Nalcor had lived here since he returned to Labrador from the Capital City where he had been kept as a pet in the premier’s house. Mizkat, the name Nalcor had given the premier of Canada’s Rich and Poor Province, had been kind to him and, thanks to her, he had learned to understand English and use the internet.
The information he was getting from the web now, plugged into a nearby currant bush was troubling him though.
Mizkat was saying things to the public, using a ‘strong’ voice Nalcor knew from his time with her she used when she did not, she could not truly believe what she was saying.
Nalcor knew her ‘gentle’ voice very well too. It was her vulnerable voice, the one she used when spilling out her worries and concerns to him.
It was sincere because she thought he could not understand her. There was no confusing the two voices.
It was her strong voice she used to announce the recent arrangement she had made with the oil company, Exxon, to give away jobs from Newfoundland and Labrador in return for a pile of cash. Her voice became particularly strong when she mentioned the number of millions of dollars the oil companies were going to pay in order to break the deal to hire workers from the Rich and Poor Province thus guaranteeing the rich would continue to be rich, while the poor would become poorer until they were driven away to somewhere where they could hope to become rich enough to pay the rent without becoming poor all over again.
It was very different from the voice she used when discussing taking jobs from many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians by sending the bulk of yellowtail flounder caught here, to be processed in China, in return for the guarantee from the fish merchants in one threatened community, of a small number of jobs processing what was left over.
She used her strong voice and made it loud enough to drown out, she hoped the voices just audible in the background asking, “Yes, but what about the jobs?”
Nalcor recognized the same tone in her voice, but this time flavoured with a hint of anger when she spoke of the need to teach a lesson to the people who lived in the adjoining province, the province where they spoke a language Mizkat did not understand.
Using her strong voice she repeated the message dreamed up by her predecessor, The Angry Man Who Talks Too Fast, that Canada’s Rich and Poor Province must show those people whose language they did not understand who was boss. There were to be no more giveaways.
Though giving away offshore construction jobs to Exxon and the yellowtail to China seemed to say something different.
Mizkat was beginning to get the message the markets for the electricity she hoped to sell to when she dammed the Big Cigar River were not likely to materialize, so she was becoming frustrated in her anxiety to convince the public what the government was proposing at Muskrat Falls was rock solid.
To do this she ridiculed those who said they needed more information before deciding whether they agreed with the project. She emphasized future mining projects in Labrador would be held hostage for their electricity needs by the neighbours next door if the Rich and Poor Province didn’t produce their own. And do it fast.
So, shrieked Mizkat, let’s cut out the dawdling.
She sounded desperate.
Once again Nalcor felt a mixture of emotions. That Mizkat was preparing to flood his home and destroy it for evermore in a project that looked likely to be doomed to failure, made him angry.
At the same time he retained a fondness for Mizkat who had been very kind to him when he lived with her in the Capital City. And she looked like she needed help.
What could a little muskrat do?
Looking around the lodge he found the stick he had cut from one of the shrubs in Mizkat’s garden, when he was preparing to run away back to Labrador. Still attached to it was one of her old scarves inside, which he had wrapped all his belongings before fastening the scarf bundle to the end of the stick and carrying it over his shoulder out the front door of her house. Never to return, he had thought at the time.
I wonder why I have kept that stick and scarf all this time, thought Nalcor? Maybe I knew all along I would be going back to the capital city. Maybe I knew she would need my help.
Maybe I can appear as one of those expert witnesses Mizkat won’t allow to testify publicly during the Muskrat Falls debate in the House of Assembly in the Tall Building on top of the Big Hill in the Capital City.
If expert witnesses are not allowed to appear in public, I could appear in private session with her alone. Somehow I can make her understand.
Nalcor picked up the stick with the scarf attached from where it leaned against the sloping curve of the wall of mud and branches. He turned it over and over between his paws.
I don’t want to hitch hike this time. That was a hard way to travel when I came back home, he remembered.
Maybe if some of the others who live around here find out I am going back to try and talk Mizkat into halting the destruction of our homes, they will want to give me some help in my journey.
The yellow legs are starting to flock together now. If the dam is built and our swamp is flooded, their summer homes will be destroyed.
They are preparing to fly south. They’ll be leaving any day now. Since they will all be flying together they can probably carry more than just their own weight. A little muskrat doesn’t weigh that much.
Maybe I’ll just swim across the swamp after supper and talk to them.
to be continued ...