The Alleged Transcendental Power of One-Armed Handstands
The dachshund sometimes played fetch by himself out in the backyard.
Meaning he nudged a tennis ball with his nose across the grass to a
premeditated point, then picked the tennis ball up in his mouth and
returned it to where he started.
Other times, he just lay out there like a deceased thing, staring at
the sky and transient cloud formations. Wind-listening.
He remembered an ancient hunting dog telling him that the only true
path to enlightenment and spiritual transcendence was performing a
He sprinted whenever he returned the tennis ball to where he started,
by the way.
You see the world differently, the hunting dog said. Light hits you at
more inspirational angles. You see the air in the air.
Imagine how the dachshund felt, hearing this.
It was why he sometimes, out there in the backyard, got up and stood
and bent his focus inward and, with squeezed-shut eyes, thought,
One-armed handstand. One-armed handstand. One-armed handstand.
And why other times, to increase the elasticity of his posterior and
anterior shoulder elevators, he went around physically distended or
involved, performing complex stretching exercises.
Everything changes. All your atomized selves unite inside you. He
remembered the hunting dog telling him that.
To strengthen the outer long extensors of his forearms, he did 100
horizontal push-ups per day as well.
Imagine a dog performing horizontal push-ups. Consider the weight and
construction of a dog's body.
This was all so he could perform a one-armed handstand, by the way.
He also barked whenever he completed a push-up, counting out loud,
Other times, when he wasn't training, the dachshund bowed or held up a
forepaw, as if to an imagined owner.
Just one floating paw.
And he'd sit there a while like that, silently reaching out.
It was in the fourth month of the dachshund's training when it
happened—that is, when he shattered his right forearm while
trying to perform a routine balancing exercise.
His arm simply gave way beneath him with an internal snap, and he
crumpled to the ground and lay there breathing, spikes of grass
floating up before his nose and eyes, hearing the pulse of his pain in
The solitude of life, he remembered the hunting dog saying. The endless
distance separating every palpitating heart. The hunting dog had
expected the dachshund to know what this meant.
The dachshund began dragging his lame body toward the house with his
jaw, biting down on the grass and pulling the enjawed needles toward
His owners were home today, so if he could just situate himself in
front of the glass sliding door opening out onto the backyard he could
maybe enlist their help.
He remembered the hunting dog saying that he had never witnessed a
canine of any breed successfully perform a one-armed handstand, nor had
he ever heard of one, which was one of the enduring mysteries of the
one-armed handstand's mythos: the origins of the knowledge of its
The dachshund jawed his way across the yard while the sun leaned closer
and closer to the horizon and threw jailbar shadows over the grass.
He projected that this injury would delay his pursuit of a one-armed
handstand by at least six months, possibly more, and cried with every
chestward drag, because of the pain but also because of his temporary
What's more, the hunting dog never expected to witness or hear of a dog
successfully performing a one-armed handstand, because the ultimate
function of the one-armed handstand was not one of accomplishment or
conclusion. This was something he refused to explain, no matter how
earnestly or insistently the dachshund prodded him.
But he thought he may have finally understood the hunting dog, at least somewhat,
when he reached the glass sliding door and his owners, who
were a young married couple and frequently busy but still very loving
and affectionate toward him, rushed out to him and fretted over him and
petted him and kissed his head and said, "We're here for you, boy.
We're here," and rescued him from the pain.
Trevor Fuller is in the MFA program at Wichita State. He's the fiction editor at mojo.
Detail of art on main page courtesy
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