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.