The Bones of It

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‘A brilliant crime debut, chilling, compulsive and beautifully written. A hugely impressive addition to the growing body of Irish crime fiction.’ 

Brian McGilloway

‘Blackly comic in tone, The Bones of It is a Bildungsroman that evolves into a slow-burning psychological exploration of the mind… an engrossing tale of the consequences of living a life steeped in a culture of violence.’ 

The Irish Times

‘…true discovered masterpiece of fiction. If she keeps this up, Kelly Creighton can be that Next Great Writer. The Bones of It is not just a novel to read, it is a novel to experience.’ 

San Diego Book Review

‘Compelling, compulsive, compassionate.’ 

Books Ireland

‘Scott’s is an authentic voice, and Creighton a writer to reckon with.’  

The Irish Examiner

‘Incredibly well written.’ 

Sinead Crowley

‘A future classic Troubles novel.’ 

Sharon Owens

‘a poignant insight into the lasting effects of the Troubles, The Bones of It is a page-turner from start to finish.’

Claire Savage

‘Beautifully penned and piercingly insightful. As a debut novel, it is extremely accomplished.’

Jan Carson

‘This finely written thriller keeps the reader gripped and intrigued…a meaty, fascinating work of fiction.’

CultureHUB Magazine

Thrown out of university, green-tea-drinking, meditation-loving Scott McAuley has no place to go but home: County Down, Northern Ireland. The only problem is, his father is there now too.

Duke wasn’t around when Scott was growing up. He was in prison for stabbing two Catholic kids in an alley. But thanks to the Good Friday Agreement, big Duke is out now, reformed, a counselor.

Squeezed together into a small house, with too little work and too much time to think about what happened to Scott’s dead mother, the tension grows between these two men, who seem to have so little in common.

Penning diary entries from prison, Scott recalls what happened that year. He writes about Jasmine, his girlfriend at university. He writes about Klaudia, back home in County Down, who he and Duke both admired. He weaves a tale of lies, rage and paranoia.

An extract from THE BONES OF IT

12 March

Of course I know what you’re really after.

All you really care about is Klaudia. You don’t want to hear about me at all. It’s always her – always Klaudia – people are on about. People get themselves all hung up over her, up and above everything else.

I know what it is: it’s that photo of her at the lighthouse. For months it was her Facebook profile picture. It makes people think they know her, they’ve seen it that often. For ages it was all over the papers, all over the Internet. It was like she’d turned into a celebrity when it first happened. You see, she had this girl-next-door appeal about her. Nothing threatening. She was much more subtle than that. For a good while even I was duped.

Naturally Klaudia was far from being that person they’ve all painted her as. People don’t know her at all. Of course they don’t. You wouldn’t be asking all these questions if they did, wouldn’t be asking me to write about what happened to her, even though you sandwich your questions in between other ones so I won’t get offended. So that I’ll speak.

Anyway, if I’d known Klaudia at all, I’d have known to stay well clear. It’s too late to change these things now at any rate.

Thinking about what happened prior to October – ‘prior to October’, you’ve coined that term – makes me think that maybe you have a point with this writing malarkey, this writing for therapy. Is that what you’d call it if you were speaking to anyone else but me?

I’m starting to think it couldn’t hurt. Giving it a crack. Sure, you’re always saying that even if I don’t feel like telling you outright, even if it’s just for myself and I choose to never show you, it would be good for me, would give me answers. There’s always this search for them, isn’t there? Why this? Why the fuck that?

But it’s certainly not like Klaudia was the only thing that ever happened in my life, despite all this fascination with her.

The thing is that Klaudia is not the thing, and if I tell you about her then I have to tell you about Perry’s Nurseries. And if I tell you how I came to be working in Perry’s then I’ll have to tell you about why I had to leave Newcastle in the first place. Of course I can’t tell you about that, about my homecoming, without mentioning Granny and her feeding tube, not without mentioning my da.

I’m not wasting my time on him.

These things all come as a package. People say bad things happen in threes. Wouldn’t you? I would.

Funny how this time last year I hadn’t even met Klaudia, yet now we’ll always be linked. I’ll not call it fate. The day we met, I was sitting outside, as was usual in Perry’s, potting pansies, when Klaudia called over to me from a couple of rows away, asking if I needed some help.

Well, even though I said I was fine, she came over anyway, knelt beside me, honey-toned arms sallow against the bottle green of her work polo shirt. She was smiling to herself, a smug kind of a smile like there was some secret she was itching to tell me. Klaudia introduced herself in that smoked Polish voice of hers.

‘Klaudia with a “K”,’ she offered me her hand to shake.

‘I’m Scott,’ I reciprocated.

But you know what? She was better in the flesh, her smile-raised cheeks almost hiding the cornflower blue in her eyes. You’d have missed that in her black-and-white photo at the lighthouse. Her eyes were bright and sparkling, and her skin was untranslatable in all mediums, except in person.

Klaudia’s hair was darker at the top, dark to her cheekbones then blonde for the remainder: ‘ombré’, that hair colour’s called. Two-toned. I saw it in a chick-mag once or twice back in Newcastle, loads of the uni girls wore their hair like that too. Hair breezing around her face, Klaudia took a band from her wrist and tied it back, the shorter layers at the front framing her jaw, arms raised so I could see the stubble-shadow in the crease of one armpit.

I swept the stray soil from the brim with my hand brush, back into the pot wedged between my knees. When she arranged her gloves onto her hands I noticed how tiny her wrists were. They reminded me of the games the kids in my primary school would’ve played, you know, those universal rules? Making you prove that your middle finger would snugly meet your thumb when wrapped around the opposite wrist? They should’ve been the perfect fit or there was something wrong with you. Or getting you to sit on the playground floor, and winch one of your shoe-less feet up so you could measure it against the stretch of your own arm, between elbow and wrist. Telling you it should be the exact same size or you were a freak. Telling you that your feet were small, and that small feet meant you must have small meat.

Klaudia looked at me like she was sizing me up: a tailored, cutting, kind of smile.

‘Daniel Day Lewis or Johnny Depp?’ she asked.

‘What’s that?’ I was frowning, thinking I’d misheard her. Her accent was quite thick until you were used to it.

‘Who would you rather? Daniel Day-Lewis or Johnny Depp?’ Then a little chuckle.

‘For what?’ I was uncomfortable under her gaze.

She shrugged.

‘I don’t mean for deep philosophical conversation,’ Klaudia said.

I looked at her line-free face and decided she was about twenty-five, which would’ve made her four years my senior. I was wrong.

‘Oh, I don’t know.’ I skimmed her with my eyes. ‘They’re both good actors, I s’pose.’

‘Not for acting.’ Klaudia’s eyes had a glint in them, and her cheeks pinked. Something in it made my palms sweat.

‘Sure, Depp and Day-Lewis are both old boys now.’

‘So?’ asked Klaudia.

So?’ I parroted. ‘Well, who would you rather then?’

‘Daniel Day-Lewis. Every time. I like Irish men better than Americans,’ Klaudia told me. ‘Men here are very nice. Very brooding.’

‘Aye, that’s one word for them,’ I said. She’d made me think of Da, how he’d have had to stop her there, would’ve shoehorned in that, in Northern Ireland, you can’t go around assuming that everyone identifies as Irish. I could picture him saying, ‘Here, Klaudia, love, watch who you’re calling Irish around here. Some of us are British, ya know!’

But what I’m talking about, about how Klaudia seemed to have something to say about everything, was a good thing, if a bit frothy. And although her chit-chat was air-filler, I couldn’t see anything wrong with it.

In fact, every time we’d share a shift, Klaudia would tell me, in painstakingly minute detail, everything she’d done since we had last worked together. She’d ask me: ‘What would you rather, be at home or be here?’ Obviously there, at Perry’s, with her. ‘What would you rather, a garden full of pansies or a garden full of tulips?’ I didn’t care. Any garden would’ve been nice. Tulips, I’d have said.

She’d ask every mad sort of variation of the question, gardening-related or otherwise. It showed me that there must’ve be a kernel of light-heartedness in me still, if I was enjoying listening to her so much that I was starting to, at that stage, live for those shifts. Klaudia asked me which type of music I preferred. I was only allowed to choose dance music or disco. No alternatives. Yet I liked the alternative. I told her the Smashing Pumpkins were my favourite band.

‘No, Scott! They are too before your time,’ she said, like that meant a jot.

So I chose. I chose dance. When I was pushed into a corner, I could make a decision. It didn’t have to be overthought. It was like I was coming out from behind a cold, dark rock.

But the funny thing about Klaudia was lunchtimes. (You’ll want to know this, because she was already showing the transformation.) I’d orchestrate my breaks to coincide with hers. I’d drop myself into the seat opposite and ask Klaudia about herself. In the staff room, alone together, without ceramics pots to provide the acoustics between us, she’d go quiet. She’d be looking at the clock, just ignoring me.

‘How long have you been living here? Not in town . . . NI, I mean,’ I asked her. ‘It must be a good long time, your English is excellent.’

She nodded.

When there were no distractions, Klaudia was silent, as if she only functioned to outside sounds – background voices, scissor snips, the hissing of bees.

In that room there’d be no reply to anything, no matter what I asked. Klaudia chewed in tiny, thoughtful mouthfuls. She said nothing, just gave a pleading smile like she just wanted me out of her hair.

Klaudia had her mouth covered by one cupped hand, her cheeks – mid-chew – blushing so hard I was more prickled by her embarrassment than I was by her abrupt about-face in responsiveness. I lifted a tabloid from the scatter of them on the table and started to flick through the pages we’d soon frequent ourselves.

When she finished eating, Klaudia stood to leave.

‘You’ve ages yet,’ I usually reminded her.

‘I don’t mind,’ was her usual response, as she slipped back to her duties early.

I didn’t know if it was a cultural thing – I still can’t tell – but Klaudia never spoke with her mouth full, like Granny used to tell me was the right way, and all those other elements in her code of conduct I’ve seemed to drop along the path.

The ‘right way’ has become irrelevant. Everything adults teach kids to be they’ve long forgotten themselves. Now we expect that you can, indeed, talk with your mouth full. Apparently you can do anything as long as it’s only yourself you’re hurting.

For Klaudia there was no point worrying about those little things: conduct, propriety and so on, when she so callously disregarded the big things. That’s what I’m telling you.


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