LIFE'S WORK : Early spring of 1913, Utah
Dr. Henry Jones glanced up at his wife's voice. It was rare for Anna to interrupt her husband at his work so whatever she had to say was probably important. "Yes?"
"It's about Indiana."
Henry grimaced at the nickname. Why on earth did his son insist on answering to only the dog's name? What on earth was wrong with the name Henry Jones, Jr.? "What about him?"
Anna crossed over to the untidy desk and put a hand over the papers, effectively commanding Henry's attention. She took a deep breath. "The Scout Master wired us. During the scouting expedition today Indiana fainted and fell off his horse. When they checked on him he was running a high fever."
Henry raised an eyebrow. "I see. And from what cause is the fever coming?"
"Dr. Parrish said it was typhoid. Henry . . ." Anna's voice trailed off in a small choking sound. "Henry, he said it was the worst case of typhoid he had ever seen."
Henry sat back in his chair, speechless. He and Jim Parrish had known each other for years. He had watched Jim nurse people back from the brink of death, from measles to pneumonia to typhoid. Jim had tended patients that Henry thought for sure would be in their graves by the end of the day. And if Jim Parrish said it was the worst case he had ever seen . . . "My God," Henry whispered. "Where is Junior now?"
"Here. In the spare bedroom."
"Here? But I thought they were out camping when . . ."
"Yes, but Dr. Parrish had him brought here as soon as he could."
An uneasy awareness trickled through Henry's brain. "Anna," he said slowly, "how long has Junior been here?" His wife didn't answer but instead stared out the window into the red, dusty landscape. "Anna?"
Henry sprang from his chair and grasped his wife's shoulders. "Anna, why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"I didn't want you to worry. I know you're busy with your life's work," she said simply and honestly. "At first we didn't think it was too serious but now, well, he took a turn for the worst last night." Anna paused then added, "I think it would be nice if you sat with him."
"Has he asked for me?"
"I think it would be nice if you sat with him," she repeated, not blaming, but not answering either. Henry understood perfectly. No, his son had not asked to see him.
Henry stood awkwardly in the doorway, staring at the figure in the guest bed by the light of the solitary lamp. His son's face was flushed a deep, unhealthy pink with an undertone of gray along the jaw and his hands gripped the bedclothes as though he were clinging to life itself. All in all, he looked terrible.
"Junior?" Henry called softly.
There was no response from his son, unless he counted the harsh, grating gasps a conscious response. Not that Henry had been expecting one. If Jim and Anna were right, Junior was too far gone to be aware of anything.
He took a seat next to his son's bedside and looked about uncomfortably. His strict Scottish childhood had drilled into him the notion that idle hands were the devil's tools. Very well, he would simply have to keep his thoughts pure. A basin, a pitcher of water, a glass, and a clean rag on the nightstand caught his attention. It couldn't possibly do any harm. Henry wet the rage and clumsily dragged it over the boy's face.
He hadn't realized before how very confusing his son could be. Not quite fourteen years old. A teenager, neither child nor yet adult. In his son's face he saw the faint remnants of the adventurous lad he had been, and the promise of the man he would've become. Would become. Henry stuck stubbornly to optimism. The man Junior would become once he recovered and gave himself a few years to mature.
An odd juxtaposition, the teenage years. The fight for independence and the very real dependence on one's parents. Henry reassured himself that Junior was perfectly capable of looking after himself in most situations. Hadn't he done his best to ensure that, no matter how cold-hearted it made him appear? But how vulnerable that self-assured young man looked now, caught in the throes of a fever that would not abate.
Henry sighed and swabbed at Junior's wrists. His son's hands were long-boned and knobby, a man's hands. A bit immature and untried to be sure, but no longer the hands of a child. Henry suddenly grasped his son's left fist. "I'm so sorry, Junior."
The hand within his remained clenched around the blanket, unnaturally hot and tense. Henry sighed. Tonight was the turning point. Tonight he would see which was stronger: the young man or the disease. And there was nothing he could do.
"It belongs in a museum."
The soft, labored murmur could only have come from one source. Henry blinked and leaned closer. Apparently Junior was not so far gone as previously thought, not if he could communicate.
"What does, son? What belongs in a museum?"
Junior sucked in a painful breath. "The cross. The cross of Coronado."
Henry leaned back, somewhat exasperated. That silly cross business from nine months ago. Junior had insisted he had held the cross of Coronado in his own hands, that he had rescued it from unscrupulous thieves only to be betrayed by his own father. Henry had expressed amused derision at the fanciful story, sparking an explosive argument that not even Anna could stop. This in turn led to a stone cold silence that lasted nearly a week. The cross continued to be a sore point between them but no longer a catalyst for violent outbursts. Junior, it seemed, was still obsessed with it.
The cross and the cup mused Henry. Both symbols of Christ. Lancelot and Galahad, on the road to illumination. The son succeeds where the father fails. Would history repeat itself? Would history ever get a chance to repeat itself?
The Grail could help him.
The thought slipped through his mind and vanished, leaving behind a goldmine of speculation. Certainly. Why shouldn't the Cup of Christ be able to save his son, if only he had it in his hands that very moment!
Henry fumbled at his pocket for he ever-present Grail diary and a pencil. He had been in the middle of deciphering one of the booby traps when Anna had interrupted with news of Junior. He was still concerned about his son, of course, but surely this was understandable? If worse came to worst and Junior did die at least Henry would have the chance to find the Grail and perhaps save others, as a way of honoring his son's memory. Finding the Grail would not only be his life's work, but the lifework of his son.
There were three trials or tests a man must complete before reaching the Grail, Henry had discovered through an ancient stone tablet from Kalabaka. The first translated clue read: "only he who imitates Elijah shall be spared the spinning swords, for the Lord is not in the wind nor the earthquake nor the flame." The accompanying illustration showed two angels wielding swords, one at the level of a man's neck and the other thrusting upwards from below.
Henry frowned, narrowing his eyes. His specialty was the Medieval period, not Biblical passages. And yet the reference struck a chord in his memory. First or Second Kings. He thought back to the dictatorial Sunday school with its mandatory memorization.
"And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out." (1Kings 19:11-13)
"The voice of God," Henry whispered. "Found in the Breath of God, the gentle wind. Elijah went out and did the Lord homage." Prostrate before God. An ancient booby trap, then. One had to duck down to avoid the swords . . . or blades. Either way, Henry was certain he had the clue deciphered but in the years to come, how could he be sure he would remember that? Or, if the diary should fall into the wrong hands, he had to make sure they would not be able to understand.
There was an old passage floating in Henry's mind, one learned so long ago he had forgotten the source. "The penitent man is humble, and kneels before God." Yes, that would do. He scribbled down "Breath of God – only the penitent man will pass" and continued to the second clue.
A picture of several rough squares with scattered letters was the in the center, with words written in the margin. "For the Lord said to Moses, 'my name is my word and my word is my name. Follow in my footsteps and you shall not fall.' "
An apocryphal Bible passage, to be sure. God never spoke those words to Moses. What he did tell Moses, however, was that "I AM THAT I AM." (Exodus 3:14.) "My name is my word and my word is my name," Henry repeated. The Name of God is His Word.
In Hebrew, the name of God is YHVH, from "hayah" – to be. There were two traditional ways of pronouncing the long-forgotten Hebrew: Yahweh or Jehovah. In the medieval times, Jehovah was the more accepted of the two. Surely that was what the knights meant. And the letters on the squares were meant to spell out God's Name.
"But in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah begins with an 'I,' " Henry reminded himself. He hesitated, then decided not to include that fact in his reminder. He would remember. And if anyone else were to use his diary for ill purposes so much the better if they were left in the dark. He wrote, "Word of God – only in the footsteps of God will he proceed" and continued onto the last clue.
"Take up your cross and follow me. Only with a leap of faith from the lion's head shall he prove his worth."
Henry frowned again. What on earth did that mean? "Take up your cross" – the path of Christ. Path of God. The second part baffled him. No Bible passage this time for him to cross reference in his brain. But the picture of the chosen knight walking across midair to the Grail while the others fell was helpful.
"A leap of faith indeed," he murmured. No need to disguise this clue. Either one had faith or one did not. There was no middle ground. He transferred the second part of the clue verbatim into his diary, and then rotated his neck to massage out the stiffness.
Henry jumped, the diary falling out of his lap to the floor. He hadn't noticed Anna slip into the room. For that matter, he hadn't noticed the pale sunrise bleeding its colors into the room, making the lamplight redundant. Had he been engrossed in the Grail all night?
"How is he, Henry?" Anna asked.
"Well, he . . ." Henry trailed off as his wife bent over the boy. In all honesty, he didn't know. Niggling guilt needled into him. Certainly he had sat by Junior's side all night but in body only. In his mind, he had abandoned his son. He could only watch helplessly while Anna pressed her hands against Junior's forehead and cheek.
"The fever's gone," Anna said softly and tenderly brushed some damp tendrils of hair out of Junior's eyes.
"Thank God," Henry whispered and glanced uncomfortably at the diary still on the floor. Thank God, and yet it was because of the Grail that he hadn't been there for Junior. What sort of power did that holy relic wield over him? He surreptitiously picked up the tattered book and pressed it against his leg as if to hide it.
Junior stirred at his mother's touch and blearily cracked open his eyes. "Mom?"
Anna smiled. "How are you feeling, Indy?"
She turned to get some water from the nightstand, allowing Junior a clear view of the other parent in the room. Henry saw the boy's eyes squint in confusion.
"Dad," he croaked out, "what are you doing here?"
Anna was quick to answer. "Sitting up with you. Your father didn't leave your side the whole night."
Junior stared at Henry with something akin to surprise and abashed honor in his eyes. Then his gaze dropped and Henry felt the look burn through his hand to the small book he clutched. Junior drew a sharp breath and his look hardened. "I see."
The pinpricks of guilt were back, and with them came a surge of anger. Anna had told the truth – he had sat up with his son the whole night. What right did his son have to belittle that effort? Yet his conscience whispered, "What effort?"
"Junior . . ."
The young man sighed and closed his eyes, turning his head away.
"Let him be," Anna whispered. "He needs rest right now." Henry nodded mutely and let her slip past him.
"He'll understand someday, Henry," she added gently before leaving the room. He nodded again but stayed, watching his son sleep.
He hoped Anna was right. Perhaps in the future Junior would understand about the Grail, his life's work. Henry would explain it to him and all would be forgiven. Yes. Some day.
I was asked why, if Indy was so sick, why he wasn't taken to a hospital. Up until the mid-point of the century, many sick people were still treated at home. As for why the doctor wasn't there at his bedside . . . yeah, I have no good excuse for that other than it would have ruined a perfectly good bad-father-son relationship scene. Forgive me?