Santa Claus is worried...
“My dearest elves, I am quite worried” said Santa Claus gloomily. “It seems like something has happened in Venice… every year I get fewer and fewer letters from Venetian children. What’s going on? I just can’t understand… Maybe they do not believe in the magic of Christmas anymore? Or perhaps they don’t attend school and no one teaches them how to write? We have got to find out the reason.”
The elves started to mutter, incredulous and concerned.
Santa continued, “I suppose it is necessary to send one of you in disguise to gather more information. Is there a volunteer for this mission?”
The elves went on muttering: who would have desired to go on such a long trip to reach a very old city, full of water and incredibly humid? In the middle of fall, moreover…It was much better to make toys, warm and sheltered in Santa’s factory.
“All right, I’ll choose one of you”, and with a resolute tone in his voice Santa named Brenner the Elf.
Every time there was a hard mission to carry out, Brenner was chosen. Always.
Nonetheless, Brenner did not protest. He sighed and whispered: “Ok, boss” and went to prepare his luggage for the trip. He gathered just a few clothes and necessary items, jumped on the back of Invisible, the reindeer of invisibility, and quickly left.
Brenner takes leave from Santa
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When Brenner arrived in Venice, the weather was absolutely miserable: it was raining cats and dogs, the wind was blowing strongly, scratching the elf’s hands and face; it was so cold that you could almost feel it in your very bones. As soon as he saw he was approaching St. Mark’s Square, Brenner asked the reindeer to fly a little lower, so that he could jump down to the Square. He jumped, landed… and almost drowned! He had not noticed that the Square was entirely flooded! “What the hell is going on here? ”thought the poor elf. It was not easy at all, but eventually he managed to reach a sheltered place, close to Cafe Florian, under the building called Procuratie Nuove. What awful weather!
Pretending he was a child, Brenner started to follow an adult couple into the Cafe, and, unnoticed, entered the restrooms, where he could change his clothes (luckily, his waterproof bag had prevented his spare clothes from getting soaked).
Now it was time to come up with some ideas to get the information Santa needed. How could he do this, though? In that rain and flood there was hardly anyone around.
Brenner decided to wait for the rain to calm down a little and for the tide to flow out. Then he started to roam the narrow alleys of Venice. It was quite difficult for him to find the elementary schools of the city. It was not that obvious that they were schools: from the outside, they looked exactly like all the other buildings around. It was only thanks to his extremely well-developed hearing that he could hear the voices of children inside some of these buildings. He entered one of the schools, then a second one and a third: there were only few schoolchildren, everywhere. Could they be all sick? Quite probable: in such miserable climatic conditions, it was really easy to catch a cold.
He then decided to take a look into the houses, through the windows, but he could see mainly adults, sometimes with a child or two, packing or unpacking their luggage. They looked quite like visitors, tourists, rather than locals…but those were houses, not hotels… puzzling…
Brenner eventually realized he had not yet seen any shops selling clothes for children or toys. He went on roaming the alleys and the campi (the little squares) of Venice, trying to pay more attention to the shops. He could find only few shops with items for children. Most of the stores sold luxury goods for adults, or, even more often, a whole lot of low cost souvenirs, all identical, quite ugly actually: something that no child would have ever desired for real, more so if the childin question already lived in Venice. The mystery was becoming more serious.
It had stopped raining, but the little elf was cold. As he reached the Rialto Bridge, he decided to crouch in a gondola, under his invisible cloak. He was extremely tired, so in a minute he fell asleep. When he woke up, he noticed that the gondola was not docked on the pier anymore: with elegant movements, the gondolier was rowing and at the same time chatting with the foreign young couple of lovers that was taking a charming gondola ride. “It feels great to be gently rocked by the waves in a gondola!”, thought Brenner with a smile on his face.
Brenner sleeping in a gondola
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Suddenly, he recalled that he had a mission to accomplish and, when the gondola docked at the end of the ride, he jumped off quickly, protected by his invisible cloak.
Walking restlessly around Venice, he finally reached a place called Campo Santa Maria Formosa… and there they were! Children of different ages were playing together. Some of them were kicking a wet ball, some others were riding their little bikes, trying to enter as many puddles as possible, a third group of kids had instead brought some colored chalks to draw the pantofolo, a popular Venetian game, on the stone pavement, but it was wet everywhere and the chalks would be of no use at all…
One girl was not playing with the others, she was hanging around alone, thoughtful. Pretending again to be a child, Brenner walked up to her: “Hi, my name is Brenner. What’s your name?” he asked her.
“Hi! My name is Margherita.”
Brenner meets Margherita
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“How come you don’t play with the other children, Margherita?”
“Well, I am a little sad”, the girl answered. “This will be the last Christmas I’ll be able to spend in Venice. In January I’ll move with my family to the mainland. Here, everything has become too expensive for us, my parents cannot afford to live here anymore. My mom might even lose her job in the museum…”
“I am so sorry…”
“Actually, our house in the mainland is quite close to Laura’s house: she is a friend of mine who moved out two years ago… we will be together again, so moving to a different place does not seem so scary after all… still, I feel so comfortable living in Venice…”
“Why can’t you move to a smaller house here in Venice, instead of moving to a totally different place?”
“Mom says that here there are almost no houses left for the locals. It is easier to rent them to tourists, they pay much more than locals. And there are fewer and fewer shops for the residents. Quite frequently we have to go shopping in the mainland… so it might be more convenient to live there all year round.”
“But how can this be? There must be a way to change this situation. A city with no residents, a city with no children… is it a city at all?”
“What did you say your name was? Brenner? You are not from here, are you? So why do you care whether there are children living here or not? Tomorrow you are leaving to go back to your hometown, I am pretty sure.”
“But children mean life, children are the future of our civil society, they give us hope that tomorrow will be better than today. What kind of hope, what future can there be in a city without children?”
“Brenner, this is quite a strange speech… how do I know? I guess they’ll get used to live without children, what can I say…”
“Yes, but how am I going to tell Santa that one fine day he will receive no letters at all from Venice?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
Oops… The elf had already said way too much, there was now a serious risk he could be recognized.
“No, no, I was just guessing… well, it’s late now, my parents are waiting for me. I have to go.”
“Hey wait! You are a strange boy! Give me your e-mail address, so maybe I can write to you. Do you have an e-mail account?”
Too late. Brenner the Elf was already gone.
Brenner blew his golden whistle to call Invisible and he immediately left Venice to go back to North Pole, in Alaska, in order to report as soon as possible all the information to Santa. The good old man, who by the way was very well known in Venice also as St. Nicholas, listened to Brenner in silence, visibly worried.
“Mmmmm… this is quite bad news” he said. “We must save the future of Christmas in Venice. But first of all, we must save Venice itself.”
“Frankly speaking, boss, my personal impression is that the residents feel quite hopeless as far as saving Venice is concerned, they feel they are not strong enough for this”, Brenner commented.
“Of course, they feel hopeless. They just can’t make it on their own. They need help from Santa Claus and all his Elves! Come on! Let’s jump on the reindeer! We are leaving right now. Our destination: Venice!”
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Note of the author: everything I have written in this tale is absolutely true. I have the proof. My good friend Cinzia, who is always traveling to discover new worlds, was even able to take a picture of Invisible, the reindeer of invisibility, during one of her trips to Lapland…
Invisible the Reindeer
And now you can download the black and white drawings and enjoy filling them in with the colors you prefer. Do not forget to send us a picture of your works, so that we can publish them on Facebook!
©Author: Monica Gambarotto
Illustrations by Rossana Magoga and Alessio Gambarotto
You can find information about Monica Gambarotto in the section About us in this site.
Rossana Magoga got her diploma at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice and now teaches painting techniques in an Artistical High School. She is one of the directors of the exhibit Treviso Comic Book Festival, which is quite a famous event in Italy. If you want to know more about her, you can visit her Facebook profile “Rossana Ronda’s art” and her blog https://www.premioceleste.it/artista-ita/idu:63685/.
Alessio Gambarotto (despite the same last name, he is not a relative of Monica’s) is 15 years old and studies in the same Artistical High School where Rossana works, but Rossana is not his teacher! Actually, they do not even know each other.