Jesse Morse


Quiet Days in Watsonville







I was outside pressure-washing the deck. The pressure-washer works like this: you attach its tank to a hose and turn the hose on. The water pressure concentrates and increases inside the tank. The water then releases full bore through a small spray mechanism you control with a simple squeeze handle. To effectively pressure-wash a board, or a large container, or whatever it is you’d like to pressure-wash, you must repeatedly and very tediously make the smallest of up-and-down, back-and-forth movements. The whole unit is not very heavy. It works wonders but takes hours, as the closer you keep the pressure-washer’s nozzle to the surface of whatever you are pressure-washing (in this case the deck), and the slower you go, the cleaner it gets. Entranced by these very laborious, though somewhat soothing movements, it took me awhile to notice the frog. Or rather, I don’t know how long the frog was there before I noticed him. He was to my left, about thirty degrees, perched quite naturally on a step leading up. He was, not surprisingly, staring at me. I immediately released the handle on the pressure-washer. I turned my body slowly, though not directly, and stared back at him. He sat there. Just fucking sitting there. Staring at me. Undulating his throat. As he always does. I, as quietly as possible, laid the pressure-washer on the floor. I contemplated my previous encounters with the frog. All were futile. Where had I gone wrong? How had the frog always been able to escape? Was I not quiet enough? Was it a matter of quickness? Had I kinetically relayed my intentions to the amphibian through the subtle movements of my limbs? Frogs could no doubt pick up on that. They were frogs. I closed my eyes and placed myself inside the frog’s brain. Everything went chartreuse, insect-like. He was thinking of feeding. His tongue was lightning-quick. He was an American frog. I became an American frog. I am an American frog. I breathe rectangularly. I am the spring a slinky makes. I saw myself standing there transporting myself into my brain. The pressure-washer lay on the ground beside me. I was staring at myself pissing me off. Water was concentrating and increasing all around me yet somehow remaining contained. The colors I saw faded then intensified. I leapt. This is what I know. Juncos come. I hide where there’s water. I breathe rectangularly. I did not want to lose myself again. Where was I going? Up. I was going up. In search of house flies. I thought. What do I do? What can I possibly do? I twitched. I moved, if only slightly. I swear it. I saw that motherfucker move. Is that red? My legs are red. He’s not entirely green. He’s not green at all in fact. Why is he looking at me? Listen, I’m gonna take a step and I’m not moving. I took a step. I moved. The frog moved. But not far. Only up a step. As if I were climbing them. I stopped moving and began to wonder. Why does this frog infatuate me so? The frog moved. I realized I had no chance of physically catching the frog. I was back beside myself, in between myself and the frog. Someone or something grabbed the pressure-washer. What would this frog look like without its tough, scaly skin? Not so tough. I pointed the nozzle in the direction of the little bastard and pulled the handle. I was too far away. The frog’s chin bobbed once or twice. He bounded up the stairs to stop at the top, turn around and continue his staring. I thought his eyes might pop out of his head. I threw a rock and there he went, leaping away, hind legs in full, joyous extension.









The French


Frog skin isn’t actually scaly. It’s smooth and somewhat mild. Very pleasing to touch in fact. I bought some frog skin from the local French market. I held it for a few minutes then put it under my pillow. I thought if perhaps I dreamt like the frog I might be able to better understand where and when he would appear next. I could surprise him and his red legs. I could jump farther than him if I knew beforehand when he was going to jump. Catching him would be like falling off a log. Unfortunately, there is no French market in Watsonville. Thus I wasn’t able to dream like the frog. Nor predict his next movements. In fact, I realized I didn’t even know the sex of the frog. It was aggressive but elusive. It tormented me like an old flame, yet grew confrontational like an asshole neighbor. I couldn’t be sure. I went to the French market in Watsonville for more information. They told me they didn’t exist. But I’m here I said. No, the frogs, they don’t exist. Yes they do. There was a light green cloud. Have you ever seen a cloud with red legs? They hadn’t. The people inside the shop started croaking. Their eyes turned yellow with symmetrical black lines. I jerked my net about the room and caught a few. They told me I would never capture the frog unless I became one like them. I already tried that I said. The light green cloud reappeared, then laid eggs in a variety of permanent and seasonal wetland habitats. It moved very slowly, through June, and attached itself to aquatic vegetation. Everyone curled. The customers grew insect wings. Tongues emerged. I found myself surrounded. There were plants everywhere and giant frogs with hungry bellies. A marsh formed. I retrieved the kayak I had arrived in and turned pumpkin. I just couldn’t get the fucking thing to stop bobbing. The eggs moved in a single gelatinous mass. They broke. Or matured. All 1250 of them. Four weeks later we were tadpoles. I swam back to Watsonville, pumpkin in hand. The next four to five months I developed and realized I would never catch him using ordinary measures. I needed a contraption. Something entirely foreign to the natural world, to my banal human thoughts and movements, to lure the frog, to fool him. I had an old lawn chair.



Jesse Morse plays guitar and sings in The Whirlies. He loves his dog Hank very much. They live together in Portland, Oregon.