Rats leav­ing the sink­ing ship

The Compass - - ORTHTE -

Nal­cor was puz­zled by the ex­pres­sion. He had never heard it be­fore. Now that he had, he needed to do what he of­ten did when he learned a new ex­pres­sion that the peo­ple use. He went to the In­ter­net for an ex­pla­na­tion. What he found was puz­zling be­cause, as usual, the peo­ple took what was a com­mon sense oc­cur­rence and turned it into some sort of a moral les­son.

Read­ers of this col­umn will re­mem­ber that Nal­cor was now back home in Labrador among his own kind, the muskrats, in a swamp be­side the river the peo­ple had named af­ter the Prime Min­is­ter who had smoked the Big Cigar. Nal­cor was snugly in­stalled in his cozy new lodge along­side the Big Cigar River where the falls, named af­ter his species, the muskrats, were now at the cen­tre of a grow­ing con­tro­versy.

Nal­cor was keep­ing track of the day-to-day developments us­ing the In­ter­net, which he had learned to use dur­ing his time as a pet muskrat, liv­ing with the premier of Canada’s Rich and Poor Prov­ince at her home in St. John’s. MizKat, the pet name Nal­cor had given the premier, had be­come more and more dis­tressed by her in­abil­ity to de­fend the idea of damming the Big Cigar River at Muskrat Falls. In the last days be­fore he fled her home and hitch­hiked back to Labrador, Nal­cor had lis­tened as Mizkat poured out her mis­giv­ings about the cost of the project and the enor­mous debt it would leave for the peo­ple of the prov­ince to re­pay. To Mizkat it be­came ever more clear that the Amer­i­cans, who were sup­posed to pay for the hy­dro power from Muskrat Falls and thus shoul­der the bulk of its cost, had found much cheaper sources for the elec­tric­ity else­where.

Mizkat was dis­traught be­cause she sus­pected that she had been suck­ered into tak­ing the seat in the premier’s of­fice on the umpteenth floor of the Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing and with it the blame for the im­pend­ing fail­ure of the mega project.

It was so un­fair she could see now.

She would go down in his­tory as the premier who sank the ship of state once again in a bot­tom­less ocean from which 45 gal­lon oil drums had only re­cently bailed it afloat.

It was so un­fair be­cause the whole thing had been dreamed up by her pre­de­ces­sor the An­gry Man Who Talks Too Fast, her col­league Jerome the Gi­raffe and Ed with the White Head whose job it was to jus­tify the head­long rush to­ward the in­evitable col­li­sion with the on­com­ing fi­asco.

This, all be­cause The An­gry Man Who Talks Too Fast thought he could sin­gle-hand­edly right the wrong done so long ago to the Rich and Poor Prov­ince by its neigh­bour­ing prov­ince to the west when they part­nered on the Big Cigar Falls hy­dro project. In that prov­ince they spoke a dif­fer­ent lan­guage which the An­gry Man did not un­der­stand, so he didn’t com­pre­hend he would never suc­ceed in in­tim­i­dat­ing them, for they were ev­ery bit as ruth­less as the An­gry Man him­self, which is say­ing some­thing.

Thus was born the An­glo Saxon Route, by­pass­ing the in­tran­si­gent neigh­bours whose lan­guage he couldn’t un­der­stand. Muskrat power would be shipped at great ex­pense in ca­bles un­der­sea from Labrador to the is­land, across the is­land, un­der­wa­ter across the straits to Nova Sco­tia, across it, and into New Brunswick and thence over the bor­der into the rich mar­kets of the USA. A bold scheme that would make The An­gry Man a hero.

Some­how, from some­where though The An­gry Man got wind of some kind of trou­ble ahead. Nal­cor had pieced to­gether the story up to the mo­ment, when to­tally with­out warn­ing and in all haste The An­gry Man an­nounced he was quit­ting, and an­nointed Mizkat his suc­ces­sor.

“If he re­al­ized the project had be­come un­prof­itable why didn’t he just call it off?” won­dered the lit­tle muskrat scratch­ing his head.

The an­swer came to him in a flash. It’s be­cause hu­mans, the peo­ple who are so proud to call them­selves the most in­tel­li­gent of all species in ex­is­tence, do not re­al­ize that in that very thought is con­cealed their fatal flaw.

They are a proud species, thought Nal­cor. He had come across this phrase on the In­ter­net: “Pride goeth be­fore a Fall.” It came from the Bi­ble, a book that con­tained a lot of wis­dom Nal­cor re­al­ized, but had led to a lot of trou­ble and pain as well.

The An­gry Man had seized on the An­glo Saxon route be­cause he be­lieved it would make him a proud hero in the eyes of an ador­ing pop­u­lace, but when he even­tu­ally be­gan to be­lieve it wouldn’t, he ap­pealed to Mizkat’s pride and gave her his job. Let her take the heat. When she in turn re­al­ized that Muskrat Falls was a dis­as­ter in the mak­ing, her pride was hurt, and she ad­mit­ted it all to Nal­cor be­liev­ing he couldn’t un­der­stand her lan­guage. At the same time, her pride pre­vented her own­ing up to the pub­lic who would end up foot­ing a huge bill.

Strange folk these hu­man peo­ple, thought Nal­cor.

Take for ex­am­ple the phrase “rats leav­ing the sink­ing ship” or Nal­cor’s ver­sion of it, “muskrats leav­ing the sink­ing ship.”

To Nal­cor, it seemed com­pletely sen­si­ble that a muskrat on board ship, who re­al­ized the ves­sel was go­ing down, should part com­pany with it. Just com­mon sense right?

Ap­par­ently not to the hu­mans. At first, when the Ro­mans first no­ticed that rats pos­sessed a sixth sense of when a ship was on its way to the bot­tom, and they got over­board, the writer Livy re­ported his great ad­mi­ra­tion for the fore­sight of the rats.

But hu­mans be­ing hu­mans, some­where along the way pride in­truded and in­stead of cry­ing out “Fol­low those rats boys, if you don’t want a one-way trip to Davey Jones’ locker,” the peo­ple, too proud to fol­low the lead of ro­dents, in­stead cried out “cow­ards!”

Nonethe­less, Nal­cor hoped that, in the com­ing months, in­creas­ing num­bers of muskrats would be seen leav­ing New­found­land and Labrador’s founder­ing ship of state.

… to be con­tin­ued.

Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer liv­ing in Sal­vage. His col­umn re­turns in two weeks. He can be reached at the fol­low­ing email:pickersgill@mac.com

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.