"There's fairies around us", an oldish man whispered to me, his whiskers tickling my ears, "sometimes you can see them - a glimpse of 'em here and there, out of the corner of your eye - while other times", he said pausing, "you can hear them... you can hear them laugh. In a waterfall or in the tinkling of silverware and plates at dinner; a laugh that all at once makes you feel that you are either the wisest man on the face of the earth or the greatest fool to set foot on it, sometimes both at once.”
“But mostly" he went on kind of squinting his eyes and twisting his mouth a little (making a face that did not remind one of fairies), "you feel them"
"You feel their little feet dancing on your back - if you lie very still, not a dance of chaos mind you but of order - or you feel their breath blowing your hair, you feel them in a loved one's embrace, you feel them in your teeth (yes your teeth!) when thunder rattles the windows."
"Yes - the shabby man said to me, "better you learn young to keep eye and ear out for the little ones."
His beard was no longer in my ear at this point and I could see him quite well and I noticed something I thought strange. Although his mouth stayed open after he said all this (as if he were going to add one thing more) he got up (with a sound that reminded me of the floorboards in the old house where I grew up) walked off rather slowly - his mouth was still open - I don’t know, he might have said something more but I didn’t hear it if he did.
That was years ago, I'm much older now. And I still don't know if I believe what he said though I think of it every now and again; when I think I see something that isn't there or when I think I hear more than babbling in a brook's playing.
But mostly I think of the old man when I feel something different in a friends embrace -or when thunder rattles my windows at night.