Carol woke me up at 4:00 this morning, saying it was time to get up and go out to get onion rings. I groggily rousted myself from the warm bed, pulled on my sweats, and stumbled down the stairs and outside to start the car. While I sat behind the wheel, waiting for Carol to come along, I opened the glove compartment to check on my emergency stash of ketchup packets. It would be a shame to head out for onion rings at that hour and not have the proper condiments at hand.

I saw Carol exit the house in the glare of the headlights. With a puzzled look on her face, she walked over and pulled open the driver’s side door. “What the hell are you doing?” I explained I was preparing to drive us to whatever diner was open at this ungodly hour to obtain some onion rings. She laughed and shook her head — “No… I said it was time to get up to go out and see the Orionid meteor shower.” That made even less sense to me than going on a pre-dawn diner run.

As I continued to clear the fog from my head, I recalled that we’d agreed to set an alarm and get up while it was still dark to see if we could spy any of the remnants from Halley’s Comet that were streaking through the atmosphere, with the peak viewing period being in the wee hours over the weekend. I turned off the engine, pulling ketchup packets out of my pockets to return to their secure location in the glove box. Stumbling out of the car, I followed Carol into the yard to a spot for the viewing.

We settled back into our recliners, turning our gaze toward the heavens. Experts say it takes twenty minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, which is coincidentally the same amount of time I can sit outside in the cold before needing to pee. Now I faced a dilemma: would I go inside to use the bathroom, meaning I’d have to flick on a blinding light to make sure I hit the bowl and therefore need to reacclimate my vision — or would I take care of business outdoors so my pupils, now as large as the hamburger I apparently was not going to be ordering with that side of onion rings, could remain adjusted to the dark? I opted to stay outside and so took some cautious steps toward the edge of the yard in order to find a place to relieve myself.

“I think I just heard the splash of the Canada geese, landing on the lake!” Carol called out. But she was mistaken — what she’d heard was the splash of a vertiginous American male, tripping over a tree root and tumbling ass over teakettle into the marshy field bordering our property line. I emerged from the swamp looking like… something emerging from a swamp. Damp, muddy, vegetation dripping from my shoulders; all I lacked were gills and scales. I shook off some of the wetness and removed as much of the detritus from my clothing as I could before returning to my seat next to Carol. “What’s that smell?” she asked, unable to see my aqueous appearance in the darkness. I replied it was the smell of despair, mixed with exhaustion and a soupçon of dead fish. “Whatever,” she responded after a brief hesitation, and then asked, “Have you seen any meteors yet? Have you? Where are you? Are you on your way back to bed?”

No — I was on my way to Denny’s for those onion rings and a milkshake. And a whole lot of napkins.