Hear­ing and lis­ten­ing

The Compass - - OPINION -

Nal­cor had been spend­ing more and more time on the com­puter. He felt a bit lonely tap­ping away on the key­board iso­lated in Mizkat’s big house while she was away all day, ev­ery day.

If he was at home now with his fam­ily, liv­ing in the cozy bog along­side the big river in Labrador, he would have had some com­pany. He would be able to com­mu­ni­cate, ex­change and laugh. He missed them all, all the other muskrats he had left be­hind when Mizkat the premier of New­found­land and Labrador, Canada’s Rich and Poor prov­ince, had brought him here to her house in St. John’s to live.

He missed them and he felt lonely it’s true, but on the other hand he was learn­ing a lot. He could un­der­stand quite a lot of English now and even a bit of the other lan­guage some the hu­mans spoke here, though not so many as spoke it where he came from in Labrador.

As he learned more of the lan­guage the hu­mans spoke, a cu­ri­ous thing hap­pened. By un­der­stand­ing more of what they were say­ing, Nal­cor had ex­pected to learn why hu­mans did the things they did. Sur­pris­ingly though, it wasn’t like that. So of­ten, what they said was the op­po­site of what they did. And it seemed as if they didn’t even no­tice it them­selves. It was as if they had re­ally short mem­o­ries. No sooner were the words out of their mouths than they were for­got­ten.

It was par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able among peo­ple whose job it was to lead the rest. Peo­ple whose job was like the Head Muskrat in the pond. Mizkat, the name Nal­cor had given to Ms. Kathy Dun­derdale, was an ex­am­ple. She was the Head Muskrat in her pond. But in­stead of do­ing what The Head Muskrat al­ways did in the pond where Nal­cor came from: talk to all the other muskrats, get their point of view, find a so­lu­tion that would please ev­ery­one and carry it out, Mizkat did some­thing dif­fer­ent.

At the be­gin­ning the things she said of­ten sounded good, but then some­thing dif­fer­ent hap­pened. She said she would con­sult ev­ery­one in New­found­land and Labrador, Canada’s Rich and Poor Prov­ince. But in­stead of gath­er­ing all the ideas of the rich and poor peo­ple to­gether and try­ing to find the one that made the most sense, she for­got.

The project back in Labrador that would change for­ever the place Nal­cor came from was an ex­am­ple. Mizkat, and her pre­de­ces­sor, the An­gry Man who Talked Too Fast, got their en­ergy com­pany Nal­cor, af­ter which the lit­tle muskrat was named, to hold hear­ings about how best to build the prov­ince’s en­ergy fu­ture.

“Hear­ings,” now there was a funny name, thought Nal­cor. Wasn’t “hear­ing” the word hu­mans used to de­scribe tak­ing in sounds through your ears? Tak­ing in the ideas those sounds rep­re­sented was “lis­ten­ing,” at least as far as Nal­cor could un­der­stand with his limited vo­cab­u­lary.

As far as Nal­cor could fig­ure, the meet­ings that were held by Nal­cor, the com­pany, were not prop­erly named. They should be called not “Hear­ings,” but “Lis­ten­ings,” to in­di­cate that Nal­cor, the com­pany, was pay­ing some at­ten­tion to what was said in these meet­ings.

But the trou­ble with the process of pre­par­ing for Muskrat Falls went fur­ther than that. What Nal­cor, the muskrat, could tell, Nal­cor, the com­pany, was not us­ing their ears at all, but their eyes.

The boss of Nal­cor, Ed With The White Head, watched care­fully as each mem­ber of the public gave his or her opin­ion of how best to in­sure a safe and pros­per­ous en­ergy fu­ture for the prov­ince. When Ed With The White Head saw their lips stop mov­ing, he for­got about them in­stantly and re­turned in his mind to the plan for Muskrat Falls he had dreamed up in ad­vance, with the help of Mizkat and The An­gry Man Who Talks Too Fast.

Speak­ing of not lis­ten­ing, Nal­cor re­al­ized he hadn’t been. He heard the key turn­ing in the lock at the front door. Mizkat was home. He quickly shut off the com­puter and jumped into his lit­tle bas­ket, curled up and pre­tended to be asleep.

To be con­tin­ued …

Peter Pick­ers­gill is a writer and artist liv­ing in Sal­vage, Bon­av­ista Bay. He can be reached at the fol­low­ing email: pick­ers­gill@mac.com.

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