Short Straw

He stared at the short straw in his hand while his face paled. Having the long straw in my own grasp I could only pretend to know what went through his mind at that moment: which would devastate him more, the prospect of losing his life, or losing his wife and children. Had it be me selected by lottery to witness the king’s passing from this life into the next, I would like to think protecting my family would come first, but having come so close to having to make the choice, I could not fault my friend and neighbor who now stood beside me, his life entwined in the diminished reed, the reality of his task emptying the life from his eyes, leaving only panic and the desire to flee.