Critique Archive 0001:
Zina Martin shivered, though the early summer night was dry and mild and the full moon bathed the desert in a gentle glow. Then she prayed, a habit she had abandoned for a while, that someone would stop and offer her a ride somewhere, anywhere, far away from the polygamous hamlet of Gabriel’s Landing, Utah.
She heard the soft “Who? Who?” call of an owl in a scraggly juniper tree, and the Mormon crickets answered in unison with their rhythmic two-note “You-you, you-you, you-you” chorus. She knew that whenever she would recall this night, the moonlight, the scent of sagebrush, the owl’s mournful question and the crickets’ accusing reply would seep into the memory.
Her heart pounded, fear made her hands clammy and a cold bead of sweat slid down her spine. She had never been more than a hundred miles from home, and then only with an adult family member. Now she stood in the weeds beside the shoulder of the highway, a few clothes hastily stuffed in her duffel bag, and thirteen dollars and eighty-four cents in her pocket. She was sixteen, abandoned by the golden-haired man she had loved, and promised in plural marriage to a forty-two year-old man with four other wives and twenty-five children, some of whom were older than she.
Zina was trapped, just like the solitary sparrow that had flown inside the open window of her English classroom last week. The terrified bird had darted from one wall to another and bumped into windows in vain, trying to escape. The teacher finally tossed his jacket over it and took the bundle carefully to the window, unfolding the sleeves and allowing the trembling bird to fly away with a pitiful chirp. Zina understood the little creature’s terror and she envied its freedom. She hoped it had returned to the flock, or at least found a safe haven in a tall pine tree.
It was just the day before yesterday, when she overheard her father give Cyrus Hamilton permission to court and therefore marry her, that the final brick had been fit and cemented into the wall—a wall built, brick by brick, to keep her from the outside world and sentence her to a way of life she had always known she could not live. How could she begin to explain that to Mother and Father and Aunt Sarah and Aunt Hannah, so true and dedicated to the Principle, and so certain of her ultimate happiness and destiny as a young polygamous wife? Tonight would be her last chance to climb over the wall.