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Stories by Laura Lagana
Hamish McWallace and the Leprechaun Treasure - Chapter 1

“Hamish the Lamish. Hamish the Lamish.” The cruel taunts of the bully named Alex, followed Hamish McWallace as he carried his lunch toward the table to join his friend. A girl named Lucy with long flowing brown hair and chocolate brown eyes, slid to the left on the bench to make room for him.

“Just ignore Alex. He’s only making fun of you because he's insecure about you being taller than he is.” Alex grabbed Lucy's banana and mashed it into the middle of the table. She turned her back on Alex, ignoring the pestering boy and continued talking to Hamish. “Why did your parent’s name you Hamish? At least I was named after some eccentric aunt on my mother’s side.”

“It stands for James.” Hamish squirmed on the bench and self-consciously opened his lunch bag.

“Well,” continued Lucy, “At least you have really green eyes and you’re pretty funny.”

Hamish felt his cheeks flush even brighter. “Uh... thank you.”

Lucy bit into her apple and said as she crunched the fruit. “What are you eating?”

“Scotch Broth,” said Hamish, sipping the stew from his thermos.

“Is it good?”

Alex shoved Hamish’s shoulder, forcing him over on the bench before saying, “Yeah, is it good? Is it made of real Scottish people?”

Lucy sneered. “Shut up Alex and quit being rude.”

Hamish turned to Alex who slid into the vacant spot. “Aye, Alec, quit being rude,” said Hamish.

Alex hovered an inch from Hamish’s nose. “The names Alex, not Alec.”

“In Scotland, it’s pronounced Alec,” said Hamish.

Alex snorted. “Does that mean your exit signs all say ecit? That would be pretty dumb.”

Hamish flushed beet red and turned away from Alex, but the boy reached in front of Hamish, grabbing a piece of bread wrapped in foil and tossing it at Lucy’s head.

“What is this?” Alex reached for another piece of bread, but Hamish’s hand stopped him.

“It’s called bannocks. It’s an oatcake,” said Hamish as he broke off a bite for Alex and Lucy to taste.

“You should call it crap cake because it tastes dry.” Alex eyed the biscuit. “Oats are for horses.” He turned and shouted to the other children in the cafeteria. “Hey everyone, Hamish’s parent make him eat horse food for lunch.”

Embarrassed, Hamish slid down in his seat and avoided the curious stares of the other children in the cafeteria. “They’re not horse food. They’re a Scottish tradition, and they taste much better if you put cheese on it,” mumbled Hamish.

Alex grabbed the brown sack with the rest of Hamish’s lunch and peered inside. “What other foods do you have in Scotland?”

Hamish paused while he thought of the different dishes he had eaten in his country. “There is arbroath smokies.”

“You feed your people cigarettes?” Alex lifted the corners of his mouth into a sneer.

“No,” said Hamish. “It’s smoked fish. We also have colcannon, forfar bridies and black bun.”

Alex roared with laughter. “What kind of names are those? Coal from a cannon, fat old biddies and burnt hair? Remind me never to go to Scotland. I’d starve or get lost because I’d never find the ecits.”

“Enough,” said Lucy. “Hamish is trying to be nice and you’re being obnoxious. Quit making fun of him.”

Alex glared at Lucy. “Oh yeah? And what are you going to do about it?”

Lucy thought for a moment before saying, “How about I tell everyone you’re an idiot.”

He pushed away from the bench and tossed Hamish’s last bannock at Lucy’s head. “Shut up if you don’t want me to embarrass you.”

As Alex left the table to join his friends, chanting “Hamish the Lamish”, Hamish mumbled at the boy’s retreating back. “Hope he never goes to Scotland. They’ll probably do a highland jig on his backside the first time he opens his mouth to make fun of them.”

Lucy giggled. “Hamish the Lamish isn’t so bad.”

In a heavy Scottish brogue, Hamish said, unable to keep the sarcasm from entering his voice. “You really think so?”

She gulped half her chocolate milk before replying, “My name is Lucy Fern Devlin.”

“That’s not as bad as my nickname,” said Hamish.        

“It is when Alex calls you Lucifer the Devil. I’m twelve years old. Do you think I’ll ever be popular in high school with a name like that?”

“I guess not.” Hamish finished the last of his stew when Lucy’s next words made him pause.

“Maybe if you cut your hair and wore jeans instead of corduroy pants, oh, and get rid of that plaid sweater, you might not stand out so much. I bet Alex would pick on you a lot less.”

Hamish turned beet red with embarrassment. “It’s called a tartan, not plaid.” He hesitantly touched his curly auburn colored hair and cringed. Every morning he tried to tame the unruly locks into an American looking style, but the humidity of Charleston made the bangs droop over his eyes and his hair frizz like a poodle. Hamish’s fair skin stood out among the tan children who lived in Charleston. The intense sun turned his bare skin pink with painful sunburn and freckles. Hamish slumped further down on the bench. His tall frame hovered over the other children in the cafeteria, making him uncomfortable. “Aye,” he said to Lucy, “I guess I could cut my hair a bit shorter.”

 “I know you’ve only been here a couple of months, but you really stand out”. She inhaled before continuing, “And you have a heavy accent, sometimes making it really hard to understand you.”

“Is it that bad?” Hamish cringed as he listed to his own words rolling from his lips.

“I don’t mind it,” said Lucy. “It makes you different.”

“But the point is not to stand out, right?”

“Only when you’re in school,” answered Lucy. “Kids can be pretty mean to someone who is not like them, but when you’re not at school, being different is what makes us cool.”

Hamish furrowed his brows. “You’re confusing me.”

Lucy sighed. “I know, but in America it’s all about being allowed to be whoever you want. The sad part is, if you stand out too much in school, stupid kids like Alex make fun of you for not fitting in. It’s only because they’re cowards.”

Hamish bit his lip and thought for a moment. “I think I understand.”

“Good,” said Lucy. “It’s not complicated, just stupid.” She shrugged her shoulders as she ate a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Your dark red hair would look browner if it was shorter. At least your hair is auburn and not carrot colored. Alex would really make fun of you then. And you’re the tallest kid in the class.” Lucy gulped her chocolate milk. “You’re skinny, but tall. You'll fill out someday.” She finished the last of the sandwich and licked her fingers clean. “But not any time soon, so you get to live with that awkward stage awhile.”

Together they finished their lunch in silence. When Hamish was done, he packed the empty containers in his lunch bag and stood from the table, tossing away his trash as he passed a trash can.

“Hey, wait up!” Lucy ran after Hamish once she handed her dirty tray to one of the cafeteria workers. “Did you study for the quiz?”

Hamish paused. “What quiz would you be talking about?”

She sneered. “The one that the English teacher told us about a couple of days ago? You were picking your books off the floor when she said it? Remember?”

A sinking feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. “I remember Alex embarrassing me, but I don’t recall the teacher mentioning a quiz.” He shoved the cafeteria door wide open. “I’m in big trouble aren't I?”

Lucy shrugged. “Here! I’ll go over everything real quick. It might help.”

Hamish listened to Lucy’s overview of all the things she remembered the teacher talking about as they walked to class. After taking the English quiz, the day flew by for Hamish. The last bell rang and he returned to his locker without any more trouble from Alex. On the walk home, Hamish fumed about Alex’s tormenting. He really disliked the boy, but wasn’t sure how to fix the problem. Hamish lived in Scotland his whole life and never had anyone make so much fun of him before. He walked down several more streets as the sun beat down on his head. The sweltering humidity made beads of sweat pop out on his forehead. At times like this, Hamish pretended he was back in Scotland with a cool breeze blowing in from the sea. The humidity of Charleston made the air feel like a sweltering sauna. Several minutes later, Hamish’s tan brick house came into view. The family car sat in the driveway, parked at an odd angle. His Grandma had flown in from Scotland for a visit earlier that day. Hamish’s mom, Kate, had picked Grams up at the airport, and if Hamish new his mom, she was ready to pull her hair out by now, or planning to return Grams to the airport.

Several months ago, Hamish’s father Alasdair, was asked to run a division of his computer company in Charleston, South Carolina, so he moved his family from the only home they had ever known. Kate was still adjusting to the move from Fort William Scotland to America. At first Kate loved the warm weather, but as the climate turned hotter, Hamish often heard his mom complain about the oppressive heat and stifling humidity. Hamish definitely agreed about the humidity as he shoved his drooping bangs out of his face. A moment later, Hamish picked up the pace and hurried toward the brick house at the end of the cul-de-sac. As he opened the front door, he over heard his mom complaining to his father about Grams.

“I have been looking everywhere for this teapot. I thought we’d lost it in the move and instead I receive it as a gift from your mum. Not that I mind gifts, but when she steals my things and gives them back to me as presents for special occasions, it’s rather annoying.”

“Kate, you know she’s a bit dodgy in the head, but she’s my mum. Besides, she's only visiting for a short while.” He pulled his wife into his arms for a hug.

“Okay, I’ll be nice, but when she finally leaves here we’re checking her luggage before she goes.”

“All right Kate,” said Alasdair.

When Hamish stepped into the living room, the screech of his parrot pierced his eardrums. “Hello! Hello! What’cha doing! Pretty Bird!”

Kate covered her ears. “Will that parrot never shut up? He’s been doing that all day. I knew we shouldn’t have taken him from the previous owners when they moved.”

“Don’t say that Kate. You know how much the parrot means to Hamish,” said Alasdair.

Hamish coughed several times to announce his presence. “So Grams is here now? Where is she?”

Kate cocked her head to the side. “Check the spare bedroom. She said she needed to refresh herself before dinner.” Kate glanced at the clock that hung over the fireplace mantel. “I'd better get dinner started.” She left the room and hurried toward the kitchen.

“Hello Dad,” said Hamish.

“Did you have a nice day at school?”

Hamish stared at his shoes. “It was okay.”

Alasdair patted his son on the back. “That’s good to hear. Why don't you go and give your Grams a hug. I’ll help your mum prepare dinner.”

“Sure thing Dad.” Hamish left the room to find Grams. As he passed the dining room, he caught sight of a movement from within.


“Shush.” She rummaged through a drawer of the china cabinet and grinned when she found the custom-made tablecloth. “Oh, don’t you think this would make a lovely Christmas gift for your mum? It matches her china pattern.”

Hamish leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms over his chest. “You would be right. That's probably why she bought it in the first place.”

Grams folded the material and tucked the table cloth under her arm. “Good to hear, so I made a lovely choice then.” She linked her arm through Hamish’s. “Now come with me. I have a gift for you too.” As they strolled down the hall toward the spare bedroom, Grams said, “Make sure you keep the gift for your mum a surprise and don't say anything to her when she wonders where it might be.”

“Don't you think you might want to shop in a store instead of our house?”

“What? And buy a gift I'm not sure she’ll like? Nonsense. Those things are so impersonal.” Grams sat on the edge of the bed, rifling through her purse. In her hand nestled a soft piece of cloth. “Here. I made you a charm necklace and I want you to have it.” She ran her thumb over the small statue. “He was a distant uncle. In fact, he was the original owner of the family cottage, but disappeared one day and his brother, your great, great, great, great, great…or whatever, grandfather moved in. A McWallace has lived there ever since.”

Hamish lifted the black leather band with the statue dangling from the middle and settled the necklace around his neck. “It’s warm to the touch.” Hamish cradled the stone charm. “Is that a wee clover on the little highlander’s shirt?”

Grams shoved the glasses that hung on a chain around her neck, onto the tip of her nose. “Never noticed it before.” Strands of wiry gray hair poked out from the bun pulled tight at the base of her neck. “I don't see it. Want to borrow my glasses?” Her eyes, gray as the lochs of her homeland, stared at Hamish through the thick lenses.

Hamish hid his grin to avoid hurting his Grandma’s feelings. “Thanks for the offer, but I'm guessing they're not my prescription.

So, you like it then?

He pulled her into his arms. “I love it. Thanks for the gift.

She patted him on the back. “Glad you like it. Wait till you see what I’m giving your parent’s.”

What is it?

“It's a rock that I'm having shipped over from Scotland. It's a piece of home and the postman said it should be here next week.

Hamish pulled away. “A rock? Where will they put it?

Grams snorted. “Why, in the front yard of course. That way, a piece of Scotland will be the first thing they see when they leave the house, and the last thing they see when they come home.

Hamish shrugged. “Makes perfect sense. Dad will like it, but I'm not so sure about mum.

“Oh posh. Kate will love it. She's homesick for Scotland, or so your father says in his letters to me. The rock will bring a measure of comfort to her heart.” Hamish’s parrot let out a screech. Grams looked around the room. “I swear I’m hearing those voices again.”

Hamish stiffened. “Voices?”

“Aye. Don’t you hear them? It keeps saying ‘Hello’ and ‘What you doing’. I tell the voice what I’m doing, but it keeps asking me the same question over and over again. Should I be seeing a doctor while I’m here?”

Hamish chuckled. “That’s my new parrot.”

“A what?”

“My parrot. His name is Marvin. The lady who sold us the house moved in with her daughter who hated the bird, so mum and dad said I could keep him.”

Grams clutched her heart. “Oh thank goodness. I really thought I was going senile and at such a young age too.” She paused. “Does the parrot ask those questions all night long?”

“No. I cover him with a blanket and he goes right to sleep.”

“That’s nice. I’ll be able to sleep through the night then,” said Grams.

A call from Kate announcing dinner broke into their conversation. Hamish assisted his Grams from her room. “Let’s not be late. You know how that irritates mum.

“Right then.” Grams whispered as they walked down the hall toward the dining room. “You think she will have haggis? It's my favorite.

“Probably not. She complains that she can’t find the sheep’s stomach for the haggis.

“Well, don't ever tell your mother, but her haggis was always soggy. Maybe she’ll have better luck with American food.

“Don't worry. I’ll take that secret to the grave with me,” said Hamish.

Moments later, Hamish held Grams chair for her as the family gathered around the table to share a delightful meal of roasted chicken, fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and crusty rolls dripping with creamy butter.

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