Shadow

I last saw my shadow on the river bank.

A tall, dark, big-hipped facsimile.

We watched the water, looking for ducks or the silver glint of fish. Our feet hid in the mud among the reeds. It was cold.

On the way home, I did not my shadow was gone. I said hello to Jane, by the church; “hello Michael” in reply. I smiled at two dogs – the brown spaniel and the labrador – tangled in limbs and leads beside the postbox. A red car went past, tooting its horn, and I waved, even though I didn’t know who it was. It’s always better to wave.

It was only when I got home, as the sun swum lower in the sky, that I noticed something was wrong. Like an optical illusion, or a puzzle – things as they should be, but not quite.

It took a while to realise what I did not have. I tested it, indoors, my theory that my shadow was gone. Switched on a low lamp, looked, waved, switched it off again. It’s always better to wave.

It was hard to sleep that night – the worry – so I made a list. Places where I had seen my shadow: that morning in the kitchen, on the path where the bluebells grow, standing on the riverbank. Places where I hadn’t: saying hello to Jane by the church, watching the dogs spiralling by the postbox, opening my door as I came home, unsure.

It was the river bank. It was all about the river bank.

In the morning, I pulled my boots on, zipped my coat, pulled my hat down over my ears. It might be cold again. Best to be sure. I walked along the river bank, looking out, here and there, amongst the reeds. Above, three geese, in a V, one of them calling out into the wind. Around, the rustle of grass, the golden zigzag of reeds in the breeze.

Here I am.

Here is where I stood the last time I saw my shadow.

My tall, dark, big-hipped facsimile.

I see her now. Her coat floats on the water, making her look fatter than I remember. It looks as though she is waving.

I wave back.

It is always better to wave.

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Lizzie Boyle

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