Gib Finney’s sequel to THE POWER OF UN
A Grack in the Night
16 February 2008, Finney @ 12:54 pm

But now, back to the mysterious creature quacking in the night.

As you might remember, on the night Doofus brought us the frog, I took it out of the freezer and laid it in the bird’s nest on my windowsill. The moon was high in the sky when a sound like a quacking duck awakened me. In the frosty light that streamed through the window, I saw something moving in the nest.

The longer I lay there listening, the more I wondered how a duck could have gotten into my room and the harder my heart thumped. I strained to hear the sound better. It wasn’t a normal quack. It was more of a grack, like the duck had mushrooms growing in its throat or something. I had a sudden, powerful desire to pull the covers over my head and yell for Dad. Though I did manage to pull the covers up, I couldn’t get any sound to come out of my mouth. I was breathing fast, gasping for air, and there didn’t seem to be enough of it under that blanket. It was either face the thing in the nest or suffocate. I closed my eyes and sat up.

The dreadful, dry rasping still filled my room. And there was still something moving in the nest. The windowsill was a little too high and a little too far away for me to have a good view of what was happening. So, very slowly, I stood up. It was still too dark to see perfectly, but I could tell that whatever was in the nest was small. So if it was a duck it had to be a baby. Then I began to really wake up, and as I did, I felt dumber and dumber. I hadn’t put a duck in the nest. I had put a frog in there. And the sound wasn’t a weird quack; it was a weird croak. I let go of the blanket and walked up for a better look.

There was a frog in the nest. Not the dead shriveled one I had placed there a few hours before. This was a real live frog, small but plump, stretching its legs and croaking its funny, ducky croak for all the world to hear. I reached down and picked it up. Its skin was damp. It was cold but not icy. Its tiny feet tickled my hand. It moved slowly, looking from side-to-side, wobbly as if…well, as if it had recently been frozen solid. Even in that colorless light, it was beautiful. It had a thin white stripe down its back, and dark patches around its eyes that made them look huge and mysterious. It looked up at me, tilted its head, and said, “Grack.”

“Hi,” I said, gently stroking its back, smiling as it stretched in response. “You’re a miracle frog, you know that? You were frozen solid.”

“Grack grack,” said the frog.

I was beginning to think about how to keep it warm and safe through the rest of the night. If I say so myself, I am not exactly an amateur when it comes to taking care of frogs. I have raised a lot — well, maybe three — from tadpole size. I knew the main thing was to give it water, because their skin needs to be wet, and they dry out fast if they can’t keep it that way. I put the frog back in the nest and made a dive for a dark corner of the room where I knew there was a bug jar buried under gazillions of comic books and old toys. I should have turned the light on. It would have been faster. But I did find it eventually. It was glass, and had once contained about a quart of mayonnaise. It had a metal lid, which I had punched full of holes with a big nail.

After I had put a quarter-inch of warm water in the bottom, I dropped the frog in. It croaked happily. “Okay, see you in the morning. Now be quiet, okay? I’m tired.”

Of course it didn’t be quiet. I guess I wouldn’t be quiet either if I had just had a near-death experience and was just plain glad to be alive. It didn’t really bother me all that much, once I knew the gracking wasn’t coming from an alien duck with murder in its heart. In fact, I dreamed about summer, and the creek that runs through the ravine, and tadpoles swimming in the sun. I was as happy as the frog, because I knew that in the morning, I would have a huge mystery to solve, and in my opinion, nothing is better.