It’s two a.m. and I’m still hopped up on a chai latte I drank five hours ago. I’m thinking about garbage. We live at the end of a dead-end street. The opposite end, which intersects with a big road, has a very wide shoulder and a sign that says NO DUMPING. Propped against this sign is a green toilet and a giant stuffed cat. Or maybe I’d call it more of a cat-shaped pillow, white, with whiskers sticking out of the face part. It has a cute little smile. The cat is about the size of a small couch cushion and it seems to enjoy its pseudo-life. Kids and people waiting for the bus seem to enjoy moving the cat and the toilet around. One day, the cat will be perched jauntily inside the bowl. The next day, the toilet will be tipped over on its side, with the cat reclining against it. Recently a rusty old washing machine, a bike tire, and a bag of trash joined the toilet-cat combo, so now the cat has many more interesting places to perch.

For some reason I notice the flagrant dumping more at night, when the pile of junk gets caught in the flare of headlights as I turn onto the street; perhaps it’s because the objects no longer compete with the hillside or the traffic or the wild blue sky. It’s always interesting to see what configuration the stuff will take– will the toilet be hidden behind the washing machine? How far will the washing machine travel? The palette of burnt orange, avocado, and ( increasingly dirty) white works well, but how will the artistes keep the bulk of the largest objects from overwhelming the smaller ones? It’s like a private, constantly changing art exhibit. Once I saw a pair of ring-tailed cats contributing their own efforts to the piece, before racing off up the hillside. Once i had to slam on the brakes for a big black snake making right for it. That cat keeps on smiling.