A last I knelt on the island’s winter-killed grass, lost, dumbstruck, staring at the frog in the creek just four feet away.
He was a very small frog with wide, dull eyes.
And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumpled and began to sag.
The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed.
His skin emptied and drooped; his very skull seemed to collapse and settle like a kicked tent.
He was shrinking before my eyes like a deflating football.
I watched the taunt glistening skin on his shoulders ruck, and rumple, and fall.
Soon, part of his skin, formless as a pricked balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on top of the water; it was a monstrous and terrifying thing.
I gaped bewildered, appalled.
An oval shadow hung in the water behind the drained frog; then the shadow glided away.
The frog skin bag started to skin.
I had read about the giant water bug, but never seen one.
“Giant water” is really the name of the creature, which is an enormous, heavy-bodied brown beetle.
It eats insects, tadpoles, fish, and frogs.
Its grasping forelegs are mighty and hooked inward.
It seizes a victim with these legs, hugs it tight, and paralyzes it with enzymes injected during a vicious bite.
That one bite is the only bite it every takes.
Through the puncture shoot the poisons that dissolve the victim’s muscles and bones and organs－all but the skin－and through it the giant water bug sucks out the victim’s body, reduced to juice.
This event is quite common in warm fresh water.
The frog I saw was being sucked by a giant water bug.
I had been kneeling on the island grass; when the unrecognizable flap of frog skin settled on the creek bottom, swaying, I stood up and brushed the knees of my pants.
I couldn’t catch my breath.