WHIPPOORWILL

“Sleeping with men for money was not something Leticia Murphy had planned on doing when she grew up, but then, neither had she planned on being orphaned at twelve, or winding up in a godforsaken place in the Kansas Territories like Lizard Flats. But here she was, like most of the other lost souls who’d come West, looking for something better, and in her case, wishing for a second chance. She knew the odds were against her, but it didn’t stop her from yearning.

There was a ritual from her childhood that she performed each evening as the sun was going down. She would step out onto the balcony off her bedroom, lift her face to the heavens to search for the Evening Star, then stand quietly in the growing shadows and listen for the call of the whippoorwill.

It came from a memory of her mother who had died when she was ten. Always, she was sitting in her mother’s lap outside their clapboard house watching night fall over the land. They would sit on the front step with their bare feet planted firmly in the still warm dirt while enjoying the first cool breezes of evening. As they sat, they would search for the first star and wait for the whippoorwill’s call. Her mother had told her the bird was searching for its mate, but Letty had yet to meet a man who was worth the call. However, the memory was one of the few good ones she had left. Two years after her mother’s untimely death, her father was killed by a Comanche hunting party. Letty survived by hiding in a hollowed out badger hole. That was the last time fate showed her any kindness. At twenty-seven, she was well past the marrying age and nearly too used up to care. Yet, she didn’t stop wishing, and she didn’t stop dreaming about a different sort of life.

Then one day, something happened in Lizard Flats that had never happened before. Word began to spread throughout the area that a real preacher from back East was coming to perform a wedding. The news set off a whole series of unforeseen events. Caught up in the excitement of the occasion, Letty couldn’t help but think that a change was coming for her, too.

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