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Later, she would say that he had been blessed but first, she would curse the fleshy lip of the mushroom, sprouting there in the shade along the path where the boy walked daily, back and forth from the mines, his bare feet scuffing the red dirt, his fingernails seamed with mud. And it was the yearning, not the weight of the leaden sacks on his bony shoulders, not the hours spent picking through dusty pieces of rock in search of metal, that put him in harm’s way on that day. Mineral dust took longer to scar a person’s lungs, tainted water took time to grow a tumor. It was the walk home, an empty-bellied trek along a stony path, a shortcut past the cool, wooded corner where his temple twitched as he reached down to pluck at the mushroom, that single moment of daring, that put the boy’s shins within striking distance of the snake’s fangs. Later, she would say that her son had been saved by the serpent’s head and herbs which she had ground up and charred and rubbed into razor cuts on his body. She would say that a boy, as small as he, might have suffered more than just the fever and the retching. She would wipe the dirt from his face and feed him a spoonful of fufu and tell him that one day, he would grow as tall and strong as an ebony tree and live like a king.