Wednesday 26 January 2022

Lucie McKnight Hardy, "Dead Relatives and Other Stories"


Dead Relatives and Other Stories is Lucie McKnight Hardy’s debut collection of short stories, and was published by Dead Ink Books in October 2021. Her first novel, Water Shall Refuse Them, was published in 2019, also by Dead Ink, and was shortlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition and longlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award. Her stories have appeared in Best British Short Stories 2019, Black Static, The Lonely Crowd, The New Abject, and as a limited edition chapbook from Nightjar Press, and in a variety of print and online publications.

Lucie grew up in west Wales and is a Welsh speaker. She has also lived in Liverpool, Cardiff, Zurich and Bradford, and has now settled in Herefordshire with her family. She studied English at the University of Liverpool, Journalism at Cardiff University, and has an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University. Her website is here.

About Dead Relatives and Other Stories

Not for the faint-hearted, Dead Relatives invites you behind closed doors, and leaves you wondering if it’s better that they’re kept shut and firmly locked. In the title story, we meet Iris, who has never left the big house in the country she shares with Mammy and the servants. When The Ladies arrive, she finds that she must appease her dead relatives. Other stories in this collection explore themes of motherhood and the fragile body, family dynamics and small-town tensions, unusual traditions and metamorphosis.

You can see more details about Dead Relatives and Other Stories on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an extract from one of the stories. 

From Dead Relatives and Other Stories, by Lucie McKnight Hardy

The Ladies are coming today and Cook is beside herself with worry. 

‘I’m beside myself with worry, Iris,’ she says, and the blade strips the darkness from the backs of my eyes. ‘Do not just sit there, Iris,’ she says, turning the corpse over on the wooden board, spreading the legs just so. ‘Go and find your mammy and ask her what jobs there are for you to do.’ She drops the knife and her hand goes out for the cleaver. 

But I don’t go and find Mammy. Mammy – I know because I saw her, and her sherry bottle – is in her bedroom, having one of her rests, and so I stay sitting on the stool. The skin around my thumbnail is sore and tastes of coins. I hate Cook. I hate her lazy eye and her mean way with the gravy. I hate the way her bosom fills her apron, and I hate the way she looks at me, all pitying but still angry.

Cook brings the cleaver down on the neck – chop! – and the head comes off neatly, like slicing through blancmange. It’s the feet next – chop-chop-chop-chop – and they fall away, dainty as a babby’s. The next bit is my favourite. She hooks her fingers around one of the legs and pushes on the stump of bone with her thumbs. The leg just slips out – pop! – like taking off a jacket. She works her way around the corpse, easing and tugging and pulling, and then, when all the legs are out, she gives a God-almighty heave and the whole skin comes off in one piece. It’s like one of the Ladies taking off her fur coat. A fur coat with a red silk lining. That makes me smile.

Cook slings the scraps into the bucket and pushes aside the plastic strips that make a curtain through to the pantry, her fat arse slap-sliding all the way. I grab one of the tiny furry feet and slide it into the pocket of my pinafore, and I’m out of there, through the back door, quicker than a whippet from a trap.

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