Paul Practices Yoga

by Dan Nielsen

Ben sat at the table. His eyes were closed. Sarah stood by the sink, looking through an open window at a darkening sky.

Sarah gripped the counter with both hands, her pelvic bone resting against the sharp edge. Her hips moved, but just a little.

Ben covered his face with the palms of his hands. He lowered his head until the heels of his hands pressed into his eyes. He pressed harder. He saw bright flashing colors. He drew his hands back, smoothing his hair, then further back until the fingers locked at the nape of his neck. Ben opened his shoulders. Ben opened his eyes.

“What do you want for dinner?” Sarah said.

Sarah was facing Ben now, but her gaze was aimed a few inches above his head, and her focus was somewhere in the distance.

They’d been married a year and Ben was still surprised by the height of his wife. Sarah was well over six feet, maybe closer to seven. Sarah was twenty-seven. Was she still growing?

“What?” Ben sank into a slouch. “I thought we were having that fish.”

Sarah opened the refrigerator door. Then the freezer door. She pulled out a frost-covered box and gripped it with the fingers of both hands so Ben could clearly see the label.

“This isn’t fish,” Sarah said. “This is fish sticks. Not even the good kind. You bought minced.”

“It was half off.” Ben felt defensive and then cheap.

“But we don’t like minced.” Sarah waved the box in Ben’s face.

Paul, under the table, sensed tension and growled, but just above a whisper.

“I honestly can’t tell the difference.” Ben looked to the side and then at the floor.

“People only say ‘honestly’ when they’re lying,” Sarah said, ending the conversation.

Ben again covered his face with the palms of his hand, and repeated the entire gesture, until his fingers were once more locked at the nape of his neck. He pressed the heels of his hands too deeply into his eyes this time, and the brightly flashing colors remained until he became worried, but then they went away.

Paul crawled out from under the table. He carefully positioned his front paws on the kitchen door. He worked his legs until he was standing fully erect. He arched his back and raised his snout. A strangely meditative sound came from deep inside his throat.

“What’s Paul doing?” Ben said.

“Yoga,” Sarah said.

A sudden gust blew rain in through the window. The curtains billowed like flags of a country devoted to butterflies and flowers. Thunder chased lightning.

“We should turn on the weather channel,” Ben said.

“Why should we do that, Ben?”

“There may be warnings.”


“The radio will tell us what to do.”

“Like what?” Sarah said.

“Like, go down to the basement?”

“Never mind.”

“Board up the windows?”

“Okay! Just forget it!”

“Stock up on stuff? Head for higher ground? Don’t loot?”

Paul sensed tension again. He lowered himself to the floor and returned to his place beneath the table.

Ben got up to close the window just as the sun came out. The breeze felt nice and smelled good. Ben left the window open.

Ben turned on the oven. He arranged fish sticks on a cookie sheet, spreading them evenly so none of them touched. He added the remains of a bag of onion Tater Tots. He returned to his chair to wait for the bell indicating that the oven had pre-heated.

“I wonder if there’s a rainbow,” Sarah said.

“What?” Ben said.

The bell sounded. Ben stood, opened the oven door, and slipped the cookie sheet onto the middle rack. He set the timer for forty minutes. He closed the oven door.

When Ben returned to his chair, Sarah was seatedacross from him, and there were beers on the table. They each opened theirs at the exact same time so it sounded like one beer, but louder.

“I said,” Sarah said, “I wonder if there’s a rainbow.”

Paul followed a path of sunlight to the window. He sat, but with his hind legs crossed in a way requiring great control and concentration.

Dan Nielsen lives alone in a three-bedroom house a short walk from Lake Michigan. He’s been writing, making music, and doing art for half a century. Old credits include Random House and University of Iowa Press anthologies. Most recently his work has appeared in The Ottawa Object, Lockjaw Magazine, The Fem, Semaphore Magazine, and Minor Literature[s].Dan is amazing at ping-pong. He has a website: Preponderous.