I must accomplish more household and property chores if I’m to be happy. As the property stands now, tree branches have overgrown it, the garden box is six times its height in twisted vine, the lawn can hide my dog, and a rat has bored a maze through my dried compost bins. My neighbor has complained on several occasions the tree in the front yard must come down. Its roots are breaking the sidewalk into chunks dangerous to pedestrians. The environment as a whole depresses me.

Today I raked leaves and was content, even happy. As I pulled leaves toward me in gentle strokes and made piles, my soft, computer-keyboard hands felt the potential for callouses and yearned for even more labor. I scooped the piles with my arms and dumped them into city yard waste containers for the truck to pick up later. The leaves, yellow, orange, and amber, betrayed their slow deaths and together looked like veiny agglomerations of some strange urban harvest. None were so dry they crackled underfoot, none wet enough to dampen my jacket. All was just right.

Last year as I cleaned the street the rake picked up a used condom in one of its tongs. At least I assume it was used. Other than the obvious indicators, blood or semen, there’s no way to tell if a condom in the street has been used. I err on the side of yes, it has and avoid contact with each I come across. Last year, for instance, I used several large leaves to form a mitt and plucked the condom out of my leaf pile, tossing it in the yard waste container though I know better. It is a human waste, not yard waste.

Folded over like a curled fist he contracted and eased, contracted and eased, and his tail pumped like a water hydrant handle.

I’ve come across many condoms in the street. I used to live in the International District of Seattle’s downtown and there found discarded condoms in piles like leaves, alongside needles, rice wine bottles, grisled Olde English cans, and other coping mechanisms. Walking my small terrier through the public garden patch near my apartment I would be watchful, never taking my eyes off him, for who knows what he could fit in his mouth and at what speed. I once chased him down as he gulped a large banana peel on the run, legs rowing close to the ground like a swimmer performing a butterfly stroke, his throat somehow able to swallow and relax in quick succession like a snake in peristalsis, only in fast-motion. He looked like a biblical monster of some sort, something from a vision in Daniel. He is not to be trusted. Another time I caught him rolling in human diarrhea and had to bathe him in a nearby fountain, then dry him with my shirt before taking the bus home reeking of shit.

He ate a condom of mine once too. I did not catch him in the act but only found out later, probably days later, when he performed an extremely long poop dance. Folded over like a curled fist he contracted and eased, contracted and eased, and his tail pumped like a water hydrant handle. I didn’t realize how closely linked to the sphincter this appendage was until I saw this performance. When I saw the condom appear I was at first uncertain what it was. It came out slowly and its color, stained yellow-leather with feces, evoked the image of a sanguine autumn leaf. Yet he would have digested most leaves. Only when I saw the condom’s opening did I know what it was. I was upset at first to think of my dog digging through the garbage, smelling and eating this used rubber as if it were sustenance, or a snack at least. I didn’t approve, either, of the idea my semen had oozed out and absorbed into his stomach and intestines, nourishing his muscles and blood, becoming a part of him. Still I pet him vigorously after the evacuation since it took him so long and he seemed in pain during it. And he seemed happy with the result of his labor.