The word ‘sanc­tion’ has dou­ble mean­ing

The Compass - - OPINION -

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:


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