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On The Road

Our writing contest winners conquer the west with words

January 21, 2009, 12:00 am

Third Place
Pasquala Enos
Desert Blood

Pasquala Enos writes to keep her sanity and currently uses her computer as a bookshelf.  Fiercely and proudly Native American, she hopes to write for Rolling Stone magazine while still adhereing to her roots.  Pasquala's perfect childhood denied her of any creative angst and she now relies on her eccentric family for inspiration. This story is for Vishnu Ma....

My two friends and I are driving aimlessly down a nondescript dirt road, lost, after taking a left at what appears to have been the wrong abandoned house. Like most of the things we do, this trip was spur of the moment, a random invitation from a faceless pow-wow pretty boy to a random party in the desert; a 49, my parents call it, a sixtiesism from an arroyo party after Gathering of Nations. A few directions later, we got in the car and left the lights of the city behind, ready to have as much fun as we could before the sun rose. However, as we drive further down NoWhere Road, the prospect of shrieking girls and drunken boys becomes less and less appealing. Somewhere between there and here, we stopped caring. Somewhere between there and here the moon shining over the desert began to beckon in the most irresistible way and the stars began to shout. Somewhere between there and here, our native blood began to call.

We spill out of the car, our veins on fire, our lungs grabbing for the pinon-infused air. We run at first, laughing and screaming, chasing the farthest star until it gives up and falls far behind us. Incensed, the coyotes begin to call, voicing their indignant response to our sudden intrusion. They reprimand our noisy disrespect by scolding and barking until we fall onto the sand, surrendering to their chorus. If the night is cold, the desert hides it well, warming us with leftover heat from the day, trapped inside the earth. We melt into the desert, the wild sage becoming ensnared in our hair, the sand camouflaging our skin.

It is now and only now that I understand the stories my mother would tell about her summers in New Mexico when she was a little girl. My mother, blessed with storyteller blood, would hold my attention captive as she stressed the importance of knowing that the desert, no matter where I ended up, would always be home. Finally, I know why my father only smiled and nodded when I spoke of my escape from New Mexico; he knew the desert was already in my blood. Now, as the mountains stand sentry, I feel guilty that many of my twenty-two years have been spent wanting to be anywhere but here. It is only now that I stop fighting the pulling and urging of the New Mexican night and allow it to envelop me.

Finally accustomed to our presence, the coyotes slip into song, bitter notes entwining with sweet harmonies that naturally fold into a solitary note. Somehow, the forgotten desert blood we each carry is awakened and released; hot, restless, and utterly overwhelming. It is here, on the corner of NowHere Road, as the coyotes finish their song, that we finally understand why sometimes, when the sun hits the mountains just right, our hearts race and our thoughts rush. It is here that we finally understand why sometimes, when the moon floods the arroyos, we crave the continuity and quiet strength of the mountains.

For the first time that night we are silent. It is not a silence that can be pulled and dictated. It is a comfortable silence, not one plagued with need or request. It is that silence that only the desert can understand, after all, it is in the desert that this silence originated.

Note of correction:

The story "Desert Blood," the third-place winner in the non-fiction category of our 2008 writing contest, was initia incorrectly attributed to writer Mario Gonzales. It has since been determined that the actual writer of the story was Pasquala Enos.
Our writing contest is close to a decade old and this is the first time such an egregious error has been made. As such, a detailed explanation of how our writing contest is administered seems in order.
As entrants are aware, we require everyone submitting to our writing contest to leave their names and any identifying information off of their submissions. Their names and contact info is submitted on a separate piece of information. This allows us to have a blind judging process.
When the entries come in, they are coded: F1 for the first fiction piece; P1 for poetry; NF 1 for non-fiction and so on. Those same numbers are correlated with entrants' contact information.
Once we have received the numbers of the winning entries from the judges, we then match them to the contact information and then contact the winners.
Winners are required to then send us their winning entries in digital form. This keeps us from having to retype them (!), and also provides a bit of a failsafe measure, as it ensures we've got the right person and the right story.
In the case of "Desert Blood," we obviously made a mistake while coding and contacted the wrong writer. He did send us his piece digitally, but it was in a program we could not open. What we should have done was contact him again and have him resend the piece. However, we had never made a mistake in terms of a winner before and, because the piece was short, it seemed easier to just retype it ourselves.
A perfect storm of mistakes with a very regrettable outcome!
To be clear: I personally code and organize all of the writing contest entries. As editor, I probably should have delegated all the coding of the entries a long time ago. It's a lot of work (we receive hundreds and hundreds of entries) and the potential for human error is large. I have always felt that if someone was going to screw it up, it might as well be me. And thus it has come to pass. The error is mine and mine alone. Perhaps it is time to pass on the duty of coding hundreds of entries, or eliminate blind judging. Or simply accept that sometimes mistakes happen. I deeply regret that Pasquala was not given proper credit and congratulate her on the publication of her story. --Editor Julia Goldberg


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