Character Sketch – Harry Bone

aaaHarry Bone (aka Boner, Bonio or Bone Dog) usually replies, if asked, that he was born on April the 1st 1960, which would make him 56 years old. He looks much older. His weight is 147 pounds and his height is five foot seven inches. What hair he has would be the colour of new steel if he were to ever wash it and, aside from what is hidden under a Benny Hat, hangs in greasy clumps about his heavily bearded face. He had never needed glasses, his vision being miraculously 20/20. He has a pronounced stoop and walks with a slight limp. His face is kindly when he feels that way inclined, but can turn an alarming shade of purple when provoked, which is not often. His single set of clothes gives the appearance of having been dipped in cooking fat and give off a stench that makes him uncomfortable to be around.

He claims not to remember having any family, but deep in his pocket is a laminated wallet containing two photographs – one of a pretty girl child of around twelve years of age and the other showing a pouting boy of about seven.

He does not have an address. He is a schnorrer who sleeps, at the moment, on the steps of a disused museum on a back street near a city centre in the north of England along with several other people in that line of ‘work’. He began this kind of life after joining a community for backpackers and gap year travellers. The tutors did not miss his outspoken voice when he did not return to finish his degree in Creative Writing. He has not worked, since a three-day spell doing a paper-round when he was fifteen in his hometown of Alderley Edge near Manchester. He has lived in just about every major town in England and a good many in Wales.

His hobbies are getting drunk, imbibing soft drugs, talking about nothing in particular and people watching. He passed all nine O-Level and then A-Levels in English, Art and History with consummate ease, but has never felt inclined to continue his education beyond his abortive attempt at a degree.

Favourite foods are chicken and pizza but he has never been particular about food. Whatever people leave behind in garbage bins has suited his purpose for many years. He listens to whatever the buskers play as he sits in his latest city centre doorway, but aside from that, he does not seek out music. He once had a dog but gave it away when it gave him a nasty nip on his hand after he forgot to feed it for several days. He sometimes jokes that this was the dog that bit that hand that did not feed, but aside from that has never thought of the animal again.

He has never owned any form of transport and has used his feet exclusively to get about since he was nineteen.

He has a problem with the kinds of things people say to him, particularly ‘get a job’. He tried to get over the irrational irritation he feels from these comments, but not to the extent that he would change his lifestyle. He also has a problem with his health and exhibits various symptoms of liver disease including itching, fatigue and swollen ankles.

He has a recurring dream of his mother that wakes him up crying. He is seven and is sitting in the back garden of his house where he has been running around. His mother is scolding him for ripping open the knee of his new trousers, whilst ignoring the blood pouring from a wound in his knee. As a teenager, he had a girl by the name of Sue who used to kiss him whilst walking with him for hours at a time over the fields close by his house. She would never let him touch her anywhere but on her lips. He never even held her hand.

He has known many people to die in his presence, it being an occupational hazard of his lifestyle and the company he keeps, but he has never been to any of their funerals. He does not connect with people easily. His greatest enemy was ever himself, and as for his greatest ally – he has never trusted anyone enough to care for that kind of thing.

His secrets include the photographs in his pocket, the reason he never went back to the university, which he keeps buried deep in his mind, and a desire to set himself on fire in front of Buckingham Palace. Every time it comes close enough to winter for his fingers to lose feeling, he tells himself that this is the year, but something has always kept him back, so far. He believes in the concept of free, the right to step outside of society, and in love. Not love of people, but a love of the open road.

His greatest ability is that of being able to bring to mind everyone he ever met, which is strange considering that he never cared for any one of them. As he sits in his doorway, he amuses himself by sorting the people in his mind alphabetically by their first name, or by the type of face, or by height etc. He wanders through these memories like someone else might walk through an art gallery. His greatest flaw is that he does not believe that he has any flaws. He would like to be a little more healthy but sees his pains as being the necessary price for freedom. Aside from that, he would change nothing about his life.

Four words that describe Harry’s character are obdurate, free-thinking, intelligent and sanguine. He is afraid of dreaming about his mother, working, eating apples (because they hurt his teeth) and the thought of his mind being subverted by reading the wrong kind of book. Things that make him laugh are marijuana, the shape of bananas, small children and leaving a city. He is provoked to anger by rude comments from passers-by, challenges to his right to be in a place, being woken from a sound sleep by the need to urinate and garbage collectors who arrive moments before he has had a chance to sift through the rubbish. He is ashamed of feeling too tired to walk, thinking about the girl he once kissed, his anger and the state of mind of people who cannot find a way out of the system despite their unhappiness within it. Tender is not something he feels easily, but the closest he comes is the slight lump he gets in his throat when starting along a road that stretches far into the distance.

Three places he has spent time in are his room as a young boy, the fields around his house as a teenager and the green spaces of his mind. He spent many days in his room as a result of his parents punishing him. The door was locked from the outside and the window secured by a professionally installed padlock. His parents found him to be naughty and disobedient and quickly learned that he was most hurt by being locked away. They found this to be an easier way to control his high energy and wanderlust than sticking him in front of a TV. They randomly selected books from the library and left them in his room. He seldom read them. The fields around his house were extensive and a pure delight for him. Even aside from walking with Sue, he would spend many hours walking as a teenager, often missing meals and returning home after dark. His mind has always been an escape from boredom and is his preferred refuge in times of pain and darkness.