Slug. The word itself feels sluggish on the tongue. As does sloth, a creature whose very name means indolence. I had friends who had a sloth as a pet -- more or less, for it never interacted with its owners. It lived in an inner garden of their beautiful colonial home in Cartagena de Indias. I never saw it move. It was the female of a couple they had acquired, but at some point the male was never again to be seen. The owners wondered if the female ate him.

Slugs I've seen plenty and been repulsed by them. For example, cleaning lettuce from an organic garden. The thought of missing and consequently biting into one filled me with dread. I imagine it's the slug looking like nothing but loose flesh, like something inside my body I don't really want to see. I hear of gigantic slugs found in the ocean and pray I never encounter one. The garden variety are creepy enough.

Curiously, a snail seems like nothing but a slug with a beautiful shell, and I'm not repelled by snails -- I know some folk are. In fact, I've eaten them, not just the half dozen escargot you get in a French restaurant, but a bowl full of them washed down with house red in a tavern off Madrid's Plaza Mayor. When you pick one off its shell you have nothing but a little (and tasty) slug. Curious.

But my most vivid memory of a slug was one I saw on a trail leading down to the Pacific Ocean in the Northwest. It was much bigger than anything I found in my organic lettuce, and it lay on top of a large mushroom that had sprouted in the ever wet ground. There was something both predatory and erotic about the image. The slug had unfolded its shapeless mass on the 'shroom and fed on it with fixed intent. Nothing else existed. Slug and mushroom, one slowly consuming the other, like a baby at the breast, like a lover, like a vampire.

I should've reached for my cell phone and photographed it, but I just stood there for a minute, fascinated, repulsed, horrified, vaguely aroused. I moved on, down to a beautiful beach of unforgiving cold water.