At first it was a new form of in-house entertainment. Well, not that new. There was a mouse in the house. Cyrano, the house cat, had been known to catch a mouse, bring it inside, play with it and then have it escape into some cat-proof spot.
Cyrano would hang around in attack mode for a while and then get bored and move on. This mouse was about 3 inches long, maybe an inch high and appeared to be training for a rodent Olympics - fast, agile and able to jump three times its height.
The mouse would streak from one hideout to another. If you sat without moving, the mouse might stop in the middle of the floor and tidy up its whiskers. One slight move and the tiny critter would race off to the closest sanctuary. Favorite spots were under a low-slung coffee table or into the tangle of cables behind the sound system.
All in all, a cute little buggah.
One mouse, no big deal. It might root some more insulation out of the stove but all the foodstuff - particularly paper bags of rice - had long ago been moved to elevated cabinets well out of reach. The dish cabinets are also high and tight.
Then one night: A second mouse showed up. Mouse No. 1 had just run into the dining area. At the same time, mouse No. 2 popped up on top of the sound system's subwoofer. It investigated an open port and dived into the blackness. A kolohe streak prompted me to crank up the volume of the sound system. Mouse No. 2 popped out of the speaker and headed down a cable to the floor.
OK, two mice. Not that big a deal.
In previous dry years, there were always a few mice finding their way into the old house. In search of water, I'd guess. During the height of the Upcountry drought, there were few if any mice. Nothing for them to eat.
This year, there had been some rain in June and very light showers at night. The meager moisture apparently produced just enough grass and stuff to make it possible for the mice to get romantically involved. It's been desert dry for the last month or so.
The next time the oven was fired up, a stench filled the kitchen. The olfactory assault sent me racing to open windows and fire up a fan. A suspicion grew. There were more than two mice. Cyrano gave me his most innocent look. Never mind the six, well-fed and lazy outside cats.
Off to the hardware store, looking for some sort of humane trap. The first hardware store had plenty of those malicious snap traps, the kind that might break a mouse's back, leaving it to die a lingering death. Off to the second hardware store.
Couldn't find the traps. Asked an employee, who led the way to a display.
"Plenty folks looking for traps. They're real popular," the affable young man said.
More snap traps and a selection of those sticky traps, the kind that trap a mouse. You can toss it with the mouse still alive or let dehydration and malnutrition kill it. There were no traps that would allow carting the offending rodent outside.
"Trap 'em and take 'em outside and they just come back in," said Tina, the overnight convenience store clerk who was also dealing with an invasion. She was all in favor of killing them, one way or another.
Seems Na'alae Road wasn't the only place where the mouse population had exploded. The pharmacist at Longs in Kulamalu said one mouse found its way into the relatively new building.
"This place is tight," he said, "but the mouse found a tiny hole in the bottom of a solid concrete wall. They're putting out those sticky traps."
At the hardware store, I argued with myself. As usual, myself won. I could handle the idea of killing rodents but not torturing them. That created a quandary. The answer was on the bottom shelf - an expensive, battery-powered execution chamber. Bait it with some peanut butter. The mouse comes in and is electrocuted. Clean and quick. No aroma.
During the first 24 hours, nine mice were found dead in the trap. The next day, there were four. And the next, there were two. The trap sits in a mouse runway, baited and charged for its next four-legged victim. A couple of times, a would-be victim outwitted the trap. It ate the bait and somehow escaped.
Just checked the trap. Nothing. Maybe the invasion is over. Not likely.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.