Lee was nine when he learned that he could dance with his shadow.
It never happened when he was just walking along. Even skipping didn’t do it. It had to be full-on, dedicated, enthusiastic dancing. Only then would his shadow detach itself from where it was supposed to be and begin to dance along, gyrating and twisting and twirling along the sidewalk or the wooden porch or the gravel that led to the old mine.
He didn’t tell anybody about it. He was afraid that nobody would believe him. But it was more than that; the truth was, Lee didn’t have anybody to tell. He had one so-called friend, a boy nicknamed Hatchet because everybody said his father was in jail for butchering a whole load of people. But even Hatchet wasn’t really a friend. For one thing, his mom never let him out of the house, and for another, Hatchet didn’t like doing anything except trying to break into the old mine. Lee was afraid of the mine. He sometimes wondered whether Hatchet’s father was actually dead, not in prison, and whether he’d died in the cave-in that finally caused the mine to close. But so many people said that Hatchet was a son-of-a-killer that Lee usually believed it.
Once Lee asked his grandparents if shadows could move. His grandmother didn’t hear him, just like she never heard him, but she nodded and smiled. His grandfather grumbled and took a long pull on his cigarette. Lee wasn’t sure what he’d said, because he hadn’t had his teeth in at the time. But he felt better for having asked the question, even if his mom and dad said that his grandparents were both loony. Lee loved them anyway because they had the best cake in the fridge and they tucked him in better than his parents.
Sometimes when he danced with his shadow, Lee tried to talk to it. But whenever he thought that the shadow was about to answer, it would just leap into another miraculous twirl. Lee was envious. He couldn’t dance that well.