The Golden Boy

by Katrina Hamlin

Ocean Park Themepark, Hong Kong, 1993.

“Scallywag,” said Mummy.

“Scallywag!” said the Hong Kong Granny in Cantonese as the peppermint ice cream slid down her face. But she smiled, licking cream from her hairy chops.

She reached out to touch his hair again, still smiling, green cream gathering in the wrinkles around her eyes. “Little gold-hair boy! Such good luck.”

He had nothing left to throw, and this was stranger danger just like they told him at school. Why did she want to touch his hair? Why was Mummy on her side? Why was she angry with him? Why was the woman not repelled by the well-aimed ice cream?

Overwhelmed by Mummy’s injustice and seeing that the world didn’t make sense, he turned and ran.

“You Scallywag, come back,” screamed Mummy.

He felt a knot tightening in his stomach and knew he couldn’t ever ever go back. He ran faster.

The Hong Kong Granny at another Granny in her tour group. “Did you see the gold-hair boy? I touched the gold for luck, and now he is running.”

She turned to the boy’s mother, “You will need help to catch him.” She gestured to the tour group, “We must help her!”

The Grannies whooped and began shuffling in pursuit, a wall of chiffon florals.

The boy looked over his shoulder and saw the pastel monster moving towards him in a shrieky mass.

A Granny grasped his mother by the sleeve and pulled her into the crowd. The boy saw her subsumed by the floral hoard, and felt panic rising. He hesitated; should he save her?

But she had just betrayed him to the wrinkly woman. No, he wouldn’t go back. He kept running.

He passed the ice cream stand. “No run,” called the ice cream seller in English. The boy ran on.

The grannies passed the ice cream stand, pulling the boy’s mother with them. “Don’t run”, called the ice cream seller in Cantonese. The grannies whooped, and shuffled on.

The boy reached the crowds milling around the gift shops. He darted through their legs, zigzagging.

He swung round a pair of fat legs in baggy jeans, past hairy legs in shorts, and behind skinny legs in hot pink leggings. He jumped over a pair of long red Converse and ran smack into a little girl wearing a brand new Ocean Park teashirt.

She staggered back a few steps and breathed in, sharp. She caught herself and breathed in, deeply, her eyelashes fluttering. She exhaled, breathily, then gulped back another lungful. She was about to bawl, loudly, in a gust of wails and tears, he could feel it – he turned and ran.

Behind her, the girl’s father pushed through a queue in the gift shop doorway, “You Scallywag,” he hollered, as the little girl finally let loose the opening scream and launched a tantrum that would last the rest of the weekend.
‘Scallywag.’ They’re all after me, he realised.

He slipped into the gravelly gap between the gift shop and the hot dog stand, into the scrubland behind.
There were no peope here. It is safe, he decided.

He held himself very still, and felt his heartbeat slow.

He could hear the swishing feet and chattering on the other side of the hot dog stand, but he knew they couldn’t hear him.

He squatted down on the gravel and looked around.

This would be an ok place to live forever. He could probably steal hot dogs sometimes, and if he stayed in the bushes, it would be quite dry.

He hoped there were no snakes.

He was sure there were no wrinkly old women, they didn’t like this sort of place.

His heartbeat was normal again now, but he felt a funny kind of sick in his chest. He had never experienced such injustice before. It was sort of like an inside-out bruise. He kept thinking about the word ‘Scallywag,’ sort of like when he had a real bruise, and he would push it, amazed that one part of him could feel so much more intensely than the rest.

He remembered that the last bruise he’d had, the big greenish brown one on his left knee, had gone away after a eight days.

He couldn’t imagine this feeling would go away.


On the other side of the hot dog stand, the Grannies were fanning out through the crowd. The boy’s mother was getting worried now. A Granny squeezed her arm tightly and said something in Cantonese.

“I don’t understand,” said his mother.


Teatime came and went, and the gold-hair boy was still missing. The Grannies gathered at the ice cream stand to ruminate. One of them bought his mother a peppermint cone with a flake, to cheer her up.

She held it in silence until it began to melt.

The little girl approached with her father, still bawling.

He bought her a strawberry ice cream cone with a flake, to shut her up.

The little girl crushed the wafer cone in a tight fist, and the ice cream oozed through her fingers. She wiped her palm on her fathers chinos.

“Scallywag,” he muttered and strode off, pulling her along by her clean hand as she dragged her feet.

The boy’s mother watched them go. Peppermint ice cream was dripping out of the cone and onto her lap.


Behind the hot dog stall, the gold-hair boy fell asleep.

In the morning he would begin the first day of forever, living in the scrubland behind the hot dog stall, occasional muttering ‘Scallywag’ under his breath to remind himself why he could never ever ever go back.


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