I’ve held onto this belief about cats since I was a kid and it’s helped me let go of them in grief. I believe that cats are “angels” (for lack of a better word in the king’s English) that come into our lives when we need them and leave our lives when that period is up. I never shook this belief. It came to me after I lost my Babe, a grey and white tuxedo who was literally my best friend from 8-16 years old. I spent more time with this cat than friends. No matter how awful my peers were or how chaotic my home life was I had my cat (and art).
Then life changed fast at 16 and at the same time I lost my Babe. After Babe there was Buddy. Then there was Mister.
There were other cats, but these were the ones that bonded to me, and I to them. They spent years sleeping on my head, purring me to sleep. They’d follow me on walks. Dance around in excitement when I got home. And generally annoy me with their affection.
There’s two things that make the world right for me no matter where I am or what I’m doing: the ability to create art and sharing my space with a cat.

Thursday, February 11, 2021:

We left Joshua Tree National Park and had set up near the trilobites. While Kurt was off doing his thing I was perusing ads and even started looking at shelters. An ad caught my eye because it looked well thought out and it said they wanted good homes. I’m surmising a bit. And I used my burner number (I used an app to make a fake number. Craigslist is full of scammers). I would not have answered this ad without it.
They replied, like normal people. And a conversation ensued. My husband absolutely used to my impulses was fine with breaking down camp to drive two hours away to look at kittens. There were, I was told, three boys. A grey, orange and black/white. I immediately said it was the orange one I was interested in.

2021. Just what I needed to see from the universe after the the Beelzebub and Grunt tragedy.

The neighborhood gave me vibes and they weren’t beach ones. Even in the early dark of the California streets I could make out the signs of a neighborhood on the cusp. Some of the houses had decorative bars on the windows. Metal fencing. A house on the corner gutted and graffitied. Many of the houses were cute and maintained. Like I said, on the cusp. Could be good, could be shady.
Kurt opted to stay in the truck. He trusted me he said.
I donned my mask. Hoped they’d bring the kittens out. They did not. The skinny twenty something kid invited me in. I was greeted by three beautiful friendly healthy young cats under the age of one year. And a home with vibes. Stuff. Smoke. Pitt bulls (not that they are a bad breed, just that they often go with certain elements). The kid pulled out a timid young cat. Ragged looking.
How old?
Eight weeks.
He handed me the kitten, at least double that age. A sack of bones and fluff. Not healthy.
An older looking woman pops in. Short, thin, hard to guess her age in the way that the hard living are. She insists it’s eight weeks. Says it was returned once for crying. His ears bother him sometimes.
I look at the sad thing in my arms. I look around. I don’t know if I want this pale ghost cat, but I cannot leave him. I give them the rehoming fee.
I leave. He doesn’t struggle in my arms. I get in the truck. Turn to my husband and expletive crack heads! You know the windows were down too.
Later he doesn’t fight when I give him a bath. I have to coax him to eat, force bits of food into his mouth, but he does eat. His belly is bloated. He does not groom himself after the bath.
The ghost cat purrs and makes air biscuits on my chest. If I hadn’t said “the orange one” I would of looked at the others and never seen him. If there was no painted rock would I have asked about the orange one?

Friday, February 12, 2021:
Morning came at 6:30 am, I started calling around for a veterinarian appointment opening. We camped outside of Joshua Tree National Park. I tried several around Coachella, then towards 29 Palms before finally getting squeezed in for an afternoon appointment.

We drove through the National Park. Wasted time doing laundry. Made lunch and waited. And waited.
If you have pets, you know, in this Covid era everything is done over the phone now. They take your pet at the door then call to discuss the findings. At home with your veterinarian, the one you know and trust, this is a difficult set up. I’m doing this in a strange town, in a strange state, with a random clinic that could fit us into their schedule.
Prognoses. Negative for FIV. Negative for FeLV. No symptoms of wet FIP. With two impressive rounds in the kitty box his bloating went down significantly.
By Monday other tests should come back and the ghost cat will have a few good meals in.

Saturday, February 13, 2021:

I woke up at 4:00am and checked on Ghostman in the bathroom. I had a mess to clean up. Another large present in the litterbox and a splat on the floor probably a side effect from the medication. I let him out. And he took his place up on the head of the bed, getting up a few times to self serve at the food dish.
Later in the day I cleaned debris from his big pink ears. Ghostman decided to play a little and groomed himself. Then he hid under blankets when the windstorm hit.
Windstorm? This story has an afternoon dust storm in it. 30mph winds hit at 11:30 am, dust obscuring the mountains. Making the skin of the camper cringe.

2021. Dust Storm, Mojave Trails National Monument Marble Mountains Fossil Bed, CA.
Not Feeling Well During Wind Storm, Billy Ghost Takes Shelter Under Wool Clothing.

Sunday, February 14, 2021:
He’s gained weight. There’s a heft to him now. His limbs aren’t unpadded sticks. Ghostman is talking to us. Having opinions about life.
I sent a text to the people for more information. I think they were oblivious to the state he was in.
Late, just before bed, Ghostman played with a laser light. A good sign.

Monday, February 15, 2021:

Billy Ghostman had his best day yet. Played with the laser. Alert. Paying attention to his surroundings. Not the worst news from the vet, but not the best. He has elevated liver enzymes at 160 (where normal is 100). The vet who managed to remain monotone up until now, let his surprise show in the Ghostman’s improvement over the weekend.
Now. Two weeks before we recheck. Two weeks wait.
I hate waiting. I am infamously terrible at it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Mojave Trails National Monument Marble Mountains Fossil Bed

That was a pass on the Turkey and Chicken flavor from Nulo. Billy Ghost made his best effort to bury the pile of offensive food. I had noticed he cleaned the plate sometimes and others, food was being left behind to crustify. Now I know… Billy has opinions on food.
He found the same cubby hiding hole in the bathroom as Beelzebub the Orange. I took all the things out of it. Let him have the hiding spot.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Today we traveled. Between moving to a new location (Hole in the Wall Campground) and gathering supplies it took most of the day. Billy Ghost… napped. Napped in the carrier. Napped on the backseat. Made squinty eyes at us.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

We had a day where Billy didn’t want to eat. Then he perked up. Noticed signs of a cat cold. Tonight he got a bath again. Dirty bottom. This time he had some fight, had mass to his body and cleaned himself after. Nine days together. I thought he was going to die that first night.
Had to take the dog food out of the camper because Freddie was guarding it. Having flashbacks of violence even though Fred wasn’t the guilty dog.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

View Overlooking Mojave Desert

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Billy Ghost attacks toes in night.

Saturday, February 28, 2021

Mojave Desert Preserve

We left Hole in the Wall and started traversing the Mojave for 29 Palms. Spent a night in the desert, but then BGW’s new tires came in so we backtracked for Bullhead city. Tire mission completed we headed back west. Spent the night in the Step Ladder Mountain Wilderness Area.

Mojave Desert Preserve

Sunday, February 28, 2021

March 1, 2021

Billy Ghost has made his second official round in a row tonight around the camper scratching at the window screen by the stove, the bed frame, the other window, and the couch. He’s bounced around demanding nearly a full can of food, play and general cat curiosity. He’s spit at the dog a few times for moving too fast. I’d think he was a healthy feline.
The retest numbers on his liver and kidneys say otherwise. The vet also stated he went from 4.3 lb to 4.5 lb, only a 2oz gain. I don’t know what to think. At this point in time I have reservations about trusting this particular veterinarian’s practice. This story is unfinished.

The difference a couple weeks makes.

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Taryn Okesson: Visual Artist
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