6. Show don’t tell.
A gray drizzle falls on a dense confluence of narrow alleys in Venice. In a closed Japanese restaurant calm figures in a window that overlook a minor canal prepare for a lunch rush that will not come. It is late February and the normally overcome streets of the city are merely busy and alive. Bundled tourists mill about making their discoveries in free and chilly joy. The Venetians are carefully dressed in fur and leather, the Italian tourists in sleek black leather and snug down, and the Internationals are swaddled in a wide variety of multi coloured hi-tech fabrics. Despite the grey drizzle a glowy Adriatic light manages to enrich the deep colors of wet stone and stucco, water and wood. A vigorous, grey-haired woman’s boot heel slips subtly on a wet, slightly rounded pavement tile and as it twists her lower body to the left she throws her arms wide to seek balance. Her husband of 28 years on that very day, still madly in love with her, manages to catch her around her waist, but in his instinctive action towards her a white paper shopping bag slung loosely on his shoulder slips off and drops. The densely decorated millefiori glass globe in the bag drops too, hits the solid ground with a great ringing noise, but, amazingly, does not break. Instead the giant ornament springs from the bag and from all its elaborate packaging and begins rolling hurriedly towards the Grand Canal. The couple, quickly recovering, shouts and begins pursuit. A gloved hand reaches for the ball as it races by, but it has already become wet and slippery on its dash through the glowing drizzle and along the saturated ground and the hand finds no purchase. The couple narrows on the rolling globe and it seems they might intercept it when a spirited child, running excitedly at the glass from a side street, nearly collides with them, and, though the three of them do a wild dance, none fall. Still, ground is lost in the chase.
A Viennese scholar in a new hat, resting on a stone wall on a Campo on the Grand Canal hears the commotion of a small mob and looks up to see the glass and its pursuers racing towards him. He springs to his feet and looks clear to save the day. Unfortunately, between him and the glass is a small group of pigeons. As the ball hurtles into them they burst explosively towards the scholar. The scholar, a veteran of Venice, is prepared for this, but his new hat is not and slides over his eyes causing him to clutch wildly at it and wobble sideways. The globe rolls neatly between his legs as he flings his right arm out to his bobbling hat, knocking it sharply into the wind which carries it into a roll roughly following the globe.
“Mein hut!” He cries, and the Anniversary couple race past him after the globe and hat both. They are terrifically close now, but time appears to be run out on their rescue operation. The woman, who so recently bobbled so clumsily, now comes to a strangely balletic one-legged bouncing stop on the rim of the Grand Canal. The globe, more beautiful now, wet and spinning in the Venice air, than it ever was in the shop, fulfills some inner secret destiny of its own by almost gently tipping into the Grand Canal. The husband, who near the end had his hand just inches from the ball, straightens, attempts his own bouncing halt, but as he realizes he has left it all too late and would rather not risk injury on the embankment, flings himself up and out and, flailing, splashes magnificently into the green water. His wife shrieks, but, as he comes sputtering to the surface, begins slowly to laugh until soon, she can hardly breathe. The scholar’s hat only makes the humor worse by flopping merrily down onto the drenched man’s head. The man laughs now himself as the glass globe, completely unharmed, floats to the surface mere inches from land’s edge. A small crowd on the shore is seized with hysteria and it takes a surprisingly long time, with many relapses of contagious laughter, before the man, the hat, and the millefiori globe are all fished from the cold waters of the Grand Canal.
This little scene above is an example of me violating this cardinal rule and telling you instead of showing you. Ideally what I should have done was flown you to Venice in February and positioned you at an advantageous location on the Campo that in the one direction had a clear view up the street to the Japanese Restaurant near where the globe is first dropped, and in the other an unobstructed line of sight across the Campo to the Grand Canal. I would also politely request that, no matter how tempting, you not scoop up the glass ball even though it will be rolling just a few feet in front of you. Remember, you are here strictly to watch and learn. And what are you learning? Exactly! Show, don’t tell.