Rinaldo And His Pen With The Golden Nib  

By: IRIS VIGNOLA

IRIS VIGNOLA: The author Iris Vignola was born in La Spezia, where she has always lived. Nel fantastico mondo delle fiabe is her collection of twelve stories for children and for those who still love to dream, published in three different editions, with different illustrations. The latest edition is  “Nel fantastico mondo delle fiabe – Into the fantastic world of the fairy tales”, enriched with new illustrations, created by the author, in collaboration with her granddaughters Irene and Veronica and in double Italian and English version. Her first poem “A mia madre” is inserted in the anthology of various poets “Poems for a mother”. Her poetry books are “Unico Amore” (the first, written with the poet Horion Enky) – “Non sogno e non realtà” – “Dinanzi a me, c’è solo il mondo” – “Mi voltai… e vidi quel fiore”. “Streghe, folletti e fate filastrocche magiche e favole incantate” and “Filastrocche magiche e favole incantate” are two books for children, both in collaboration with Horion Enky. Her fantasy trilogy is “La Stirpe di Luce – Dynasty of Light”. The first book is “La scelta di Asaliah – Asaliah’s choice” in the Italian and English version. The second book is “Le Origini – The Origins”. The third book is “Nephilim: Angelica e demoniaca genesi – Nephilim: Angelic and demoniac genesis”. Some of her lyrics are published in more anthologies of various poets, made solely for charitable purposes.

A while back, I met a child who had been nicknamed “Coriousella”, for a certain way she had of doing things that you have already guessed for sure. She was in first grade and her true name was Anna. She really loved to snoop around, looking and observing everything in detail, before touching it and ask her mother what was its purpose.

Certainly, that was something natural: she was still a little girl, and she needed to know what was going on around her, even though she often went too far with her “What is it?” or “Why?” with which she continued to harass everyone stood next to her, at any hour of the day and, many times, even at night, when she was sleepless and still wanted to play or, in winter, remain up behind the windowpanes, while in the summer she looked out the ground floor windowsill in her residence. She watched the moon that, helped by the wind, smiled at her, spreading her silver from a sky studded with billions of stars that shone embellishing the dark velvet blanket of night, whispering a choir song on the melodic harmony of harps and violins played by angelic fingers, in the absolute silence that brought to her such a sweet enchantment.

Her mother really wanted to call and convince her to stay under the blankets, not up and about with her tiny nose plastered to the windows, attracted by something that only her young mind could sense. If she happened to accompany her to buy groceries, before entering the store or the supermarket she looked at her in the eye, making her promise she would behave adequately, avoiding to touch everything with those small and surprisingly quick hands. She also reminded her of a bad afternoon, when she had knocked down a beautiful crystal object in an artisanal shop downtown that miserably shattered in a thousand pieces, causing her to feel ashamed for not having been able to raise her daughter properly. In addition, she had paid it back, without even bringing the pieces home.

On a Sunday morning, Curiousella went to visit her grandfather, who had recently returned home from the hospital.

He had been so sick that he had remained hospitalized for a month, although he had fully recovered, and was by then feeling even better than before. He was a really eccentric guy, who always lived in his world of poetry and literature.

Her grandparents’ home was not that far from her own, she could go there with a nice walk; and that was precisely what the child did with her parents, since the sun was emanating a lovely warmth, during that much-welcomed beginning of spring.

Her grandmother had prepared a tasty lunch, concluding it with a chocolate cake, a delicacy to chew as soon as possible! While they were about to set the table, they encouraged her to remain in the garden, to breathe the fragrances of the newborn flowers and observe the extraordinary, varied colors of the exquisite butterflies, but she mustn’t touch their wings…or she might break them! Oddly enough, she obeyed. She ventured around that paradise intoxicated by the perfume, stinging her fingers with the roses, but remaining quiet, silent, scared of being scolded. The temptation to touch those beautiful, flying insects was great, but in spite of that the right hand restrained the left and vice versa. She felt so happy of having accomplished that! Once lunch was over, with her mouth dirty with chocolate she stood up to go wash it, as her grandmother had just suggested her. When she returned, the grownups were chatting about this and that: the weather, work, health in general, and she would have been so bored if she had stayed to listen to them. Maybe, she would even fall asleep! So, super quietly, without showing them she was back and without letting them realize she was leaving again, she went to discover whatever secrets she could find…all around the house. Well, not for nothing they pointed at her as a curious girl! Searching here, searching there, nothing important sparkled her interest. At least, not until, after opening every drawer in her grandparents’ bedroom containing shirts, handkerchiefs and various trinkets, she noticed something that caught her attention, inside a case made of black velvet. She jumped at it!

Who knows what grandpa might have said, if he had been there! She quickly got that thought out of her head, she didn’t like it at all! But…she liked that case so much. Who knows what might be inside it!

She grabbed it with her hand, she turned it over and over again, then, shrugging with both shoulders, she finally decided what to do. ‘I will open it. What could happen anyway?’

A pen, sad and old in its looks, peeked out of it. It was different from any pen she had seen before and there was something odd, a contradiction in the shining nib that seemed to be made of gold. She took it in her hands, raised it to her eyes, admired it…bewildered. Turning it around, that nib emitted shining glares. It was probably new, never been used before, it was so amazingly evocative! A noise called on her hearing.

‘Someone is here!’ she suddenly verified, without having the time to put back inside the drawer what she had just found.

“Hi grandpa…” she said hesitantly, with the most innocent voice she could concoct, realizing she had been discovered.

“What are you doing? Who gave you permission to rummage around? You know it’s not a nice thing to do!”

“Yes, grandpa…Sorry, I was getting bored and almost fell asleep so…I wanted to take a nap on your bed. But then…that opened drawer was calling me.” A lie…she had never told a lie so well in her entire life! It seemed almost true! “Eh Curiousella, you never change. All right, your grandpa forgives you, you know I could never stay angry at you. You take advantage of it, my child. Come

here, I will tell you the story of the object you are admiring.

Once upon a time, there was a good and beautiful boy, Rinaldo was his name. He was your age. Well, he lived in a village where there was a school, but it was far away from his home and, to get there every day, he used to walk down a really long road inside the woods, no matter the weather: if there was the sun up in the sky, or in the pouring rain, or even if it was snowing, sinking in the cold of the snow, so alone and freezing!”

“Grandpa, but didn’t his mom and dad take him to school with their car, if he had to walk for so long?”

“Honey, so far in the past, cars didn’t exist, there were only horse-drawn carriages and that was a luxury only wealthy people could afford. In the small villages, there were calashes, but not everybody owned one and the boy’s family was too humble to have it. But let’s go on with the story. When he was on his way home, in the dead of winter and in the deepest darkness, shadows followed him to scare him, but they could never do that, because Rinaldo was daydreaming all the time, without casting a glance around him, or considering something other than his thoughts and desires that had the wings to fly far, far away.”

“I have many dreams and desires too, grandpa. So, mine can fly as well!”

“Of course, my dear. Every dream and desire flies to a place up in the sky, waiting to become true. But listen, let me go on. His classmates didn’t take too kindly to him, always lost in his own world, where no-one was able to penetrate. He only had a pen, always the same one, that by then had become already old by using it so much. In those days, pens were really different from those we have now; in order to use them, you had to dip the nib into the black ink,” her grandfather explained.

“At school, I use pens that already have the ink inside them,” replied the girl.

“I know, and the nib is quite different from the one of the pen Rinaldo owned. So, where were we? Let me think…Ah, yes! Well, everyone avoided him, leaving him to his own devices and not letting him participate in the games they played during recess. In spite of that, he was happy with his sheets of paper and pen in his hands. He didn’t go out with the others, he stayed there, sitting at his desk, drawing everything that was around him and, above all else, writing his every though, turning it into poetry or a real story and, sometimes, a fantasy,” grandpa told her, before she interrupted him again.

“Oh, grandpa, Rinaldo was so good, I would have loved to know him!”

“Well…he has not been alive for many years now, he went to the world that is waiting for all of us. I will continue. The sheets, under his pen, became alive. He filled them with harmonious drawings and extraordinary tales for a child who was pretty young indeed.”

“I am good at drawing too, and I learned to write without errors,” replied Anna.

“I know you are an excellent student and your report card is full of great marks but, honey, if you keep interrupting me, I will never manage to finish the story. Or, are you already tired of listening to me? Do you want us to stop?”

“Noooo grandpa! I will be quiet, I promise! Please, continue,” she said, her tiny face sorrowful.

“Then, where were we…right! The more months went by, the more his pen became old. It had belonged to his grandfather, then to his dad, although neither of them had used it that much, because at the time not many people ever learned to write and read, but, every now and then, both of them had tried. Its nib was intact, so the stroke was still good, given that Rinaldo took great care with it, avoiding to press it with too much force and to suffer any blows. He used it with a light touch, delicate.”

“I do so too, with my…” Curiousella stopped herself immediately, seeing the clouded eyes of her grandfather. “I’m sorry, grandpa, I will not interrupt you again. Go on…” she said afterwards.

“As I was saying… The pen was his most prized possession and, without it, he would have felt useless. But, a sad day, even though he had rummaged through his bag, he couldn’t find it. He was desperate! He looked for it everywhere: on the shelf under his desk, on the floor, in every corner of the classroom; he peeped on the desks of his classmates and in their hands. Then, he went outside in the corridor, thinking it might have fallen as he was entering the classroom. Nothing, it was nowhere to be seen! He burst into tears of regret, under the stares of his classmates who were mocking him, laughing and screaming, taking advantage of a moment of absence of their teacher. He went home dispirited, dejected, with watery eyes still full of tears. He couldn’t fathom where it might have gone.”

“Poor Rinaldo, grandpa…” Curiousella added, sorrowful.

“Yes, my dear, poor boy. He was a tortured soul, so much so that the next day and the days after that, his desk remained empty and the classmates wondered why.”

“Oh, sure! I bet it had been them all along, they stole his pen!” she burst, angry.

“You are spot on, it really had been one of them. They had just returned to the classroom and, while Rinaldo was watching the sky outside the window, since the clouds seemed to promise rain and caused him to worry he would have to get soaking wet worse than a duckling as he was walking home, a classmate had taken it out of his canvas bag with a lightening quick movement, to put it inside his own, unbeknownst to the child who hadn’t noticed anything happen.”

“What a moro…”

“Do not swear, Anna!” grandpa scolded her.

“I’m sorry grandpa…but he was one!”

“You are right, I’m not saying he wasn’t. Anyway, Rinaldo didn’t return to school after that, because he had gotten sick. Too much sadness caused by the loss of his pen had sent him into a terrible depression, and his parents didn’t know what to do about it. He didn’t want to eat or drink anymore. His mother was able to make him swallow a few spoons of soup and half a glass of water per day, but only by forcing him. They were all in the deepest of dejections besides, he was burning for the fever, but they didn’t have money enough to call a doctor that could go to their house to visit him.”

“Poor Rinaldo…sigh…sigh…” the child was on the brink of tears, picturing him in such a state.

“Anna…do you want me to stop?”

“No, no grandpa… Go on…”

“One of those days, his mother went to the teacher to tell him her son wasn’t going to return to school. When he asked her several questions, the poor woman started to cry and cry, unable to stop, and he tried to comfort her as best as he could. She told him about her son, who was often delirious in his sleep, talking about the pen he lost and never found. As soon as she left, still sobbing, the teacher talked to the pupils, his face in gloom, investigating and asking them if they knew anything about Rinaldo’s pen. Suddenly, all conversation stopped in the classroom. Everyone became quiet, their eyes on the floor. At that point, he understood that someone in their midst knew what had happened to the pen, so he pressed with his questions until everyone’s eyes turned to look at one of them, who, sensing he was called into question, slowly stood up without ever raising his eyes to look at his teacher, with a face so red as he had never had before in his life. Stuttering some incoherent words, the guilty boy seemed to apologize, even though he was clutching at straws to take the blame off himself. He only admitted that, by accident, the pen actually

ended up in his hands.”

“Sure, it did! By accident he said! What a liar!” the girl snapped with anger.

“Sit down, Anna, grandpa has almost finished his story. Since the teacher wasn’t so naive that he could think he had acquired it by accident, he scolded him and sent him behind the blackboard as a punishment, but not before he dug out of his bag the pen in question. Even though he had strongly reprimanded the perpetrator, he did the same with the rest of the class, because he rightly believed that every one of them was privy to the bad action their classmate had committed. Afterwards, with Rinaldo’s pen in his hands, the teacher took a good look at it, wondering what was so special about it to cause its owner to become sick after losing it. While he was pondering the event, as he was about to set it on his desk, he noticed the nib was ruined. At that point, he immediately turned to the thief, who, scared and probably assailed with remorse for the mischief that by then appeared to him in all its seriousness due to the critical medical conditions of his classmate, at last confessed, admitting that he had inadvertently dropped it several times, thus causing the damages to the nib. Therefore, aware that the sick child could never ever use his beloved pen again, the teacher proposed a pact to the entire classroom, by way of compensation, that could absolve them from the grave act they had committed and, moreover, give some peace to their consciences that, after being asleep for some time, were finally starting to awake…”

“I understand what you mean to say, grandpa,” the child interrupted him.

“I think you understand it perfectly. I know you are really perceptive, Anna, I’m about to finish the story now. So, as I was saying, he proposed them a deal that would have declared the abolition of their shared fault, as well as their reformation, if they accepted to call for a collection to buy a new nib for Rinaldo’s pen. The faces of the pupils lightened up, imagining their classmate healed and with the pen in his hand, the new nib, and assuming he would forgive them. And, soon enough, after they had admitted their severe guilt before their parents and received from them a neat sum of money, they came up with a large amount with which, accompanied by their teacher, they went to the only jewelry store in the village, taking the famous pen with them, on top of which they had a golden nib inserted. Afterwards, walking in single file behind him, they went through the woods to go to the boy’s house, as happy as they had never been before, certain they were doing one good deed. In the meantime, Rinaldo was laying on his bed when he heard someone bawling, but nothing and no-one mattered to him, so lonely without his dear pen. With it, he had lost his dreams and wishes, all at once. They had disappeared, from that place where they were supposed to remain for a long time, given that he wasn’t able to transfer them on the pure white sheets anymore, so that they might remained imprinted as memories, if he hadn’t succeeded in making them come true when he was an adult. Euphoric, his mother thrusted the door open at once, urging him to stand up and, when he denied, she peremptorily ordered him to do so. Unwillingly, Rinald followed his parent to the half-open door to the house, standing on his shaking, skinny legs, and remained speechless when he saw all his classmates there, still, staring at him with serious faces. They seemed like whipped dogs. The teacher looked at him for a moment. He pitied him, his face was so pale… Then, he took out from his pocket a case made of black velvet that seemed utterly new. He opened it and, from it, removed a pen. Rinaldo watched it while it was still in the man’s hands, then he recognized it: it was his pen! But…there was something different about it, in its looks. When he took it between his fingers, he stared at it: a new nib, the same color of gold, was shining under the rays of the sun, making it look as if it was magical! At that point, the teacher apologized for the great injustice he had suffered, and reassured him his classmates regretted the act and that, from said event, they had learnt an important lesson in life. Besides, he declared that, since the nib had somehow been broken in the ordeal, it had been their duty to have it replaced with another one, made entirely of gold. Tears fell from Rinaldo’s eyes at having in his hands once again the pen that had become even more precious than before with its golden nib, as if it had been crowned Queen. Then, he looked at them one after the other, a serious look on his face. Eventually, on his bloodless lips appeared a beautiful smile that cheered up the hearts of his classmates, who clapped their hands before running to hug him. He returned to school with them and no-one mocked him ever again, quite the opposite actually: they praised him aloud because they wanted to hear his poems and stories, written on the notebooks that perfumed the golden nib of his pen, as if they wanted to honor it. In them he told his thoughts, chronicled his dreams, imprinted his desires before they flew to end up in that mysterious place in a corner of the sky, waiting for a time in which they would finally be able to become true. Or that a fairy spirit, a funny jester, would strangely help him to fulfill them. Or, even better, that a fairy descended from his sheltered and ideal world with her wand, and deigned to conjure a charm to turn them into reality. But in case that never happened, if what had flown up there had remained for the immense and eternal, Rinaldo was happy nonetheless, proud of his most precious treasure, his pen with the golden nib that guided his hand, and not vice versa. And so it happened: he became a glorified poet, a beloved author whose fame spread beyond the borders of his country to the surrounding world, making part of the dreams and wishes that were waiting up there, in that secluded corner of the heavens, come true.”

“Grandpa… Then this is Rinaldo’s pen!” she jumped on her feet, dismayed at

having such a treasure in her hands.

“Yes, my dear, it is a precious jewel! One day it will be yours, but you will have to treat it with really, really good care. Look at that framed photo over there, hanging on the wall. Do you see that man, smiling at the camera? He is my

grandfather! Can you guess what his name was?”

“It’s Rinaldo, grandpa!”

 “Clever girl, I knew you would understand it right away, honey.”

“But, grandpa, I could never get it wrong! Rinaldo has the pen in his pocket. Look, the tip is only just poking through it.”

“Geez…I never noticed it before! It’s true, that’s his pen. Look at that, he always had it with him! It had always been his companion; his inspiration, his muse for poems, stories, tales, for everything that was fantasy, flying to that unnatural world that still exists, where everything comes to life and everything can be done.”

“Do you travel to that world too, grandpa?”

“Yes, I do, just like Rinaldo. Well… It’s getting late, let’s go downstairs now, they will be waiting for us. My darling Curiousella…never stop… Being curious is not bad, if it’s done in the pursuit of knowledge. But only for that purpose…and nothing else.”

“And now, if I’m not mistaken, you might be asking who am I that told you this story. Are you as curious as Anna? I’m not sure I should tell you… I guess you won’t believe me. But, yes, come on, I do want you to know it: well, I…am no-one but the protagonist of this tale. I am the pen with the golden nib!

However…you must not tell this to anyone! It will be our future secret!”

                                                        THE END

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