The word ‘sanction’ has double meaning
Mizkat, premier of Canada’s Rich and Poor province, sighed deeply as she closed the front door of her house against the wind-driven snow outside. She tossed her keys into the basket on the table in the entryway, shrugged out of her coat and hung it up in the closet. Sitting down heavily on a bench, she pulled off her snow boots. Mizkat leaned her head back against the wall, closed her eyes and sighed again.
She was tired and boneweary after yet another long day. Tired, but satisfied. The job had been done. The great project had been launched at last, and although there still remains a long list of hurdles to get over, for the moment there was a chance to catch her breath.
Padding along the hall in her slippers, she headed for the kitchen.
She paused by the door to the living room and glanced in. Nalcor, her little pet muskrat was asleep in his special place. On a tiny rug under the coffee table he was curled up, dead to the world.
Nalcor is tired too, she thought. He has been sleeping a lot since he re- appeared as if by magic several weeks ago. What a surprise to see him spiralling down out of the sky, towed by a team of Greater Yellow Legs who deposited him gently on the lawn before lifting off and vanishing into the southern sky. She had been so very glad to see him after his mysterious disappearance and a long absence she feared might last forever.
In the kitchen, Mizkat opened the refrigerator and took out the half-full glass she had left there last night. If the opposition were here now, she thought, they would claim the glass was half empty, but it’s a moot point. In minutes it will be entirely empty and I will be feeling a whole lot better.
Mizkat tip-toed across the living room to turn on her computer. Under the coffee table, unseen by her, the little muskrat opened one eye, closed it again, and trembled ever so slightly.
As the computer screen slowly lit up, Mizkat was surprised to see the word SANCTION appear.
“What’s that about?” she thought.
“I turned this machine off last night. I’d say somebody has been playing with my computer, but that’s impossible. There’s been no one here all day but Nalcor. Maybe I didn’t turn the machine off properly last night.”
As Mizkat watched the screen, under the word SANCTION a list began to appear. She stared. As was her habit, whenever a thought entered her mind, Mizkat spoke it aloud. Thinking the little muskrat under the coffee table was sound asleep and didn’t understand human language anyway, what harm could come from talking to herself?
“SANCTION. This must have something to do with my government sanctioning the Hydro project at Muskrat Falls,” said Mizkat. “This is a great moment in history. They said I couldn’t do it, that I was no Danny Williams, but I made it happen. But what is this list below the word SANCTION?”
Under the coffee table, the little muskrat thought, “Just read it!”
“It’s a list of definitions of the word SANCTION,” said Mizkat.
“Go ahead and read them!” thought Nalcor.
“SANCTION,” read Mizkat: The action of making something legally binding; official ratification (of a law, etc.).”
“Absolutely. Right you are, we’ve done it! No, I’ve done it! It’s signed, sealed and delivered! In the bag. No going back. Yippeeee!”
Mizkat disappeared into the kitchen. When sh e returned moments later, if the Opposition had been there, they would have declared her glass entirely full.
“This is so great!” she cried, lifting her glass in a toast. “To my very good health!”
“Read farther down the list,” thought Nalcor.
Mizkat read aloud, “SANCTION: a penalty or reward enacted to enforce obedience to a law or rule.”
From underneath the coffee table the little muskrat peeked up at Mizkat. She was sitting down now, in front of the computer, staring silently at the screen. Her left hand was balled into a tight fist, the knuckles white. In her right hand she held her glass. The Opposition would have called it three-quarters empty. As Nalcor watched, she downed the rest.
“To enforce obedience?” thought Nalcor. “That sounds a little bit harsh for a project that is supposed to be the saviour of our province, doesn’t it? If Muskrat Falls is such a great deal why do you need to force people to go along with it? If it’s as good as you say, the people will obey you without question, won’t they?”
… to be continued
Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer in Salvage, Bonavista Bay. He can be reached by email at the following: