“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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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?”
the glasses that
hung on a
chain around her
neck, onto the tip of
“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
as the lochs of
stared at Hamish through
hid his grin to
avoid hurting his Grandma’s
feelings. “Thanks for the
they're not my
you like it
her into his arms.
“I love it. Thanks
for the gift.”
patted him on
“Glad you like it. Wait till you see what I’m giving your parent’s.”
rock that I'm
having shipped over
It's a piece
of home and
said it should be
here next week.”
Where will they
in the front
yard of course.
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
shrugged. “Makes perfect
will like it,
but I'm not
so sure about mum.”
Kate will love it.
for Scotland, or
so your father
says in his
letters to me.
The rock will
bring a measure
of comfort to
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
“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.
call from Kate
announcing dinner broke into
his Grams from her room.
“Let’s not be
know how that
Grams whispered as
they walked down
the hall toward
the dining room.
“You think she will have haggis?
It's my favorite.”
not. She complains
that she can’t
find the sheep’s stomach for the
don't ever tell
but her haggis
was always soggy.
Maybe she’ll have better
I’ll take that
secret to the
grave with me,”
later, Hamish held Grams
chair for her as the family gathered
around the table to share a
delightful meal of roasted
with brown gravy,
and crusty rolls