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Sadness overwhelms her. She chose this. It is her job to tally the stones without judgment. She feels the snakes writhing in the loosely strung bag, emboldened with stars and stripes it does not weaken their hissing. They bite and snap and tear at their bindings, each other. She must wait, watching the piles grow to see which one will be silenced, which one’s venom will be unleashed to the masses for the next many moons.
Her son picks up a stone, looks over a shoulder, and seeks her guidance. She cannot give it. He must choose, as she chose, make his own way. She has waited 18 years for this rite of passage. Her heart beats as she watches him add to the pile. A small smile hits her lips. He has chosen well. She allows a moment of pride. It is a brief respite. Worry is the right of a mother. Hers is not yet over. There are still stones to be cast and poisons to counter.