The Con­tin­u­ing Ad­ven­tures of Nal­cor, the Lit­tle Muskrat, Chap­ter 2


When we last left Nal­cor, Ms. Kathy’s pet muskrat, he was headed for the door to es­cape her house in St. John’s. He missed the quiet life he had left be­hind in Labrador, when the premier of New­found­land and Labrador, Canada’s Rich and Poor prov­ince, brought him south to live with her.

In spite of be­ing for­bid­den to use Ms. Kathy’s com­puter, he had learned on the in­ter­net about the life of Shaw­na­dithit, the last of the Beothuks, whose story sounded a lot like his.

He wanted to avoid a sim­i­lar sad end.

He cut short his es­cape plan when he heard Ms. Kathy com­ing down the stairs.

In the weeks since then, she had con­tin­ued tak­ing him run­ning with her most days, his leash at­tached to a leather col­lar around his neck, with the new name she’d given him — Nal­cor — em­bossed on it.

He en­joyed run­ning with her, it was good ex­er­cise. Though the cars on the roads fright­ened him at first, spe­cially af­ter a St. John’s snow­fall when he and Ms. Kathy had to share the road with them, he was start­ing to get used to it. He was also get­ting used to Ms. Kathy call­ing him Nal­cor. He knew it was be­cause she didn’t know his real name. So he de­cided he should give her a new name too.

From now on he would think of her as Ms. Kat. Since she didn’t speak muskrat and he had no English, he couldn’t tell her he had re-named her. Nor could he tell her his real name or even his nick­name utsi which was a short ver­sion for ut­shisk which some of the hu­mans at home called him.

Ms. Kat was kind to him, fed him, took him run­ning, and even let him look over her shoul­der when she was on the com­puter. He still felt lonely, and knew he would never feel at home here, but he was learn­ing a lot from her. She knew a lot of things. He could see that. In fact, she knew a con­sid­er­able part of what she thought she knew. But not ev­ery­thing.

When she started talk­ing about things from his world, like the huge project she was plan­ning where he came from in Labrador, she was a lit­tle out of her depth. In fact, she didn’t even seem aware of the part his an­ces­tors had played in cre­at­ing this world.

For ex­am­ple, she didn’t know about Mes­sou. He was one of the spir­its who ex­isted in an­cient times.

It is said that one day af­ter the wa­ters of the Great Flood had sub­sided, Mes­sou was out hunt­ing. He had a pair of lynxes with him. They were ex­pert at track­ing down game, but they were over-ea­ger, most of­ten un­able to re­sist rac­ing ahead too fast.

Nal­cor re­ally wished he had the lan­guage skills to pass this story on to Ms. Kat.

This par­tic­u­lar day the lynxes ran so far ahead of him that Mes­sou couldn’t find them. He walked to all the points of the com­pass call­ing out, but there was no re­sponse.

Then a bird flew over­head and pointed with her wing to a vast lake. The lynxes fell into that lake and sank to the bot­tom, said the bird.

Mes­sou had long been afraid some­thing like this would hap­pen to the lynxes. They were great hunters but didn’t know the mean­ing of the word cau­tion.

Now I will have to try and save them, thought Mes­sou. I dread it, be­cause this lake is not just very deep, it is said to have no bot­tom at all. Once you get into it, you are likely to have a hard time get­ting out.

De­spite his fear Mes­sou dived into the lake and swam down and down, so far that the lake over­flowed. It was such a big lake that its wa­ters flooded the whole world.

Mes­sou was dis­tresssed. What a nightmare. He had not only lost his best hunt­ing friends but the en­tire world was flooded. Again. The sec­ond Great Flood.

Mes­sou asked a raven, noted for its keen eye­sight, to fly around the world and to find a piece of ground and bring it to him. From a small piece of ground, Mes­sou was sure he could fash­ion a new and bet­ter world.

Af­ter a long time the raven re­turned, very tired, with the sad news that he had found no earth.

Wor­ried, Mes­sou next asked an ot­ter to dive into the bot­tom-most depths of the water and, if he could hold his breath long enough, bring up some earth. The ot­ter dived. He was gone for a very long time. Mes­sou was cer­tain he had drowned. Surely, he can­not hold his breath this long, he thought. Sud­denly he heard a gasp. It was the ot­ter, pant­ing breath­lessly, too tired to speak. He gave Mes­sou the thumbs down. No earth.

Mes­sou at last turned to a muskrat. This is the part of the story that Nal­cor liked the best. The muskrat dived. On the sur­face, Mes­sou was des­per­ate. If the muskrat can’t find any earth, he had no idea what to try next. Then some bub­bles ap­peared on top of the water, and sud­denly, in the mid­dle of the bub­bles, the smil­ing face of the muskrat, one fist pump­ing the air, the other clutch­ing a tiny hand­ful of earth.

Mes­sou thanked the muskrat, and tak­ing the earth from her, be­gan to roll it be­tween his palms. Slowly but surely the clump of earth be­gan to ex­pand. It spread out over the sur­face of the water. At first it formed only is­lands, then, as Mes­sou con­tin­ued to fash­ion and shape it, the is­lands merged and formed big­ger is­lands, then con­ti­nents. Af­ter some time, the two lynxes reap­peared, soak­ing wet and ut­terly hu­mil­i­ated, but safe.

It is said that Mes­sou was so grate­ful that he took the muskrat for his mate and their off­spring re-pop­u­lated the world.

Nal­cor re­al­ized he was beam­ing with joy. It was some time since he had thought of this story.

Ms. Kat was look­ing at him strangely. No doubt she was puz­zled by his smile. What was he think­ing, she won­dered?

Nal­cor couldn’t tell her of course, but he was think­ing that, like the lynxes, those other two cats, Ms. Kat might be mov­ing too fast. He was smil­ing be­cause he re­al­ized, that be­fore she got into real trou­ble, he might be just the right lit­tle muskrat to help her avoid get­ting in too deep.

… to be con­tin­ued.

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