“He will pop the bed!” says the Bearded One in mock protest to us getting a cat that will have free-range of the house day and night.
I’m mopping the dining room floor, around the queen-sized inflatable air mattress that has been our bed for five weeks now. We’re still cutting out new windows upstairs and waiting on the termite crew. Not quite to the animal phase yet.
I laugh. The Bearded One has resisted cats all his life, but was won over by our beloved Olalla tabby Garfield. He wants a cat almost as much as I do, but for the mousing, not the companionship. He’s watched rats up in the palms, eating the precious palm seeds, some definitely quite rare, that he fantasizes growing.
In a squeaky little cat voice, he continues, “Oh, I have to sharpen my little kitty cat claws!”
Garfield – he who is well-positioned back in Washington with our nephew who has even made a cat video of him – was locked in the hut at night for his own safety and our sanity. There are no raccoons or coyotes here. Only mongooses, and they don’t hunt cats. Maybe also the occasional wild pig.
“We are not going to be sleeping on a raft forever,” I say.
In fact, our upstairs bedroom already has two fabulous new 4’x4’ screened windows.
Traditional Hawaiian buildings have jalousies, which are glass louvers to protect from sideways rain squalls. They’re expensive. The Bearded One is designing some sort of shutter or insert instead of glass windows or jalousies. He bought a bunch of used louvered doors to convert into shutters, but is now leaning toward much simpler pieces of rigid, clear Lucite plastic.
Anyway, just four more windows to go upstairs, then we’ll insulate the tin roof, buy a bed, and voila. Lovely trade winds from the east windows – we are on the windward side of the island – will blow straight through. It’s a tropical indoor/outdoor life, temperature almost always in the 70s. This is an old hippie house, back-to-the-land, minimalist and off-grid, but it seems to me that the lifestyle stems from the weather as much as any ideology.
I describe a little magnetic screen door (a miniature of the one we installed on our front door here)
in one of the upstairs windows that would allow cats to come and go. Which scares the Bearded One. A cat could jump on him in the night, meow in his ear, carrying a very-much-still- alive-rat. Cats love to bring in their hunt trophies.
The termite guy called last week to postpone as he was “whacked by a centipede,” which had crawled into his shoe, which he’d removed before going into a client’s home. It got him twice, his foot swelled into a football and he was on medication.
I watch for centipedes as I mow our acre this week, the thick grass so like what I grew up with in Texas, memories of my father sweating and cursing in the Houston summer heat, the air 30 degrees hotter than here. Not thin, wispy northern grass like at the first farmlet, where I mowed with an antique push mower. Unthinkable now.
Here, we have a Husqvarna.
Besides the dense grass, which like the pineapples and other Bromeliads needs virtually no soil and lives off the tropical air, the mower has to deal with large patches of lava rock and giant tree roots that grow above ground. “Ankle busters everywhere,” says the Bearded One.
It’s a good place to live off the air. Climatologists have long said this side of the island has (literally) got the cleanest air on Earth, cleansed over 2000 miles of Pacific Ocean. Ironically, the other side, with its volcano “vog”, has the worst.
“Let’s go look,” I say, drop my mop, and we troop upstairs and stand before the two windows. We do this often. The screens are invisible, and we marvel at the breeze, the tops of the palms, our good fortune.
A couple of doves coo from the top of the coconut tree, which dropped a coconut this week, our first to slice open.
Then I look closer and point out a rat up there by the doves. High up in the tree.
The Bearded One shakes his head, smiles at me and says, “Too bad we got no kitties.”