"Have ya got yer bread?" Anna's grandmother asked, her brogue thick with an accent from some far off corner of Ireland.
"Yes Nan," said 6-year old Anna, gently thumping the toe of her left boot impatiently against the door-frame of her Grandmother's cottage. She had enjoyed her visit to her Grandmothers, but she wanted to get back home. The barn cat had kittens a few nights ago and she wanted to visit them.
"Good! Good!" the elderly lady exclaimed. "And what of yer pockets?"
"I'll turn them inside out when I get to the forest."
Anna's Grandmother nodded and smiled, placing a wrinkled hand softly on the young girl's shoulder. "It was so nice to see you Anna. Tell yer mother thank you for the bakeapple jam. Now, off ya go."
Anna waved as she made her way down the path that led from her Grandmother's cottage. She placed a hand in her pocket and felt the soft, squishy texture of a small piece of bread that her Grandmother insisted that she take on the return trip.
She felt tempted to eat it, but the words of her Grandmother still echoed in her mind.
"This is for the fairies, " her Grandmother said, handing Anna a slice cut from a freshly baked loaf.
Anna held the slice for a moment puzzled. "The fairies? Like Tinkerbell?"
Her grandmother made an exasperated motion with her hand and rolled her eyes. "I suppose yer parents neglected to tell ya of the real fairies have they? Well, we will have to set that right. Sit down then. Yer mother can wait a few more minutes for you."
Anna sat at her Grandmother's table, and twisted and turned the small piece of bread around a few times to inspect it. Fairies were magical flying creatures, what would they want with a piece of bread?
"Now, " said her Grandmother. "Do ya know where I come from?"
"Ireland," Anna answered quickly. Her Grandmother was a proud Irishwoman, and let everybody know it every chance she got.
"And do you know what they teach every child in Ireland?"
"Never say the lord's name in vain?" Anna guessed. She had heard her Grandmother say it many a time to her Father whenever she came for a visit.
"Never say..." the elderly lady floundered for a moment then laughed. "Yes, I suppose that is one thing. But there is something else."
Anna shrugged, hoping her Nan would get to the point quickly. She really wanted to see those kittens.
"Two things, " her Grandmother said holding up a finger. "One, always keep yer pockets inside out. This will confuse the fairies and keep them away."
"Two," she continued, holding up a second finger. "If a fairy does try and take ya, offer it a piece of bread. It might eat the bread instead of eating you."
Anna scrunched up her face. She tried to imagine the fairies from her storybooks trying to eat someone. Despite an active and vivid imagination, her 6-year old mind could not produce a satisfying picture.
Her Grandmother took note of her confusion. "These aren't the fairies from yer books child," her Grandmother said gently. "These are nasty beasts, about the size of you and much more hairy. Give them a chance, and they'll gobble ya up! Now promise me that whenever ya go into the woods, you'll take some bread and turn your pockets inside out."
"Sure Nan," the young girl nodded. If she left now, she could have a nice visit with the kittens for a good hour before it was time for bed.
Anna had kept her promise to her Grandmother. She turned her pockets inside out and had not eaten the small slice of bread until her home was in sight.
It was the last visit that Anna ever made to her Nan's cottage. Her Grandmother passed away shortly after that visit. Promises made were soon forgotten.
Anna awoke with a tear in her eye.