just showing me this conch shell and then he asked me a question and I answered him and I guess he didn't like the answer I gave him so he attacked me,” I said.

“What did Agent Mac Creedy ask you?” Director Schraeder inquired.

“He asked me if I knew what was in that case and I told him it was a conch shell and then he went all P.T.S.D. on me,” I answered.

“Mr. Kealoha,” Director Schraeder said while shaking his finger at me, “We checked up on you and we know that you’re an expert storyteller. You have a way of shaping words together that evoke a particular kind of response from people. I think it was the WAY that you answered Agent Mac Creedy’s question that made him upset. You were probably tweaking him the whole time.”

 I immediately feigned ignorance. “Director Schraeder, I was talking to him in the same way that I am talking to you.”

“Alright Mr. Kealoha, alright,” The director responded with his hands up in the air. “Now, did Agent Mac Creedy say anything to you about, “Clarion?”

“He mentioned the word,” I responded. “He wanted to know if I knew what it meant.”

“And do you?” Director Schraeder was slowly pushing now.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Enlighten me further please,” Director Schraeder was just as condescending as Agent Mac Creedy but in a more Mom and Pop sort of way.

“It’s a war trumpet. However, by looking at what’s in that incubator I gather that you’re leaning more towards Gabriel’s trumpet am I right?” I speculated.

“And can you tell me exactly what it is that’s in that incubator?” Now he was coming across more like a hungry wolf waiting to pounce on his prey.

Looking at the shell horn in the incubator I began to shudder at the thought that this object was actually here right in front of me. I immediately knelt down on my knees while looking up at it with awe and reverence.

“I first read about it as a kid in our school library, and as I grew older I came across more detailed versions of its history from antiquity. A few years back I finally began to take it out of its mythical context and when I dissected the stories surrounding it more closely, I knew that it did indeed exist at one time but as it was with all objects like this one; once our kapu system was done away with, it was either destroyed or had been kept in some unknown repository cave somewhere. I can’t believe it’s here and that it is real. My eyes are gazing upon an object that was held by sacred Ali’i and miscreant gnomes. It was then rescued in one single night by a supernatural dog who gave his own life for its freedom. It commanded the elements and all things therein contained. It also held within its confines, the agonizing voices of the conquered enemies of its keeper whose tortured wailing would cause the common man to go mad.” I said softly.

“Then you know what this is?” Director Schraeder echoed the question that was earlier asked by Agent Mac Creedy.

“Of course I do, and so do you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have it locked up in this basement with these monitors hooked up to it.” I said. “By the way, why do you have all these wires and monitors hooked up to it?”

“If this is truly the object that legend says it is and if it can truly exercise and influence a unique reaction from the environment…” I had to cut Director Schraeder off. In other more congenial circumstances I would have loved to hear his dissertation, but not today.

“I’m sorry Director Schraeder but can you give it to me in layman’s terms please?”

“We’re monitoring its supernatural powers.” He said frankly.

At that point, my stomach sank and my gut began to twist. I could tell that I was standing at the precipice of a plan that was probably bigger than I could imagine.

“Dare I even ask?” I said.

“You’re a smart man Mr. Kealoha, you’ll figure it out.” Director Schraeder said. “From the time we first began this study two weeks ago our monitors have recorded a major spike from this object on three separate occasions. The first time was when your police officer friends came upon that Hawaiian man sitting upstairs. The second time was when Agent Mac Creedy sent in his elite squad. Unfortunately, they never came out alive. The third time it spiked was about an hour ago when Agent Mac Creedy and my people blindfolded you and tied you up.”

Director Schraeder pointed to the laptop screens where the graphs were calm and colored nicely and then to another point in the graph where all the colors on each individual line of the graph converged into a singular color that emitted a bright yellow light. He then punched in a code on the keyboard and brought up a smaller video screen in the top right-hand corner of the laptop. It was a video of my friend sitting chained to his chair while I was out cold on the floor in front of him. Director Schraeder pressed enter and the video replayed itself. I saw myself walk into the shot and sit on the floor at his feet. The next second he took my hand and I saw myself faint dead away. That’s where the video ended.

“That was strange, there was no spike recorded here at the moment when he took your hand and you blacked out. Can you tell me what transpired?” Director Schraeder asked.

It was starting again, the voices were coming through but it was like a cacophony of them all at once, all putting the same information in my head simultaneously.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “So you were right here in this basement the whole time. That conch shell didn't show an indication of it being anything other than supernatural until that man upstairs showed up. Where exactly is he seated in circumference to that conch shell Director Schraeder?”

Pausing for a moment, the director finally responded.

“He is seated directly above it. Somehow, and we don’t know exactly how, but somehow he has control over this conch shell. We can’t proceed with our plan, we’re at a deadlock and he is holding this entire project hostage. Now, he asked for you by name for some reason and that is why you were brought here. Something happened up there between the two of you and I want you to tell me what it was. It may just be the crucial information that we need Mr. Kealoha.”

“This explains why this hasn't gone public. You were right Director Schraeder I am a smart man and I’ve figured out what this is all about. It’s about war. It’s about having the upper hand in any way possible in order to win a war or to start one. You’re counting on what’s in that incubator to help you achieve those means but you can’t because of him.” I said pointing above us.

Director Schraeder finally shed his diplomatic mantle and laid everything bare on the table so to speak.

“That object can alter the course of human history! We can control the destination that mankind takes for the next thousand years and there will be nothing but peace! The world will know the power of that conch shell and won't ever once dare to oppose us! Don’t you see? All you have to do is tell us what he said to you and we can begin to change everything!” The poor director had worked himself up into a maddening fervor that could only be compared to the ranting of a circus tent preacher. “It’s exactly as you said earlier! That conch shell is the Hawaiian version of Gabriel’s Trumpet and the command we will have over the climate and all living beings is just too great to fathom!”

I agreed with the Director and finally bid him follow me upstairs where all of his questions would be answered, but I did have to remind him of one plain fact before we left the basement.

“The name of that object or conch shell as you call it is the “Kiha Pu.” None but an Ali’i of the highest ranking blood could command its call and wield its powers. In the wrong hands, it may prove to be more like the monkey’s paw.” That crucial bit of information went in one ear and out the other. It didn't matter at that point. Director Schraeder was about to get his answer, but just like Agent Mac Creedy, it wasn't going to be the answer he wanted.


......................




On very rare occasions a selected few in the world are truly inspired by divine means to perform an arduous task or to deliver a life-changing message that is meant to alter the course of man's history. In our culture, when divine messages came to our ancient priests they were unfiltered and very specific and if followed to the letter, the chief who heeded these words would know great benefit and prosper for years to come. The lives of seers and prophets literally hung in the balance in accordance with the correct interpretation of the heavenly message. Unfortunately, skillful con men who have disguised themselves as evangelists and modern-day prophets have also claimed the same divine gift to the unknowing masses and have gained the following of thousands, in some cases with disastrous results. In those circumstances, people have dangerously elevated and deified the person to an almost godly status rather than interpret or understand the written law of any philosophy or religion.
In most recent years the government has kept a watchful eye on those smaller factions of independent terrorists who commit suicide bombings and the like on a domestic and foreign scale. Whether they are immediately squashed or allowed to flourish is entirely unknown to the general public but where does this leave someone like Kekua Elama who appears one day at a local museum and chains himself to a chair in an empty hallway where he can’t do any real damage to anyone or anything except to himself?
Somehow he implanted a vision in my head that revealed a visitation by the four major gods of our pantheon, Ku, Kane, Lono, and Kanaloa.
They had chosen him as their instrument by which he was to secure the Kiha Pu as the gods themselves had come to know that the conch shells otherworldly powers were going to be used by evil foreign men who had no blood tie or royal claim to the sacred clarion whatsoever. They commanded Kekua to either rescue the item from the local museum or to destroy it and he himself along with it should unforeseen circumstances deem the action necessary. Their champion possessed a pure heart of innocence and it was plain to all who knew him that the mind and soul of a child lived within his adult body. And so without question on that late afternoon in his yard, Kekua Elama consented to the heavenly decree and immediately became imbued with the knowledge of how his task should be carried out. He was also given the strength of 20 men and was then burdened with the knowledge of Lua, the Hawaiian martial art of bone breaking. His only limitation was that Kekua only spoke Hawaiian and that his English was limited. Who would ever understand the reason for his actions if someone should ask? Hearing the distress in his heart, the gods gave him a name to call out and ask for when the right moment presented itself to him. The heavenly four assured him that the owner of the name would appear and that this man would tell the world of Kekua’s story. Not once did I ever assume to think that that person would be me, I naturally thought that it should have rightfully been the kuleana of one of our esteemed Kupuna in our community, not one so lowly and more human than myself.

There was no doubt in my heart that what I saw was absolutely true. Although I have never had the occasion to stand face to face with our gods, I have seen their machinations work through other people. I have unwittingly recorded their voices and have seen their images move through heiau, sacred landmarks, royal palaces, shopping malls, schools, and department stores. They do exist.
However, the director and his men in black were not going to buy this story by a long shot. A bombing inspired by the Hawaiian gods?

Hardly.

They would only see it as a kind of Jihad and not a communion between a humble Hawaiian and his godly ancestors. The director and his agents filled up the hallway behind me while I stood not more than a foot away from Kekua. I had to think fast.

“Well?” The director chirped. “We’re waiting.”

“His name is Kekua Elama. He has a very rare case of Asperger’s syndrome which somehow is tied in with his psychokinesis, the ability to move objects with one's mind. What’s also happening is that he is an innocent, his body is fully grown and mature but his mind and soul is that of a child. Do you understand?” I said.

Director Schreader put his hands up in a sign of indifference and shook his head.

“Ok,” I continued. “His favorite book which he’s read countless times over from when he was a kid is called, “ Puapualenalena.”

It’s a legend that takes place in ancient Hawai’i where a special dog rescues the very same Kiha Pu which you have downstairs, from a group of miscreant trolls who have stolen it from the sacred Chief Kiha for whom the shell is named.”

“We’re well aware of the legend Mr. Kealoha,” The director moaned.

“You’re aware of it but you don’t KNOW it!” I snapped. “Now shut up and let me finish! The kids who live in Kekua’s neighborhood are cruel and they tease Kekua every time they see him. One day as he’s sitting on the wall outside of his house reading his favorite book, those same kids come up to him and ask him what he’s reading and so he tells them. Can you imagine Kekua’s surprise and astonishment when those rotten kids tell him that they actually saw the Kiha Pu in the local museum? That weekend they get Kekua to go with them to the museum to go look at the fabled magic conch shell and of course, Kekua is counting the days until he gets to see the Kiha Pu in person! That day comes and when Kekua is standing there looking into the glass case, he sees that the Kiha Pu is nothing like the conch shell in the story. The embedded teeth of slain enemies are missing. The chip or crack that came off of the conch shell when Puapualenalena dropped it as he was being pursued by the mountain trolls wasn't there either. What he was looking at was a large, plain and very unremarkable conch shell. Not the clarion of legend. Some part of Kekua began to unravel and he expressed his confusion and anger regarding the contrast between the conch shell in the story and the one that he was looking at. He knew that story and other versions of it forwards and backward. He studied the make of that conch shell and knew every fine detail there was. That’s when those little no good kids told Kekua that he should go back and sneak into the museum and find the real Kiha Pu. He took what they said literally and did exactly that.”

“You’re gonna tell me next that he learned how to strap a belt of dynamite around his waist because he looked it up on Google?” Director Schraeder asked. “What about those spikes on our monitors and the guards and the police and my team? What about all of you guys getting blasted across this room? How’d he do that?”

I put my hands up and shrugged my shoulders in reply.

“Those were extreme circumstances that put him under duress. The result of that was his acting out in the only way he knew how. Psychokinesis.” I said

“You forgot about why he asked for you by name?” The director shot at me.

“Turns out he’s also a fan. He has two of my books. He thought that if there was anyone who would understand his plight, it would be me. That’s how I got dragged into this.” I was playing it up real good. I could only hope that the director was buying it.

“And the conch shell?” The director demanded.

“He’s connected to it somehow,” I said. “Think about it for a second. If he’s really that closely connected to its source of power maybe you can work this out somehow. Maybe he can help you and maybe you guys could learn how to harness both sources, the Kiha Pu and Kekua.?”

I could see the idea running through the director’s mind. He removed a small black cell phone from inside his jacket pocket and dialed a number. The conversation was hushed and went on for several minutes. After he hung up he looked at me with a wink of approval. Whoever it was that he just spoke with on the other side of the phone had to be the only someone who could give the green light to my suggestion. At that point, I was glad that none of the agents understood Hawaiian and that Kekua’s comprehension of English was limited. Finally, the director instructed me to tell Kekua to undo his chains and to remove his belt of dynamite and to deactivate the detonator. Looking at Kekua now I nodded and smiled. I wasn't quite certain if he could read my thoughts at that point but I let him know that the demands of the gods were agreed upon and that he should follow the director down to the basement. After what seemed to be an eternity, Kekua began to carefully undo his iron restraints and explosive devices and in less than a few minutes, he was on his way to the basement to finally realize his dream. Following along now I was suddenly stopped at the top of the stairs by director Schraeder as the rest of the agents disappeared down the stairwell with Kekua.

“We’ll take it from here,” The director said. “Thanks for all of your help, we’ll get Terry Higa to come to get you and take you home.”

Two more agents came from behind the director and hurried me to the same back exit that I entered in from before. I had lost my sense of time and I couldn't even recall what day it was. Just as the agents had opened the door for me and the sunlight peered into the dark room and temporarily blinded me, Kekua ran up from behind and gave me a great big hug.

“ ‘O Kekuaotarani to’u inoa piha! Mahalo nui e te hoa! Mahalo!”

With that said, he disappeared down the stairwell and I was sent back into civilization. I almost couldn't believe that they bought the story which I just literally pulled out of my rear end and that they were all now gazing at one of the most sacred Hawaiian objects in our history, not more than a few hundred feet away from where I was standing. Divine inspiration has its moments for sure and I just had mine. Whew! That’s about when another divine moment hit me right between the eyes. It made my blood run cold in an instant and caused me to run back to the very door that I came out of. It couldn't be. I kept convincing myself that it was a coincidence and that it couldn't be the real reason why the gods chose him to be their vehicle. It was his full name.

“Kekuaokalani.”

The Kekuaokalani of history was the nephew of Kamehameha the great. He inherited Kamehameha's war god Kuka’ilimoku while the kingdom itself was bequeathed to Kamehameha’s son, Liholiho.
After the death of his uncle, Kekuaokalani himself led a rebellion against his cousin for abandoning the old religion. Kekuaokalani perished in that battle. He was a martyr to his fidelity in keeping the old ways.

I prayed that I was wrong.

As I raised my fist to pound on the door, the last thing I recalled was everything suddenly taking on the appearance of a negative from a photograph; it was like the color was drained out of the world for a second. That anomaly only lasted for a moment and then I was overcome with a massive headache and simultaneously enveloped by darkness.

I recall hearing noises and murmuring and the awful smell of something burning. It all felt very unsettling as if some sort of horrible disaster had just taken place but I wasn't able to see it. Everything went black.

.............

I woke up later on my couch sweating profusely. The fan was off and the door and all of the windows were closed. I sat up immediately and noticed that something fell off of my chest. It was a piece of paper on the floor. I picked it up and looked at it and noticed there was a short note scribbled on it.

Did you see it for yourself?"

-Terry.-

I removed my seat-soaked clothing and took a cold shower. My head was pounding and I couldn't think of anything else except for eating a bag of Poi in order to coat my stomach. I would stay sick for a while and I would never be sure about what that whole black and white negative thing was but I know that I would never want to go through that again.

Almost a year later on a quiet late Wednesday afternoon, I would find myself on Ka’ulula’au Street in Papakolea sitting in my car just outside of Kekua’s home. I had my laptop with me as I had earlier Googled the address just to be sure and yet, here I was.
Locking up my car, I made my way to the small front entrance where I saw two eager Pit Bulls standing on their hind legs waiting to be petted. Just then I heard a voice call out from the nicely trimmed yard on the right side of the entrance. It was small but very clean and it hosted a short Coconut tree and a huge tangle of Puakenikeni right next to it. A pleasant wind wafted the fragrance of the ten cent flowers toward me and I had almost forgotten about the voice that called out

“Can I help you with something?” It was a warm female voice that harbored no trace of fear or anger. From behind the Puakenikeni branches appeared a Hawaiian woman who was tall and had the bearing of an Ali’i.. Her demeanor, however, was one of kindness and affability.

“Aloha!” I replied. “I was a friend of Kekua Elama and I just wanted to see where he lived. The last time I saw him was about a year ago.”

“Oh,” she said. “He disappeared around the same time that his parents passed away in their sleep. They used to live here but I maintain the house now. I’m Lehua Elama. Kekua’s parents were my older cousins.”

“I see,” I said. “I’m Kealoha,"

“Oh yes!” Lehua replied. “I know you, I know what you do.”

“I’m not here looking for ghosts,” I assured her. “I’m just wondering if it’s too niele of me to ask about what happened to Kekua? Like you said he up just disappeared one day.”

“There’s really nothing big about it. He was watering the grass one day and his feet got tangled in the hose and he fell back and hit his head on some rocks over there.” Lehua was now pointing to an area in the yard that I couldn't see. “Come,” she waved me over.. “Here, you can come look.”

There were four closely aligned black colored rocks that were about half a foot high. As I knelt down and got an even more intimate look at the pohaku, I was startled by what I saw,

“They all look like Ki’i!” I said.

“Yeah,” Lehua agreed. “Give me the heebees! How many times I told Kekua to take out those pohaku! He tried one day but come to find out those pohaku are stuck in the ground or they must be part of one huge boulder so he just left it alone. You know, I remember when we were studying Ki’i when I was at U.H. Hilo and you know what?”

“What?” I replied.

“These four pohaku look like Ku, Kane, Lono, and Kanaloa.” She said.

It goes without saying that my entire body from head to toe was covered in chicken skin as Kekua’s vision replayed itself back in mind.

“So, he hit his head on these four pohaku?” I asked.

“Yes,” she confirmed. “After that, he disappeared and his parents passed away that same night. Funny kine yeah?

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Funny kine.”

I offered my thanks to Lehua for her time and after expressing my condolences I quickly made my way back to my car. I immediately hit the freeway and headed toward the local museum. I don’t know why I felt that I had to go back there after a year but maybe it was a grim curiosity that needed to be satisfied. A short time later I had made my way through the back parking lot and noticed that there was some construction going on and the very building where everything happened was gone. Not just gone as in being torn down and awaiting a new structure to take its place but gone as if the building itself never existed. A year ago I stood in front of a group of government agents and fabricated a story that I had hoped would save one Hawaiian man from martyrdom or save us from being taken along with him. But did I? Did I really save him or did I just hasten his agenda? Or even worse, in trying to help him did I defy the edicts of the gods? The only person who could answer that question was the one who stood in a large basement at the local museum among a cadre' of government agents who also disappeared along with their Hawaiian hostage. I wonder how awe struck Kekua must have been when he cast his gaze upon the actual Kiha Pu? His heart must have been filled with reverence and joy at the sight of it! I like to think that with a heart filled with boyish wonder, Kekua took the Kiha Pu and held it to his lips and sounded the mighty clarion with such triumphant enthusiasm that he eradicated all of the evil thoughts and deeds which filled that room until it and he and the agents were wiped clean from the world.

That's my happy thought.

In reality, no trace has ever been found of Kekuaokalani Elama and for the few times that I ran into Terry Higa, he would make small talk but he would never mention anything about that morning when he came to get me at my place. ‘Til this day he pretends that the events of the past year never happened and that all of the ghost stories I've collected and told were finally taking a toll on my perception of reality.

It was a sobering thing to know that there was something that existed out there that is larger and more malevolent than any of us could begin to imagine. And I’m not talking about men in black suits.



Dec 20, 2018

Believe in Shane



My life had fallen apart to the point that my own daughter wanted nothing to do with me, her new stepfather was well off and I guess money talks and love can’t afford forever twenty-one or all things Roxy. Be that as it may; being a part-time teacher assistant at a local occupational college was only enough to pay the rent. Anything outside of that didn’t leave me with much to pay the utilities, car insurance or fill my refrigerator with food. So, I volunteered to be a Santa Claus at a local mall for the Christmas season. No matter what anyone tells you, it’s a thankless job but one has to have the patience of a saint in order to don the red suit and white beard. The sum of crying children that parents want to place on your lap against their own free will is innumerable, as are the number of drunk women and parents with childhood issues who want to re-live a moment that they believe they were cheated out of while growing up. Let’s not even begin with the soiled diapers and throw up all over the place; thank goodness that no one can recognize me in this get up.
It was a Tuesday evening and there didn’t seem to be too many people at the mall. I took that as an opportunity to take a break until the line began to get long enough for me to make my return as the white-bearded red hat wonder. Geeze...who was I kidding? 

I was halfway to the back room when a chubby little Hawaiian boy pulled on my coat and wouldn’t let go until I stopped to talk to him. He was cradling a brown paper bag in his arms and the look on his face told me that he was in dire need to have my full attention. I sat on my knees and in a hushed tone, I began to ask about his dilemma.
He held the paper bag up to me so that I could see what was in it; it was a little black and gray puppy.
“It looks like a German Shepard,” I said softly.
“It is,” he whispered back. “It’s my puppy, Randy,”
“Is Randy sleeping?” I asked.
“No,” the little boy said, “he died, he choked on a chew toy.”
“Awwww buddy, I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied. At that moment, I was not sitting on Santa’s chair at my designated spot in the mall. I was on my knees talking to a little boy who was showing me his dead puppy. I forgot where I was, I forgot that I was in my get up. I forgot I was Santa Claus, I was just me, Raymond Jesus.
“You should take your puppy back home with you, your Mom and Dad can help you.” At this point, I began to look around for the boys’ parents but I didn’t see anyone.
“No, my mom wanted me to bury it but I brought Randy here because I know you can fix him and make him good Santa,” Then I remembered who I was, but what was I supposed to do? Take off my costume in front of everyone and break this kids heart? Give him a reality check that would probably scar him well into his adulthood?
Right then the little boy took the puppy’s body out of the brown paper bag and put the lifeless form of the small animal in my hands.
“Just hold him Santa, just hold him,” the look in his eyes was the look I remembered all too well. That look of innocent hope as if nothing was impossible, that look of wishes that could do nothing else but come true, that look of a child’s fervent dream becoming reality as they leave every hope and dream they have in your hands. That was the look that my daughter had on her face right before I told her that her mother and myself were going to divorce and that we wouldn’t be living together in our house anymore. I never saw that look on her face again.
I held the pup in my hands and stroked it’s fur again and again until I found myself caressing it with my cheeks. I gave it all the love I had left as I pet it, again and again, all the while blowing softly on its face. A second later it’s body stiffened and heaved up a little vinyl chew toy as it came flying out of its mouth. I placed it softly on the cold tile as it began to cough and throw up. It was alive, it lay on its side breathing but it was very much alive.
“See? I knew I knew you had to hold it and love it, I knew,” the little boy said excitedly as he picked his puppy up in his arms and hugged it.
Just then I saw a woman stop a few feet behind the boy and then she came walking towards him.
“I’m so sorry, he’s upset because his puppy died. I tried to reason with him but he kept insisting that Santa Claus could fix the puppy. He ran out of the house after that. I’ve been going absolutely crazy looking for him. We live across the street from the mall and I don’t know how he got here on his own. Shane, let’s go now and stop bothering this poor man,” the woman insisted.
“You’re his Mom?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied shaking my hand. “I’m Teresa, this is my son Shane,”
“He fixed him, mom! Santa Claus fixed him!” Shane screamed as he held Randy up for his mother to see.
“Oh my god!” Teresa shrieked.
“Dog CPR,” I whispered and winked.
She mouthed the words, “Thank you” to me and Shane gave me a big hug before they left.
I could still hear him screaming down the mall, “I told you! I told you!”
....
The following evening as I was changing out of my costume into my regular clothes, our boss came to the back and said, “Raymond, there’s someone waiting for you outside!”
Knowing my luck it was somebody coming to collect money. I made my way to the door and I tried to remember which bill I forgot to pay and why would anyone come here to collect? To my surprise, it was Shane’s mother Teresa who was waiting outside.
“You’re the Santa Claus that talked to my son Shane about his puppy yesterday right?” She asked.
“Yeah, how’d you know?” I returned.
“I asked your boss,” she said.
“Oh okay, so the puppy is all good? No brain damage or anything?” I asked.
“No, surprisingly enough Randy is one hundred percent like brand new,” she smiled.
“I’m glad to hear that,” I said. “Teresa, right?”
“Yes,” she nodded.
“I’m Raymond, it’s nice to meet you,”
I extended my hand in greetings but she hugged me instead.
“Where’s Shane?” I asked.
“He’s with his father for the next couple of days, it’s his turn,” she nodded.
“Cool, well thanks and say hi to Shane,” I said as I gave a short wave.
“Well, no wait; would you let me treat you to dinner or something? I think it was wonderful what you did for Shane yesterday and I just wanted to say thank you,”
I could see that it was difficult for her to ask such a thing and she appeared to be very nervous. It’s one of those things that divorced parents go through, especially ones who were married for a length of time. Even asking someone out to a casual dinner can be awkward; speaking from experience of course.

“There’s a ramen place around the corner if you wanna go there?” I suggested.

“Is it good?” She asked.

“The best,” I confirmed.
.............
The dinner turned out to be really nice, all we did was talk about our own kids and what went wrong with our marriages. I didn’t push it beyond that in the beginning but by the end of the evening, we exchanged numbers and Facebook profiles. It didn’t turn out to be a Christmas miracle or anything, but who would have thought that a little Hawaiian boy and his unwavering belief in Santa Claus could change one person's cynicism and bring a dead puppy back to life?
Certainly not me.


Nov 12, 2018

Uncle Thomas

1


It was because of my uncle Thomas that my parents were able to buy the family station wagon at a good price. He owned a local car dealership and he 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 are you going to 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 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.”

….………

2


Like 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 the hands of my father than being arrested. Mind you, this was the late 60’s early 70’s 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 and 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 beeeautiful!”

“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’s 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 too. 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 good-byes 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 cleaned 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.”

….………

3


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 peaked 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 to 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. Just as they were 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 it was that Uncle Thomas said it was; my dad drove to the bank and 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 recruiters office and made him sign up for the military. My brother had no choice. Dad told him that it would be years before he’d ever be able to 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 was working a full-time job and living on her own until things blew up between my brother and my uncle. That’s when mom insisted that she live with us for a while.

….………

4


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 sunset 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 to opportunity to tell my own 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, 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 came back with two beers and handed him an already opened bottle, “Your mother called me all the time, 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 and 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 his 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 I went around introducing 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 that I’d had together with a woman years ago; I was really young. When Vanessa’s mother found out that she was working at Thomas Kamalo’s Car 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 dripped 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.

Uncle Thomas wasn't as lucky as my father was; I mean in the way that 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 says 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 7, 2018

Mr. Durin

“Off the record, I think this is all a bunch of bullshit and that these employees worked one another up into a lather, so that management had no choice but to employ the likes of someone such as yourself,” Mr. Durin’s black beady eyes regarded me with obvious contempt from across his tightly manicured desk.

Nov 6, 2018

A Chance Without Knowing

In the convenience store, the soft drinks, the juice, and water were stored right next to the beer, hard liquor and wine. When the tall dark man entered the store, the husband, wife, and sister in law yelled at the college students and the older drunk men that the liquor cabinet was closed after eleven in the evening; which it was.