Through the miracle of the flying sardine can, otherwise know as Hawaiian Airlines, the mouse is back on the Big Island. There is much to do. Several months worth of cat hair beg to be swept under the rugs, spiders encouraged to take up residence elsewhere. The cats have marked their protest to my absence in my bed; much laundry has been done. I work my attack on the invasion of tropical weeds marching toward the house, a stoic terracotta army uniformed in shades of green. From under the wilting tomato vines a village of disease-ridden snails have been unceremoniously evicted. Lizards leer at me, papaya juice dripping from their chins as they feast on my bounty, perched on branches just out of reach.

This morning, while attempting to free the compost barrel from the clutches of a particularly vicious strain of crabgrass, a lizard leapt from among some palm fronds and landed on my calf, startling us both. But its touch was not the slimy pointy slithersome horror I had expected. Instead, it was gentle, soft, like the brush of the tip of a cat’s tail or the fingertips of a very young baby. I had expected to suffer an embolism but instead felt warmth, release, comfort.

I didn’t expect to be gone so long, didn’t know I would be back so soon. And yet, here I am, and in that one moment I realized I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Aloha, Hawaii. I missed you.

The Case of the Three Rascals

While the mouse is back in Tokyo seemingly until the end of time, we are pleased and proud to welcome Leah and Mick for a bit of intrigue on the Big Island.

It was a dark and stormy night on quiet Kala Street.  In one quiet house, three lonely kitties were twiddling their paws.  Mom and dad were nowhere to be found and those other two folks had already left after some furious butt-smacks, chest cuddles and snack throwing. What’s a bored cat to do for entertainment?

These three fur balls knew just what to do. Working in stealth mode, they reconnoitered the guest room where rested an intriguing pile of boxes.

“Boxes!  We we LOVE boxes! Yeah! Let’s climb and roll and try to topple them.”

And they did, which meant that the very biggest box, the one that had come a mere day or two after mom and dad has left, was now exposed. It was a big box, a heavyish box.  And currently unopened. 

But not for long.

It’ll never be known whether it was a team effort or a solo pursuit, but eventually a bit of the tape was off.  Then some more.  The box had already been a bit crushed so eventually “some kitty” worked its way in. Could it be Twitch?  She’s small but mighty. George is the obvious culprit but he’s lots of meow and less action. Our bets are on Monkey-boy. Wiry, attentive. Who will know?

That other guy came in last night (his gal friend was at class so he was working solo) and saw that the box was more mashed in and more open. “All right, you rascally kitties, I’ll just close the door to this room,” he said, twisting his mustache in an I’m-the-boss-of-you fashion.

This morning that gal was at the house, too, and after curtains were moved and windows opened, butts-smacked, smelly cheese strip provided in teeny bits to Ms. Twitch and Monkey-boy fell off the couch yet again (much to his chagrin), she opened the guest room, knowing that Ms. Twitch likes to curl up on “her” chair in the afternoons. 

The box was open, mostly! Not wanting to snoop but thinking, “Lord what have they got into now?” She crept closer, lifted the lid, removed the mass of packing paper, and spied the evidence.  Suddenly the missed meals, the perplexity of why the cats weren’t eating was clear……

…… they were helping themselves, albeit just a little, to a large bag of cat food that mom must have ordered just before she left. A wee hole had been nibbled into the bag and the evidence of kibbley bits in the box was proof enough. The guy and gal decided that checking for paw prints or sniffing kitty breath wasn’t needed.  If not guilty by action they were all guilty by association. Fortunately the plastic container of treats had yet to be discovered, as we all know that a mere twisty lid and a cover won’t stop the treat-thief-trio!

Suffice to say that now empty box is in the garage. The bag with a hole in it has been taped and now lives with the other bag of cat food that arrived yesterday (yes, two big bags now!) AND now three containers of treats– these are all making a home for themselves on the dryer. 

The moral of this little story is when bored, a cat will find a way to amuse itself. 

The Obnoxious Quarantine Dude

pretty house

We found our beautiful house near Pahoa in February. As soon as we got back to Tokyo we started on the tedious process of getting the cats processed through quarantine, which is misnamed since, if you get all the paperwork right, there’s no actual quarantine involved. What you do have to do, however, is ferry the cats back and forth to the vet so that they can be vaccinated against rabies. There’s no rabies in Hawaii, you see, and understandably they don’t want rabies. But the thing is, there’s no rabies in Japan either. There have been no actual sightings of rabies since 1956, which makes rabies only slightly more common than Yeti.

Still, the cats went to the vet for not one but two vaccines against a disease they didn’t have, to make sure they couldn’t get it. Then we had to have them each blood tested to prove they didn’t have a disease they couldn’t get because they were vaccinated against it. Then we had to wait six months to make sure they didn’t get the disease they were vaccinated against and couldn’t get in the first place. That’s the rule, no exceptions, except Guam and New Zealand. (Don’t ask me why. I stopped asking why a long time ago.) If you want to bring your animals into Hawaii you will do all of that, humbly, and pay the gazillion yen and dollars it all costs, because they’ve got you by the short and curlies.

At Narita airport, we had to go through exit quarantine where they very carefully crossed all the I’s and dotted all the T’s, and, with tears in our eyes, we watched a man wheel them away into airport oblivion. Fortunately, we had the help and support of the sainted Jim Weatherford, for which I can name no price.


When we arrived at Honolulu, we were told to go to quarantine after customs and immigration because, unfortunately, they still don’t issue passports for cats. We found a shaded loading dock with some seats where Rochi could wait with our masses of luggage while I sprung the little ones.

cat docs

The man behind the locked door and plexiglass partition asked for my paperwork and took his time checking all the details, even though the quarantine office had cleared us months before. All he had to do was confirm the final health check form, painstakingly provided in English by our vet. I gave him all the papers and he scowled, saying, “Where’s the health check form?”

“Right there in your hand,” said I.

“This says ‘Veterinary Medical Certificate.’ It’s supposed to say ‘health’.”

“It has all the information you need on it, vaccination dates, blood test dates, antiparasitic treatment.”

“It’s supposed to say ‘health’,” he insisted.

I looked at the remaining ream of documents in my hand and knew I had nothing more to offer him.

All six feet of him looked down at me.

All five feet of me looked up at him.

“Seriously? You want to quibble over one word, when you know we’ve done everything exactly as we were told to do it. You know we just got off an international flight and are exhausted, with another flight ahead of us before we’ll finally be home, and what an unbelievable mess it would be if we had to come back another day to pick them up. You of all people ought to understand what clearing this process entailed and that all we want is to get their terrified little souls out of here and safely home with a minimum of trauma, you mealy-mouthed, pencil-pushing, petty-minded…”

…was what I wanted to say, but instead I just looked at him.

After what felt like several eternities, he tossed his curls across his shoulder, sighed in mock exasperation, and said, “I’ll ask. I doubt they’ll go for it, though.”

And he sat at a desk, dialed a phone, chatted and laughed, while I stood in the stuffy, humid entrance area, unpleasantly cold air conditioned air blowing at me from the little slot for passing papers through the plexiglass that separated us.

I waited.

Several more eternities passed and he came back, saying, “They decided to allow it…grudgingly.”

“Grudgingly? GRUDGINGLY??? Are you freaking kidding me? Exactly what did I do to cause anyone to hold a grudge? Where is your professionalism? Your job is to check the documents, which are all in order, and give me my cats. Nothing more, you sniveling little weenie….”

…is what I wanted to say. But instead, I said, “Fine.”

Airline rules dictated that Twitchy and Monkey Boy ride in the cabin with us for the flight to Hilo, which meant we had to get them through security, and that meant taking them out of their carriers and taking them through the metal detector while their carriers were x-rayed for guns or drugs or pygmy elephants or whatever else they thought we might be hiding. Oddly, nobody questioned the catnip toys I’d put inside, but maybe they’re only considered drugs in certain feline mafia circles.

So we stood there in our socks, having our palms swiped, Rochi with his pants hanging halfway down his thighs because they suspected his belt buckle of subversion, each of us holding a trembling animal and eager to be done with the whole business. Rochi was a little confused about the meaning of the little paper they swiped our fingers with and offered Monkey’s paw to the uniformed officer. “No, no,” she said. “Your paw.” Kudos to the security people for trying to be helpful while not cracking a smile.

At long last, we made it to the departure lounge, where we watched poor little George board all by himself. We were too numb to even cry.

Inkedgeorge boarding_LI


But we made it. We’re home. Mr. Obnoxious von Snippybritches can go suck on rotten pineapples for all I care. I’ll never understand why some people find satisfaction in power harassment. It comforts me to know he’s damaging his own karma much more than he damaged mine.

After all, he has to go home to himself. I get to go home to this.

twitch in window