Ben was telling the Texan about the cats.
There were four cats left, he said: two fine adult mountain lions, a male and a female, that he had trapped near Chama; an immature jaguar that he had smuggled across the Mexican border—“tranquilized so deep with Sucostrin I thought I’d killed her”—and a big, amber-eyed god-damned leopard that he’d bought from a small roadside zoo east of Gallup. He’d read in an Albuquerque newspaper about the outfit going bankrupt and had driven down to see if he could buy any of their cats at a good price. They had a mangy old lion, a living rug; a diseased mountain lion; an ocelot—“all apathetic, not paranoid like real cats”—and the leopard. The leopard was half starved then, wormy and diarrheic, but even so you could see that it was a magnificent animal, a cat of cats, a god of cats.
Ron Faust published 15 novels across four decades. He died in 2011 with little fanfare. What his work lacked in quantity was made-up for by its high level of quality. He was compared to Ernest Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, and even Hunter S. Thompson.