"It's gone," the voice behind me says.
I felt bad all the way home. But a month later, just before it headed out of our solar system, Comet Austin was visible again during the dark of the moon. I was vacationing on Long Island, N.Y. It was a long shot, but at 2 a.m. I got up, put on my long underwear, goosedown housecoat and saddle shoes. I picked up my binoculars in my right hand, two doughnuts in my left. I walked out into the street. The lights of New York City made a dull glow far to the west. I stood in front of a silver Plymouth Horizon and looked for the comet to the east.
Just as I was moving my eyes south through the constellation Pegasus, the car started to clank. "Why is this car sitting here in the still of the night clanking?" I wondered. In a second, a man with a wrench stood up. I was standing eye to eye with a car thief, one much larger than myself, and I was armed only with binoculars and two doughnuts. So I did what I always do. I talked.
"Hello," I said real friendly. "Who are you?"
"Uh, uh, Ray. I'm Ray," the voice said.
"Whatcha doin'?" I said cheerfully.
"Uh, nothing," Ray said.
"Oh. Well, see, I'm just out here looking at the solar system," I said.
I could see that Ray was dressed in all black. He could see that I was dressed in a goosedown housecoat and saddle shoes, and was holding two doughnuts.
Ray contemplated the image before him. Then he took off down the road. Fast. Ray will, I'm sure, never be spotted on that street again.