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Santa’s Elf in Venice

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   few clothes and necessary items, jumped on the back of Invisible, the reindeer of invisibility, and quickly left.

  

FOTO2
Brenner takes leave
 from Santa
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The arrival of Brenner in Venice

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).

Looking for information

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 localsbut 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.

A gondola ride

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  wit a smile on his face.

 

FOTO3
Brenner sleeping in a gondola
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Finally, the Children!

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.”

 

FOTO4
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.

Mission impossible: save Venice!

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!

 

FOTO5
Mission accomplished!
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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…

FOTO6
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.