Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 3, 2014

Time Travel


I suppose that, if time travel were possible, it would have to be done through a method that is least expected.  Everything we know about time travel thus far has been taught to us via science fiction, mainly because of Star Trek.  My friends, the most common mode of time travel has literally been at our disposal on a daily basis and we have consistently overlooked it.  Its availability has been handy to us on our morning and afternoon commute to and from work or while dropping off and picking our children up after school.  We can find it in almost every store and bank.  We can even find it in the occasional television commercial.  Have you figured it out?

No, it’s not your car.

It’s music.

I mention this because this afternoon, as my wife and I were driving with the kids in the car, I had my playlist of music from my phone blaring on the car speakers.  Our son Dillon guessed that we were first listening to the Beatles then, later as Steely Dan came on, he began to listen to the lyrics of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

Listening to the song, Dillon attempted to interpret what he thought the song meant.  He shared that he thought the song was for a girl and that it was important that she not lose the number she was given.

He had no idea how close he was to the truth!  I laugh now when I think about it.  According to a 2006 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the ‘Rikki’ of the title is Rikki Ducornet, a New York writer and artist.  Steely Dan co-front, Donald Fagen, met her while both were attending Bard College, a small liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.  Ducornet says they met at a college party and, even though she was both pregnant and married at the time, he gave her his number, however not in the same context as the song.  Ducornet was intrigued by Fagen and was tempted to call him but she decided against it.

When this song was released in 1974, I was 12 years old and living on Pupukahi Street in Waipahu.  It was a golden time in my young life and it seemed that all the songs of that year were specifically written to tickle a young man’s heart and to stimulate his mind.  My brother Paul lived two floors above of us with his then wife, Patty, my nephew Shorty and little Jimmy who would come later.

Four doors down from where our apartment was located lived two fourteen-year-old guys who were stoners and they did nothing but smoke weed and play records of all the latest bands.  Their names were Dale and Tim.  Dale was Japanese with long hair parted down the middle and he always wore blue colored sunglasses.  Tim was half white, half black and he was built like a short, oversized refrigerator.  His sunglasses were colored orange and I don’t ever recall a time when the two of them were ever without their shades.  When I think about it now, I don’t even remember ever seeing their parents around.  They also played a lot of Cheech and Chong records too.  They would let me hang out with them mainly because of the fact that I would just sit there and read every single comic in their collection without bothering them.  One summer day we had just gotten through the fifth round of listening to “Sister Mary Elephant” when Dale stood up and went to his closet.  He pulled out a brand new record album that still had the plastic wrapping on it, I could barely make out the cover but it seemed to me as if something interesting was about to happen.  And it did.

Dale placed the LP on the record player, which was hooked up to a brand new pair of speakers.  The crackle and pop of the vinyl disc permeated the room before the first track started.  It began with a somewhat low piano key and carried a dun, dun dun, dun dun, dun dun tune with it, from that point the song exploded in a fusion of jazz and pop.  It was funky and had a certain feel to it.  I realized that we were listening to something that was not only new and innovative but also very unique.

We hear you're leaving, that's okay
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart

Rikki don't lose that number
You don't want to call nobody else
Send it off in a letter to yourself
Rikki don't lose that number
It's the only one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

I have a friend in town; he's heard your name
We can go out driving on Slow Hand Row
We could stay inside and play games, I don't know
And you could have a change of heart

You tell yourself you're not my kind
But you don't even know your mind
And you could have a change of heart

This afternoon, as our son Dillon exemplified his best effort at translating the meaning of a song from 1974, I found that the song itself became a time machine that transported me to a place where the world and not yet crossed the cusp of young adulthood.  I could feel the texture of my favorite screen-printed Bruce Lee shirt on my body and the soothing fabric of my blue, corduroy jeans on my legs.  My favorite pair of hippy sandals fit so well that, at times, I would forget I had them on my feet -- I only wore them because I recalled seeing a picture of Bruce Lee wearing them while on the set of some movie.  Once the song ended and my wife disconnected the auxiliary cord, the last part of my journey in time was witnessing Dale and Tim fight over an Iron Fist comic that both claimed was theirs.  The two of them had forgotten that they owned their own individual copies.  Their friendship broke up after that, even though they lived right next door to one another.

It’s a great invention of technology these direct smartphone downloads and playlists all at the touch of a button.  Instant time travel.  Amazing.

Nov 30, 2014

Ho'akoakoa

I was asked on my ghost tour one night why I never take my people to the stone ahu just off to the Diamond Head side of the Pohukaina Burial mound on the grounds of the 'Iolani Palace.

I'm not in the practice of making something out of nothing.  The truth is, there's nothing supernatural about the stone altar.  The Ahu was erected around the time of the hundred-year anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1993.  That would make the stone altar twenty-one years old. It's not ancient, it hadn't been there during the reign of Lili'u, Kalakaua, or any other monarch who ruled from the throne of either incarnation of 'Iolani Palace.


Our friends at pacificworlds.com posted this article:



~~~
A small, unnamed stone altar sits on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace.  About a yard (or meter) square, this site does not appear in the old photos, or even the fairly recent ones.  We asked Lynette Cruz about this ahu.  Here is her story:


"Prior to 1993, there was a plan for a 100th anniversary commemoration of the overthrow of the Kingdom in 1893.  And prior to that there was a plan for some way to bring all of the islands together, some visible marker of unification.  People brought rocks, from all islands, and they had a team of people there build an ahu.

"Friends of ‘Iolani Palace were not happy with the ahu.  They actually didn’t want it to be there.  The didn’t want it to be on the site at all.  Their wish was for that area to be kept pretty much as it was, and there was no ahu there before.  However, it was a people’s thing, and they did it anyway, and it’s there.  And people will come."

"Our ancestors are honored always, and the mound is set aside for the ali‘i.  And this other piece is ours, our history, our kupuna, our people who were in struggle.  We are able to honor them by bringing some physical manifestation -- a rock -- to this place where we could all be together -- unification."

"It seems that the ahu symbolizes resistance, and no matter what is all around us in terms of State or Federal control, that is ours.  So we will always be able to honor our own there.  That place belongs to us.  And when people in the movement, in the struggle, die, we tend to have a ceremony there at the ahu.  Kahale Smith, he died in a fire on Kaua‘i, on Hawaiian homestead land -- he was being evicted, and refused to leave his house, then it caught fire and burned down with him in it.  A major outcry followed, but then all of us were thinking, 'well, we have to do something about it.'  And a whole bunch of us met and decided that we would do something for him at the mound.  Hundreds and hundreds of people came, it was jammed around in that area, within that enclosed area.  So it’s a very significant place for us, us common people."

"The rocks keep changing.  We’ve only been maintaining the mound area for like three years, going on a fourth, and in that time the rocks have changed.  These are not the same rocks that were there when we first came, and they were not the rocks that were there when they first built it, because they have photographs of them.  Rocks are changing — rocks come, and rocks go. People bring things, sometimes they bring crystals, sometimes they bring continental rocks, more quartz like, so they’re not from here."

"But all in all, it has been a really good place for people to come, when they have to bring closure to something.  And I have actually participated in some ceremonies there, where people who are grieving, especially those who have gone away from Hawai'i and come home, and have lost family members, and really do not know how to deal with it, because they have been away from Hawai‘i for so long, they have kind of forgotten.  They will go to that area, to the ahu, and bring stones from where they used to live, and make peace. It must work, because people will walk away feeling okay."


~~~

Ho'akoakoa - a place to gather.  Anything can be healing.  It takes an open mind, an open heart and a willingness to let go.  But...
Not everything is haunted.

Nov 6, 2014

Ho‘okupu

Once I completed my training and became a Kumu Hula, I had gained all of the knowledge that was imparted to me by my teachers from our school of hula, which dates back to antiquity.  However, the process of learning in and of itself never stops, so in the process of gaining new knowledge, there is also kuleana (responsibility) that comes with it.



Earlier this year, I was fortunate to have been able to study a different style of ‘oli from Kumu Hula Kalani Akana.  It wasn’t the bombastic, dynamic style that I was used to but I liked it.  Of all the chants that we learned, there was one ‘oli in particular that stayed with me and, with Kumu’s permission, we were given the option of adding whatever chants we learned to our already existing repertoire.  I added the following  to mine:This was a chant collected by Mrs. Eleanor Williamson of the Bishop Museum during her interviews of Hawaiian elders of ‘O‘ahu.  The place names in this chant are particular to ‘O‘ahu, Makahuna and the pili o Hūewa are in the ahupuaof Palolo.
In it’s regular form, this chant is very well known by many, as it is the chant that Kumu Hula ‘O Brian ‘Eselu gives before his men dance and it is the first track on his flagship CD.  You also hear his haumana, who are now kumu hula, offer this same chant as well.
The beauty of this chant and the imagery within the words painted a picture in my mind's eye as Kumu Kalani chanted first, in order to give us a feel for what the chant should sound like.  The room disappeared and I was standing at Makahuna overlooking what I thought was an undulating sea of brown water until I realized it was the wind causing the pili grass of Hūewa to move back and forth like waves.  I was there and I was struck by the power of where a chant such as this could take me or anyone for that matter.
Unfortunately, with what I do for a living, the opportunity to offer this chant anywhere on one of my evening excursions never came.  What I mean by that is that the proper location to offer the chant never presented itself.  We all wish that there was one Hawaiian chant that covered all places, people and things but there is not.  Each place that I visit and pay homage to requires a specific chant appropriate to that location.  For instance, on my Wai‘anae excursions there is a specific chant that I offer at Kaneana cave that identifies me as a family member to the deity that occupies that cave. At the heiau at Kane‘ilio Point, there is a chant that I offer that honors the skills of our ancestral navigators since the heiau itself was used for celestial navigation.  At Ke‘awa‘ula, there are many chants that I offer to Kuali‘i, the huakai hele i ka po and to the procession that walks out to the leaping stone of Kaena.  Yes, there are regular aloha chants that can be offered but for myself and myself only, in my na‘au, I feel that the chant must be appropriate to the place or the person.  Others may disagree and that is fine, there will never be one clear way of thinking, nor will there be one way to standardize all chants and that is the beauty of diversity.
Alas, I have diverted from my original path...
Finally, the right time and place presented itself on a cool October evening at the Spalding House Museum where I was presenting ghost stories on the lawn to a crowd of fans whose vibrations of excitement and nervous energy could be felt like a light electrical current running through me.
As the sun was setting, I glanced toward Diamond Head and I could just make out what was once the pili grass plains of Hūewa.  I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath and the ‘oli came.  Once more, I was there.  The ko‘oko‘olau were bunched in clusters and the dawn of Pualena shone upon the red flowers of the ‘a‘ali‘i.  The yellow rays of the rising sun tinged the surface of the old pond and the cooling winds from Waikiki came over the hill near Kilauea as a greeting.  The pili grass moved like the waves of the rolling sea. I held the last note of the chant for as long as I could, not wanting to let go.  With the air in my lungs finally expelled, I opened my eyes and I was back on the lawn of the museum.
For me, that was the beauty and the actualization of offering the right chant at the right place at the right time.  The oli is my ho'okupu, my offering.  It not only brings everything together in a way that is pono but it also raises the vibration in said place to a higher level.  Beauty.
Mahalo for being part of my virtual audience.
By the way...  I anticipated that there would be those of you who might wonder why the Hawaiian language version of this lovely chant was not included.  The answer to that is, do your homework.  Make it fun and go do your own research and find the ‘oli  yourself.  May your journey leave you humble yet enlightened.





Day has dawned and shines bright red
upon the flower of the ‘a‘ali‘i
and yellow tinged upon the water
wreathed by blades of kalukalu,
piled high with ‘uki‘uki grass
the center of the ko‘oko‘olau flower is bunched
my women of the kaiāulu, flowering below
where the water of the Nāulu rain spurts up below
like the hidden wealth of Makahuna
that waves like the pili grass of Hūewa












Oct 19, 2014

Kawekiu


The soothing ocean breeze floats above the tops of the cresting waves just outside of Waikiki and filters past its sacred sands to make its way through the narrow alley that sits between the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and The Moana.  Visitors and locals alike find comfort from the heat of the unmerciful sun as the cooling wind embraces their perspiring forms, thus causing them to evoke a sigh of exasperated relief.  Skimming above the heated pavement of Kalākaua Avenue, the natural movement of the air dances through an open hotel lobby where a young Hawaiian girl sits at a grand piano and invokes the spirit of Debussy through her rendering of “Arabesque.”

Her fingers move effortlessly across the ivory keys while each note entreats her body to slowly inhale every cascading rise and fall of the sweet movement.  The pitch seems to appear from some unheard decibel and falls slowly like a fine mist of rain or an old yellowing leaf that has seen its last days.

The wind, with almost a life of its own raises itself to become a gently turning dust devil attempting to embrace the formless sound of that beautiful, lilting music.  It seemed to ascend to a height of unbreakable joy and then sadly descend again as if it were a waterfall, emptying itself of its last few teardrops.  The effort was fruitless and heartbreaking in the same instant; all the wind could do was float the sound along through the halls of the hotel in the hope that someone would know her pain.  Indeed, someone did.

A lone security guard who sat at her station on the opposite end of the hotel contemplated the value of a life that she was slowly rebuilding after she had lost everything.  Drug use gifted her with many incredible spiritual visions and gave her the strength to perform amazing athletic feats. It also gifted her with the stamina to experience the undying throes of ecstasy, as she was able to make love for a period of days.  However, drug use also cost her the loss of her job, her marriage and her children.  The court deemed that she was an unfit mother and, after a yearlong stay in a women’s facility, she was released and was now making a concerted effort to piece her life together.  Her parole officer was merciful and paired her with a true friend who was a supervisor at a security company.  The pay was minimal but it was what she needed in order to live an honest life.  She remained humble and stayed punctual.  It was during times like these when working the graveyard shift that she found that there was much too much time to think, which is largely why she kept herself busy.  However tonight, her tasks were completed early and she hadn’t anything more to do except to remain at her station.

The hotel was decorated with many period photographs from the 1800ʻs, specifically between the year 1874 and 1899.  The nostalgia of the property only served to rekindle old memories that the security guard would rather have put away like an old forgotten song.  However, each second that she’d spent alone with nothing to do, was a second that her old heartaches seeped in through the pores of her skin.  Those heartaches made her feel flush and would cause her temples to throb, all she could do to remedy such an unforgiving emotion was to fight back her tears, and will herself back to reality.  Once this task was achieved, everything would go back to normal.

Glancing up toward the lobby, the security guard noticed a light breeze billowing the curtains, which aligned the walkway.  The gentle wind was coming toward her.  That current of air lifted from the tiled floor and slowly wrapped its calming coolness around her.  She found it to be unnerving at first but, a second later, she felt as if she were a child again, sitting beneath the comfort of the old monkey pod trees at Puʻiwa Park where the Kiowao rain would marry with the Kukalahale wind and bring a soothing caress of air that lulled her into a deep slumber.  It was that same feeling again as she sat at her station, only now the wind carried a companion with it that exuded the most haunting music she had ever heard.  The pure sweetness of its lilting strain beckoned her from her seat and seemed to fade out ever so slightly but left enough of itself that, by pure curiosity, the hotel guard had no choice but to follow.

The sound led her across the lobby where the intoxicating aroma of the evening buffet was wasted on her sense of smell, the small chatter of guests milling about the pool also failed to capture her attention.  All she could manage was an irritable glance at anyone who seemed to be in her way, she had to find the source of the music.  This was not at all like the addiction she’d previously suffered, she did not want to get away and forget matters that troubled her mind.  She wanted to be aware, to be cognizant, to be present.  Present for whatever it was that she was going to find.  There was an answer at the end of this music, somehow she instinctively knew this, and at the same time, she did not want the music to end.

At the end of the walkway is a vast open space with a single grand piano that sits on a floral red carpet.  A beautiful, young, Hawaiian girl, tall and slender sits there playing the music as if she and the piano were sharing some intimate secret that was only known between the two of them.  At that moment, the security guard was overwhelmed by a peacefulness that she had never known before.  There was no fear as she approached the piano where the Hawaiian girl played and took a seat beside her.  The Hawaiian girl smiles as if there is not a care in the world that either of them should be concerned about.  Her eyes smile too while her hair cascades about her shoulders.  Her dress is white and fits her figure perfectly; it gathers at her slender waist and flares out just above the ankles.

“That music is beautiful,” the security guard says, “I feel safe for some reason.”

The Hawaiian girl smiles again and, as she begins to speak, the hotel guard notices her refined British accent, “Do you know about the components of a piano?”

“No,” the security guard answers.

“There is the back check,” the Hawaiian girl began, “it is a suede, leather or felt covered catcher which is fastened to the end of the piano key by a wire post. The back check catches and holds the piano hammer just after it has rebounded from striking the string and while the action below the hammer is preparing for another repetition of the note.”

“Alright,” the hotel guard replied. She understood nothing about pianos but the tone of the Hawaiian girls voice was mesmerizing and she could not help but listen.

“The belly,” the Hawaiian girl continued, “is where the pianoʻs soundboard is located.  Included are the bridges, belly rail, dampers, plate tuning pins and pinblock.”

The Hawaiian girl went on to explain in detail every single element of the piano until she finally ended with the wire piano treble.  A normal layman would have been exasperated even midway through the details of a piano’s workings but the security guard hung on every single word.

“Therefore, what we see before us is an exquisite grand piano and what we hear around us are all the many efforts of different components that form a singular sound which could cause someone to be melancholy or can lift someone to the heights of ecstatic happiness.” Leaning closer to the security guard, the Hawaiian girl whispered, “Do you know how I know that your components are functioning perfectly?”

“No,” the security guard answered with tears flowing down her cheeks.

“You’re still alive, that’s how I know!” the Hawaiian girl smiled.

The security guard could not help herself; she let out a hearty laugh that seemed to absolve her of all her sins, self imposed and otherwise.  Her tears fell without effort now.

“I forgot to ask your name,” the security guard said.

“Kawēkiu.”

“Thank you for your music.”

“Don’t thank me,” the girl said whimsically, “Thank Debussy, it’s his composition!  And also, thank your ʻaumakua!”

“My ʻaumakua?”

“The wind, it was he who brought me to you.”

“I see,” the security guard replied, not fully understanding the statement, “Will you be here tomorrow?”

“No,” the Hawaiian girl answered, “but I will be here.”

With that, the security guard felt herself slowly fading out of consciousness, while at the same time, the Hawaiian girl slowly faded into nothing as she continued to play the piano until the very last note.

It was the hotel front desk staff that found the security guard and helped to revive her.  Upon rising, she appeared to be someone different; the darkness that followed her was gone.  She seemed to be completely alive and vibrant.  She inquired as to the whereabouts of the Hawaiian girl who played the grand piano in the lobby, however, she was informed that there was never a grand piano in the lobby much less a Hawaiian girl playing it.

When her shift was over, she left the hotel to catch her bus to Palolo Valley on Kuhio Avenue.  It was only then that she noticed the statue of a young Princess just near the bus shack.

The inscription of her name is what caught the hotel guard’s attention, “Princess Victoria Kaʻiulani Kalaninuiahilapalapa Kawekiu i Lunalilo Cleghorn.”


Oct 9, 2014

A Musical Interlude

Is it possible to marry music to the paranormal?  I’m not referring to the usual bombastic sounds of a church pipe organ from those old Hammer films or the screaming chorus of Exorcist II.  I’m talking about regular everyday music that we hear on the radio or on VH1 or MTV.  Could music coalesce with a story about the murder of a 17-year-old girl?

Let’s consider the story itself, the girl in question sneaks out of her Pearl City home late one night and meets a friend of hers just up the street.


They drive out to Makua on the Leeward coast where they join a party just outside of Kaneana Cave that’s already in progress.  It turns out that they are the only two females at this impromptu drinking session.  As the night progresses, the girl’s friend and one of the other boys make themselves scarce, leaving only the girl with six of the remaining boys.  The more the boys drink, the bolder they become until they are finally forcing themselves on the young girl.   She makes a run for it and disappears into the black depths of the cave across the street, the boys go after her and when they find her, they rape and murder her.

Oct 2, 2014

Na Mea Ho'okipa



It's an interesting field of work that we are in, one that concerns the paranormal and other worldly activities. Myself, being a teller of ghost stories for these many years, it was only a matter of course that I would fall in to the field of paranormal investigations but with a twist, everyone I worked with had to have some kind of proven psychic ability. Thus, came the formation of The Grant Society. As it is with my evening excursions, so to is it with this group that safety is our number one precaution, care and measure. The safety of the people in my group, whether paranormal is my number one priority.


The ghosts and spirits are already present, that's a given, but if something negative happens on my excursions, be it the misdeed of someone in the group, the result of that action falls on me because I am ultimately responsible. The Kuleana of what I do, is mine and so I am the one who pays for any kind of faux pas. This is why I make sure that prayers of permission and supplication are done before we enter into any great and important undertaking.


I say this because I worry about some tour companies and their tour guides who are fool hardly and careless when it comes to the people on their tour, the people that they are ultimately responsible for. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I have heard tour guides mispronounce Hawaiian names and place names to the point where it makes me shake my head. Therefore, you can only imagine my concern when I see tour guides taking their groups into places that have posted obvious warning or kapu signs stating that said state park or trail is closed, or is dangerous, but they ignore the warning and take their group in anyway. Not only are those actions stupid but they are also disrespectful and arrogant. Case and point, the tour company on Hawai'i island who were accessing the Kaohe Homestead neighborhood in order to get a closer look at the lava flow. The tour company who will remain nameless, did so without permits,  yes, there are tons of other tour companies who are illegally doing tours like this as well but one has to take all measures to make sure that,


1) Safety first. Your people on your excursion and their overall safety are #1


2) You are allowed to go that location by permit or by agreement with the owners of said place.


3)That you respect the location you are going to without leaving any rubbish behind and adhering to all ground rules that your guide has shared.
For those of us who have grown up here in Hawai'i, especially on Hawai'i island, we know that for as much as Vulcanologists and others have always put forth their best effort to predict the flow of lava, Pele herself has always had her own mind and the lava flow has always changed course time and time again, thereby surprising everyone and establishing the fact that nature is unpredictable. Because of this, we owe Pele and other Akua like her who still exist, respect. There is no amount of money, or a tip or a favorable Yelp review that will do anyone's tour company any good if someone gets hurt really badly, or worse.
You are the mea ho'okipa, and you are ultimately responsible.



4) Safety first. NEVER, NEVER put your people in a dangerous situation, if it's driving or walking.



Oct 1, 2014

Rain Woman

Rain Woman
2014

The parents of Meagan Ragsdale had just laid their infant daughter to rest in her upstairs bedroom on Henry Street in their Nu’uanu Valley home.  The night was long as their little one cried almost endlessly as her new teeth were coming in.  Applying Ora-Jel to Meagan’s gums finally settled her down.  Now she lay sleeping in her crib and her parents were able to find comfort on their couch in the expansive living room to watch their favorite television show.  Herman Ragsdale kept Meagan’s baby monitor on his lap as a habit so he could be ready to attend to her needs in case she awoke late at night crying.  Carolyn Ragsdale took a deep breath and settled her head on her husband's shoulder and was not really paying attention to anything, she was just relieved that she was finally able to sit somewhere, anywhere. 


At that moment, the side room door next to the kitchen opened and Carolyn’s grandmother walked into the living room where Herman and Carolyn were sitting.


“I heard the baby crying, is she okay?” the grandmother asked.


“She’s fine Ba-chan, she was teething but we put Ora-Jel, she’s sleeping now,” Carolyn replied.


“I don’t know why you folks put her in the upstairs room, better you folks put her in the room with me so I can watch her, easier like that, you know.  Plus, I’m too old to walk up those steps, what if something happens?” the grandmother replied.


“Ba-chan,” Herman began, “Our room is right across the hallway from Meagan’s room.  If anything happens Carolyn and I are close by.’


“Pfffhhhttt!” Grandmother scoffed, “Young people nowadays have all the answers but they don’t know how to dig a hole in the ground.  They just look at the shovel trying to figure out which end goes in the dirt.  That’s what happens when you think you know everything!”


The grandmother returned to her bedroom and locked the door behind her.


“That woman can be insufferable sometimes,” Herman sighed.


“That insufferable woman helped us by this house,” Carolyn replied.


“With the condition that she lives with us so that she can be close to her great-granddaughter.  Don’t forget that part!” Herman reminded his wife.


“A small price to pay.  Most people in Hawai’i could never afford a place like we have.  We have to count our blessings,” Carolyn said as she let out a small yawn.


Herman and Carolyn fell asleep while the random infomercial on Channel 2 droned on into late hours.  At some point, Meagan’s cries crackled over the baby monitor and startled her parents awake.  It was not the normal cry, which her parents were used to.  In the next second the infant let out a horrific scream and then there was a sudden, uneasy silence. 
Herman was awake in no time and bounded the stairs two at a time while Carolyn tried her best to keep up with him; she watched the light in Meagan’s room come on as her husband dashed in through the open door, a second later she heard Herman scream, “Nooooo….!!!”
The scream was followed by a sudden loud thud. Running into the room now, Carolyn found Herman on the floor trying to regain his breathing, the only window in the space was wide open and Meagan’s crib was empty but the baby’s blanket and mattress were soaked with water, so too was the carpet around the crib.


“Where’s Meagan?” Carolyn shrieked at her husband.


“The woman,” Herman babbled, “the woman took her.”


After hearing all the commotion the grandmother now stood at the bottom of the stairs and screamed out to her granddaughter,


“Carolyn!  Carolyn, what happened?  Carolyn!  Answer me, Carolyn!”
The woman’s granddaughter was now helping her husband down the stairs very carefully, holding on to the back of his head, Herman seemed to be dizzy and off balance.


“What happened?  Why is Herman all wet?  Where’s the baby?  Is Meagan alright?” the grandmother demanded.


Struggling to lay Herman on the couch, Carolyn said, “Megan is gone Ba-chan, we heard her screaming over the baby monitor and then it stopped suddenly.  Call the police!  Some old Japanese woman had Meagan in her arms and she was climbing out of the window with Meagan.  Herman went to stop the old woman and he claims that she knocked him across the room.  I have to call the police, the woman could be crazy and try to harm the baby!”
Carolyn was near hysterics herself but her grandmother calmed her down, “But how did Herman get so soaking wet?”


“He was babbling something about the rain falling only on the woman and nowhere else, it must have been raining outside and that crazy woman let the rain in when she snuck through the window,” Carolyn said, “You go wait in the room Ba-chan, I have to call the police.” 


“Herman, you’re going to have to sit up straight and stay awake okay?  The police are on their way when they get here tell them everything that happened,” Carolyn instructed. She turned her head a minute earlier just in time to see the front door wide open. Glancing quickly in her grandmother's room, she saw that it was empty.

Seeing his wife grab her purse and put her sweater, he asked her, “Where are you going?”


“Bah-chan just walked out of the house, I have to go find her and find Meagan at the same time.”


Before Herman could protest, Carolyn was out the door.
.........
1953


On a clear and calm night when the moon was nearly a sliver as it sat in the dark heavens overlooking the plantation town of Waialua, Kumi Hirohito and her sister Mami slept in their bedrooms with the window open while a soft wind rolled in from the ocean and gently filled their space with a comforting coolness.  As one would walk in, one would see that Kumi’s bed was fixed in the corner of the room, which was just on the right side of the door.  Mami’s bed was next to the window. She awoke one morning to find a note from her husband on her pillow; they had only been married for one year.



    Mami,


    This is not for me.  It’s not what I imagined.     

    Sorry,
    Tetsuo

At the time when Mami discovered her husband’s note, she was already four months pregnant with their child.  Tetsuo’s departure alone broke Mami’s heart but one day, when Mami, Kumi and their parents took a long drive to Chinatown in search of a particular kind of herb, they saw Tetsuo crossing the road at Hotel and River Street with another woman in his arms. 


Mami ran after her husband screaming out his name, when she finally caught up to Tetsuo she latched on to him and was completely hysterical, “Tetsuo!  How can you do this?  How can you leave our unborn child and me?  Did you leave us for this whore?  Did you?!  Did you, Tetsuo!?”


Claiming ignorance to his new girlfriend, Tetsuo threw Mami to the pavement and walked off, “Ku-so!  You wrinkled my shirt, crazy bitch!”


It was too much for Mami’s father, Masa, to take.  He grabbed Tetsuo and spun him around and, with one punch, he broke Tetsuo’s nose.  On the drive back to Waialua, Mami was in a lot of pain, so much so that by the time the family had finally made it back home and called the local doctor, Mami Hirothito miscarried her unborn child.  She was never the same thereafter.Most of the evenings Mami spent sitting in her bedroom staring at the wall.  Kumi’s heart ached as she watched her sister lay in her bed in a fetal position with her back facing toward her but no ones heart could be aching more than that of Mami herself.  

Kumi cried for her sister and she prayed every evening that somehow Mami would snap out of her slump and come back from wherever it was that her broken heart had taken her. Kumi’s eyes slowly began to close and sleep finally came to claim another one of its children. Her last conscious memory was that of the strange sound of heavy rain just outside their bedroom window coupled with the simultaneous creaking that Mami’s bed would make whenever she was restless and began to toss and turn. Kumi’s instinct was to rise from her near slumber in order to see what caused the heavy downpour that was out of its season, she was curious that way. However, the events of the long day proved to be taxing on her body and slumber would win over her waking thoughts. It was a decision that Kumi would regret for the rest of her life. 

The next morning when Kumi awoke, she found that Mami had already left.  Her bed was unmade and, as Kumi made her way into the kitchen, her parents were at the breakfast table having their meal.  Stating to her father and mother that her sister left early, Kumi discovered that her folks had been awake since four thirty in the morning and never saw Mami come out of the bedroom.  Kumi said she was going to happen by the cemetery on her way to work and see if her sister was there but her normal spot at her child's grave was empty.  She was nowhere to found.



During the day, neighbors would see Mami walking to the old Waialua Cemetery where she would sit at her child’s grave singing softly to herself as she slowly rocked back and forth.





Later in the day, a local search party was organized and, by the end of the afternoon, the entire town of Waialua came out to look for Mami Hirohito.  Not a stone was left unturned in the small plantation town on the north shore.  When everything was called off, Mami’s father continued in vain for several more months to look for his daughter but to no avail.  The details of the days before Mami’s disappearance were given to the police and that did not seem to help. 

“Maybe your daughter needed a break?  I mean this town only reminded her of everything she’s lost.  Maybe she moved somewhere else to get away from it all,” the police officer said, “If that’s the case, she’ll probably turn up in a few months.  Keep your head up Mr. Hirohito.”


No one dared broach the subject of what they really thought might have happened.
Suicide.


Maybe she took her own life so that she could be with her child in the other world?  
However, shortly after Mami disappeared, there were incidents of infant children who also disappeared as if they were plucked right from their homes.
..........
2014


The night was clear and calm in Nu’uanu and the moon itself was a mere sliver hovering above the canopy of trees on the Old Pali Road.  The late evening clouds above were not in their normal oblong shape but appeared to be taking a circular configuration as if they were forming a whirlpool.  The grandmother watched the circular cloud formation intently as it moved across the heavens; it was no longer above Old Pali Road.  Instead, it veered to the right above a long canopy of trees, which covered the length of the Nu’uanu Pali drive.  The grandmother followed and soon found herself rounding the hairpin turn fronting ‘Ilanawai.  Just as she neared Judd trail, she stopped dead in her tracks when she heard a sound that sent chills down her spine.
Meagan.  Screaming.


The grandmother’s sheer will carried her seventy-six-year-old frame as fast as it could go.  The more she heard the terrified cries of her great-granddaughter, the faster she seemed to move but it was more than that.  There was an urgency as if time was of the essence.  Finally, she rounded the corner at the water reservoir and when she saw it, it made her heart sink.  It was true, her worst fear was a terrible reality.


A column of rain fell upon an old, ugly, haggard, Japanese woman wearing a worn and tattered kimono.  Torrential and unforgiving, the deluge fell upon her and nowhere else.  In her gnarled, wretched hands the horrible woman held Meagan out in front of her as if she were making a sacrificial offering to an unseen deity before partaking of the meal herself.  The meal in question being the baby.


“Mami!” the Grandmother shrieked, "Hirohito, Mami!"


“That’s not your baby, Mami!  Give her to me now!” the grandmother demanded with her outstretched hands. She stepped closer at the sight of her sister, she was much older than the last time she had seen her, but her eyes and features were still the same. The macabre figure slowly turned its head first as the rest of her twisted form followed, the eyes were fixed upon the grandmother and blinked only once.  The blue upper lip curled back to reveal blackened teeth as the graveled voice growled out the name of the old woman in front of her,

“Kumi,”


“Yes,” the now elderly sister replied, “Give me the baby Mami, she’s my great-granddaughter.  She’s not like the others you took all those years ago, she belongs to me and you can’t have her.”


The malevolent countenance returned to the rain-soaked ghost and an evil grin replaced familial recognition, “That, I cannot do.  I must have her, I must.” 


“I know who you are,” Kumi pleaded, "I know why you became Ame-onna.  Give the baby to me and let me bring her home and I promise to take your place so that you can find peace.” 
Stepping toward her sister’s ghost, Kumi reached out and retrieved the infant from the arms of the otherworldly being before her.


“All those years ago when I heard the sudden heavy rain, I should have woken up to help save you but I didn’t.  I was too tired, too exhausted from watching you suffer.  I needed to sleep and I’m sorry, Mami, I’m so sorry.  Your overwhelming grief because of the loss of your unborn child made you what you are, but I’m here now.  I’m your sister, let me take your place.”

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

Carolyn Ragsdale searched the entirety of the dark Nu'uanu neighborhood but she never found her grandmother.  It was as if she had suddenly vanished.  When she returned home, she found three police cars parked in her driveway and, upon entering her house, saw Herman surrounded by six police officers.  He had Meagan in his arms.  It turned out that Ba-chan returned with Meagan and handed her great-granddaughter to her father and gave him a big hug and kiss before telling him that she was leaving immediately to visit her sister. 

The world was perfectly safe again but, in another day or two, Carolyn would find herself being interviewed by police.  Not just for her missing grandmother but for her neighbors missing child as well.




Sep 26, 2014

It Could Be Fatal

Kevin Kuniyuki couldn’t believe that he was in the middle of the Moʻiliʻili Japanese cemetery at two ‘o clock in the afternoon but where else could he go to hide and secretly fulfill the addiction that his doctor warned him about? It was the addiction that his wife had meticulously taken every measure to make unavailable to him, to appear at the local store in person and give strict orders to the owner to turn Kevin away should he appear at their door step to purchase cans of New Zealand corned beef and Balut. Rose consulted a psychiatrist in the hopes that she could gain some insight into her husband’s obsession; perhaps it was an oblique way of dealing with his unresolved abandonment issue? She could never really tell because when ever she broached the subject; Kevin would shut down completely and suddenly go silent.

She noticed the addiction slowly take hold of her husband five years ago when Kevin received news of his father’s passing. His family asked for his input and participation, however, rather than jump right in to the fold; Kevin distanced himself from everything and everyone. Things became even more difficult as the date for his father’s services grew near; he became emotionally and physically unavailable. Even when Rose made every effort to connect her husband with his own family, Kevin would look at her as if she’d committed murder.


“Mind your own business Rose, this is my family.”


“Then why don’t you talk to them Kevin? Why don’t you return their calls or see them when they show up at our house?” Rose would retort.


“Why?” Kevin was cold in his reply, “They can all go straight to hell for all I care.”
He’d head straight to the kitchen and open a can of New Zealand Corned Beef and empty the contents into the pot of rice and let it sit for five minutes. Afterwards, he would take three balut and mix it into the corned beef and rice and consume the entire pot in one sitting.
At his father’s services Kevin made it a point to sit in the very back of the Hosoi mortuary and not in the front row with his family. Although it was an open casket funeral, Kevin never made an effort to see his father. When the services were completed, Kevin left immediately without so much as a good-bye to anyone. Rose stayed afterwards and would spend the remainder of the evening apologizing for her husband’s behavior. Kevin’s mother and his brothers assured her that there was nothing to be sorry for, her husband’s actions were his own and not the result of anything she had done.


It goes without saying that she was furious when she got home and was prepared to give Kevin a piece of her mind. However, she was unprepared for what she saw. She found Kevin crying silently to himself while he consumed a second pot of rice mixed with his favorite corned beef and three balut.


Five years later, Kevin went from weighing a hundred and seventy five pounds to almost three hundred pounds. His health was at a great risk, he had now fallen victim to the addiction that was sure to kill him. Earlier in the morning, the local store on the corner would not sell him any corned beef or balut. In desperation Kevin went to Costco and purchased a case of the corned beef and three jars filled with the fermented salted eggs and an extra large rice cooker and a bag of rice. With his Mastercard, Kevin checked himself into the Marina Hotel where he desperately put his concoction together and then drove himself to the Moʻiliʻili Japanese Cemetery.


It was two ‘o clock in the afternoon when he drove into the end of a narrow lane in the one-hundred-six-year-old graveyard. The afternoon proved to be surprisingly cool as the Manoa winds filled Kevin’s Nissan truck with its soothing embrace, however he was too enthralled with the euphoric high of the oils yielding itself from the corned beef each time he savored it on his tongue. The perspiration trickled down in rivulets on the sides of his face as he chewed and swallowed the aliment that was like heroin for an addict who was near his end and who was beyond knowing when enough was enough.


Just then, Kevin half noticed a middle-aged local Japanese man in a polo shirt and khaki shorts and slippers with a small broom and a dust pan sweeping up debris near some of the Ohaka.


“Hah,” Kevin thought to himself, “he looks like Sonny Chiba.”


“Lunch break?” He asked smiling.


“Oh,” Kevin laughed, “No, no. I had to sneak away from the wife, I not supposed to be eating ‘dis kine das why, bad for my health. My wife worried I goin’ get heart attack and die. She find out, I goin’ get scoldings!”


Peering into the contents of the rice pot, the man asked, “What is dat?”


“New Zealand Corned Beef, Balut and Rice,” Kevin answered.


“Maybe you should listen to her,” the man smiled, “It could be fatal.”


Without warning, the man dropped the small broom and dustpan and put both his hands on his face and wiped it in a sudden downward motion, in the next second his face was gone. All that was left was an orb of flesh.


“It could be fatal,” the faceless man said again.


Kevin let out a horrific scream and threw the rice pot out of the truck window. Not even hesitating, he put the keys in the ignition and barreled the vehicle out of the cemetery until it practically flew out onto Kuilei Street. His tires peeled off burnt rubber as it sped down toward University Avenue, he took an immediate right turn and ran the red light at the intersection and then a left onto Beretania. His mind was still reeling from the experience of what had just happened but it wouldn’t let him make any sense of the ghostly encounter. In a short time Kevin pulled into the driveway of his Makiki Heights condominium and bolted out of his truck and bounded into the front door of his home. He found his wife standing at the kitchen counter preparing dinner. She looked up and saw that her husband was white as a sheet.


“Oh my god what happened to you? You look like you saw a ghost or something?”


“I did,” Kevin replied as he tried to catch his breath, “I did, I saw a ghost!”


“What?” Rose shrieked, “Where? At work?”


“No, at the Japanese Cemetery in Moʻiliʻili!” Kevin replied.


“The cemetery?” Rose looked confused, “What were you doing in a cemetery for goodness sakes, Kevin?”


“Oh my god Kevin! You really wanna die yeah?” Rose screamed.


“No, no, listen Rose, listen! I made the corned beef and everything and I went to the cemetery to eat because I figured nobody would bother me. But I saw this guy in the cemetery sweeping by the Ohaka and he looked like Sonny Chiba, he came over and asked me what I was eating and then I showed him and then he took his hands and he wiped his face off! His, his face disappeared Rose! It just disappeared! It was a ghost with no face in the cemetery in the middle of the day! Can you believe it?”


Kevin’s face was now beet red and he was practically out of breath.


“Oh Kevin please! You expect me to believe that story? Somebody you know probably busted you eating that stuff in the graveyard and so you rushed home because you knew you’d be in less trouble if you told me first, that’s what this whole thing is about,” Rose said.


“No, no, honey I swear it’s true, it’s all true!” Kevin pleaded.


Rose turned to use a spatula in order to scoop the fried rice she made into Kevin’s plate.“Besides, you know that eating that junk could be fatal,” Rose remarked.


Suddenly, Kevin recalled what the faceless ghost said to him, “It could be fatal.”


“Rose, what did you say?” Kevin asked.


Carrying both her plate and his to the kitchen table she said again, “I said it could be fatal.”
The husband and wife sat quietly with both enjoying their time together, “Thanks for dinner hun, its really good fried rice.”


“You’re welcome sweetheart,” Rose smiled and kissed Kevin sweetly.


“You must have worked really hard babes, the sweat is dripping down your face.” Just then Kevin grabbed a clean dish towel, “here, let me wipe it off.”


Kevin Kuniyuki’s screams would have been heard clear down to Mott Smith Drive had it not been for the din of traffic drowning out all the ambient noise in the neighborhood, including the noise of a man with an unresolved abandonment issue, who was now losing his sanity. Rose’s face disappeared and became an orb of flesh as Kevin wiped the perspiration from her brow….