The mess tent at Abner Ravenwood's archeological dig blazed with light and rang with laughter. At one end, the famous archeologist stood on a makeshift podium of crates and planks. He had one arm around the shoulders of a taller, younger man in a battered fedora, who looked a little embarrassed by all the attention he was getting.
"And so" Abner said, "in addition to celebrating a very successful summer, tonight we are wishing bon voyage to one of our own. As most of you know, Indiana Jones will be leaving us in the morning for the University of Paris, La Sorbonne herself, where he'll begin studying for his Doctor of Philosophy degree."
"Now we all know Indy's a bum," Abner continued over a chorus of catcalls, "but he's our bum, and one of the most gifted bums I've ever trained. I am sure he'll do all of us from the University of Chicago proud. I'll ask you to join me in wishing him the best."
"I will never forgive you for this, Abe" Indy muttered, as the strains of "For he's a jolly good fellow" echoed through the tent.
He tried to step off the platform, but the digging crews and his fellow archeology students had other ideas.
"Speech! Speech!" "Vive la France! Vive l'amour!" "Don't spend all your time at the Moulin Rouge, Indy!"
Indy raised his hands for silence. "In case anyone was wondering, I've been to the Moulin Rouge, boys, and the Folies Bergère, as well. Nothing to write home about. Especially not - he pointed to the table of raucous undergraduates- to your moms and dads, kids."
"And if anybody thinks I'll be affording all that 'refined entertainment' on a teaching assistant's pay, all I can say is -I want some of what you've been drinking! And speaking of drinking, we may as well enjoy our evening before we return to the land of Prohibition, am I right?" Indy waited until the cheers and foot-stamping died down before he continued.
"On a slightly more serious note, it's been a pleasure working with all of you. We've made some incredible finds, and I know next year will be even better. I'll be in Greece next summer, but I will do my best to join you all for a week. Nobody find the Ark without me! Also, Abner tells me he would like me to return in '25 as your dig supervisor"- Indy paused as this announcement was greeted with thunderous applause- "and I'll be looking forward to that. So enjoy the rest of the night, have a successful academic year, and don't take any wooden nickels, fellas. Thank you."
Someone cranked up Abner's battered gramophone, and the sound of ragtime soon began to compete with the laughter and conversation in the tent. Indiana, drink in hand, circulated through the group, exchanging goodbyes and accepting well wishes, as the party wore on and the conversations became increasingly frank
So Charlie bet the guy double or nothing.."
"He's two timing his girl back home with..."
"And then the barmaid said to Aziz..."
Indiana scanned the perimeter of the mess tent until he found Marion Ravenwood. As he expected, Abner's daughter was sitting in a corner with her knees drawn up in front of her, observing the festivities.
And I thought my old man was a lousy father… this is no place for her…
He gestured toward the teenage girl. "Gentlemen...and I use the term loosely…'little pitchers have big ears'."
Then he beckoned to his friend Harold Oxley. "C'mon Ox, let's get Short Stuff here back to her tent before these rowdies get completely out of hand."
"With pleasure", Oxley responded. "And about time" he muttered under his breath.
"And you"..., Indy turned to another friend, Pete McGregor, "It's my party, so no dancing camels until I get back, OK? "
Under cover of the abuse being heaped on Pete by his friends and colleagues, Ox, Marion and Indy slipped out of the mess tent.
Marion tucked her hand through Indy's arm and walked between the two men. The starry night and the cool desert wind were a welcome contrast to the smoky heat of the mess tent. Halfway back through camp, she paused and put her hand on Indy's arm.
Ox, wise and tactful, dropped back several steps to let them have their moment.
"Since you're leaving for Paris, I well, I got you something to remember me by."
Marion reached into the pocket of her khaki pants and withdrew a small flat parcel, carefully tied with a crumpled bow.
Indy, who didn't get many presents, ducked his head and grinned, suddenly looking much younger than his twenty-four years.
"Awww, Marion, honey, you didn't have to do that..."
"I wanted to. Abner and everyone else are saying how important a D.Phil. is and what an honor it is to be chosen for the University of Paris. I thought you should have something for the occasion."
Indy opened the parcel and withdrew a handsome silver cigarette case. It was engraved with an elegant pattern of lines in the Art Deco style. In the middle was a square cartouche with the initial 'J '.
"I didn't know if you'd want 'I' or 'H' so I settled on 'J' for 'Jones."
"It's what everyone calls me, anyway" He continued in a softer tone, "Thanks so much, sweetheart, this is great. I'll fill it up with Gauloises and everyone at the Sorbonne will see what a sophisticated gentilhomme I am. Why, I'll show it off every chance I get and tell them it was a present from the prettiest girl in Chicago."
"I'll miss you, Indy."
He tipped her chin up.
"It's only au revoir, honey, not goodbye. I'll write, and I'll be back. But while I'm gone I want you to do something for me."
"You and I both know what it's like to spend your life being dragged to hell-and-gone whether you want to be or not. So now, Abner's going be in one place for a while. This is your chance-don't waste it missing me. Go to school, make friends, and have lots and lots of fun with kids your own age. Go to the parties, go to the dances - you deserve to be stepping out in a pretty dress, not cataloging artifacts in a dirty tent.
"It does sound like fun," said Marion wistfully.
"It will be fun. Just one more thing. If you break a few boys' hearts at those parties and dances, let 'em down easy, kid. Us fellas get our feelings hurt a little more than you might think."
"OK, Jones, just for you," Marion laughed.
Then she took a deep breath.
"Indy, will you kiss me goodbye?"
"Of course I will, sweetheart". He bent down toward her cheek but she put a hand up to stop him.
"No-not like that-a real kiss"
"Honey, you may be too big to smooch the way I used to, but you're not big enough yet for me to kiss you the way you want me to."
"When in Rome, do as the Romans do, Jones. In these parts, plenty of girls my age are married, and I'm sure they've all been kissed."
"Besides, if I'm out 'having fun with boys my own age' like you said, it's going to happen sooner or later. I'd just rather it happened with you."
She looked up at him, appealingly. "Please, Indy?"
It's a glorious night, all wind, sand, and stars. And I'm leaving in the morning. Why shouldn't she have a beautiful memory of her first kiss, instead of having some sweaty -handed kid maul her in the rumble seat? Besides, what man could resist those eyes?
His mind made up, Indy took a few steps back to where Oxley waited.
"Ox. Marion would like to say goodbye to me privately and this is the only chance we'll get. I want to take her just outside the camp perimeter for a short while. If I give you my word that nothing too...untoward...will happen, would you stay here for, say, 15 minutes?"
"You give me your word, Henry?"
Indy drew himself up to his full height. "Scout's honor. And my word as an officer and a gentleman, sir."
"Very well, Captain", said Ox. "Carry on."
Indy walked back to Marion, took her hand, and led her out into the starry night.
"So you want a real kiss, Freckle Face?"
She peeped up at him, suddenly shy, and nodded.
Well, everyone says you're a born teacher, Jones...
"All right, baby, here's where we start. This is the way you kiss a boy your own age. First, remember that no guy wants to get his face slapped-and that we guess wrong -a lot- about what you girls are thinking. So let the poor bas-, um, guy, know that you want him to kiss you. Stand close to him and cuddle up a little, like this. C'mere."
He wrapped one arm around her, and held her close. "Now, isn't this nice?"
He rested his cheek on her hair for a moment, letting her relax into him, savoring her warmth and nearness.
He put a finger under her chin and tipped it up.
"Next, you let that lucky fella see your pretty face, honey."
"Give him a little smile, so he knows he's got the green light. Us men can be shy. Yeahhh, just like that…"
"And any male worth his salt," Indy inclined his head, slowly, "Can...take...it…from...
Their lips met. Indy had himself firmly in check-this is her first time, Jones, easy does it- don't push her too hard or too fast.But her mouth was sweet, and her lips moved tenderly under his, so he kissed her until he was good and ready to stop. Which took a while.
When the kiss broke, Marion snuggled in a little more and gave him one of her heart-stopping smiles.
She liked it, then. Good.
He kept his arms around her, cupping her chin in one hand and looking down at her starlit face.
"Dear God, you're so beautiful. Those eyes …a man could drown in those eyes and die happy."
Indy pulled her tighter, then, arching her body against his. He felt a sudden jolt of desire as her breasts pressed into his chest, and her hand tangled itself in his hair.
"Now this", he breathed, "is the kind of kissing you do with a grown man. But only if the grown man is me."
So he kissed her eyes because they were so luminous, and he kissed her throat because of the way her pulse jumped when he did. He pushed her collar down, and kissed her shoulders because they were so silky and smooth. He kissed her hair because it smelled so good. And finally, when her head was thrown back and her lips parted, his mouth found hers as surely as a compass finds true North.
This time she was eager and passionate, ready for him. Her sweet mouth opened, allowing him to explore and claim her. Her tongue danced with his to kiss him back, exploring and claiming in her turn. And for a long moment, that age-old connection was the only thing in the universe for either of them. Soon, however, an unwelcome thought nagged at the back of Indy's mind. Better stop while you still can, Jones. Ox won't wait much longer…
When they finally broke apart, he was breathless-and astounded.
"Wow. Are you sure I'm the first man you've ever kissed?"
Marion's voice dropped to a sexy little purr that went straight down his spine like a teasing fingernail.
"You know what the Buddhists say, Jones. 'When the student is ready, the teacher appears'. Or maybe it's just native talent."
Indy chuckled and looked down at her, unable to wipe the grin off his face. "Whatever it is, since you can kiss like that, it's a damn good thing I'm leaving in … 6 hours, I think it is now. Or else I'd be teaching you a few things you're not ready to learn yet. Now c'mon, honey. I promised Ox, and our time's about up." He put an arm around her and started walking toward camp.
Before they joined Ox, she paused, and turned to him.
"I'm going to remember this for the rest of my life, Indy."
"So am I, baby. So am I"
Ox took in the starry-eyed couple approaching him, and was profoundly grateful that their time had run out, and his friend would be gone in a matter of hours.
The three of them walked in silence to Marion's tent. Reluctantly, Indy let her step away form his side, out of the circle of his arm, and into the next two years of her life.
"Au revoir, Short Stuff," he said softly. "Be good "
"23 skiddoo, Jones. You too." She stood on tiptoe, kissed his cheek and disappeared into the dark tent.
Indy looked after her, lost in thought, until a clap on his shoulder brought him back to reality.
"Well Henry" said Ox, "I've got to 'see a man about a horse'. Why don't we stop by my tent on the way back and pick up another bottle for the festivities, eh?"
"Why Ox, your special brandy? I'm touched."
When the two men arrived at the tent, Ox beckoned his friend inside.
"I've had a better idea. No sense in wasting a good French cognac on those Philistines who'll just guzzle it like cheap beer. Why don't you and I have a quiet drink together and appreciate it properly?"
Indy smiled wryly. "The jig's up, Harold, I'm on to you. You don't have to baby-sit me, for fear that I'll double back and crawl in with Marion."
Ox looked at his friend with a quizzical eye, and Indy threw up his hands in surrender.
"OK, I admit I thought about it. I thought about it more than once. But I'm not going to do it. For one thing, I'd miss the rest of my party. But you and I could still have a quiet drink, to give Charlie and Jack enough time to tip the evening's um, 'entertainment' and send her on her way."
"You knew about that?"
"You weren't at Percy Fawcett's send-off in Cairo, were you? The guys had it in a tavern outside the dig and a huge brawl erupted when they hired this 'belly dancer' to…"
"Henry, spare me the sordid details..."
"Wish somebody had spared me. Speaking as the man who had to break it up with a whip, and then haul those first-years back to camp, I wasn't any too thrilled."
Ox laughed and dug in his camp chest for the promised bottle of brandy and two glasses.
Indy meanwhile, retrieved some crushed cigarettes from his shirt pocket and began to fill the silver case.
"Y'know, Ox, after I shipped out for the Western Front my old man hardly even wrote. When I left for Chicago, he didn't even say goodbye. I get a very prestigious fellowship, one any other professor would be thrilled to see his son have, and he doesn't give a rap. And here sweet Marion gives me a keepsake and a kiss."
Ox handed Indy his drink and looked at him thoughtfully.
"What's between you and Marion, Henry? Honestly, now."
Indy swirled his brandy in the bottom of his glass. "Honestly? Damned if I know. Oh, I know how it must look. I sure it's probably wrong. But sadly-I don't care anymore. What I do know is that Marion is arguably the only person in this world who loves me. And I am not giving her up. I shouldn't have to. I just worry about one thing..."
"And that is?"
"I wonder if it's me she really loves. The 'Indy' those pretty eyes see is the strongest, strongest, smartest, best-looking guy at U of C or anywhere else. He's a man who's never had a thought in his head that wasn't noble or chivalrous. He's never done a thing he couldn't talk about in front of his old Scoutmaster. And he's a hero who knows no fear."
Indy raised his glass in an ironic toast.
"Not exactly the man I see when I shave, Ox. But when Marion looks up at me, he's the man I surely wish I was."
Ox took a sip and looked kindly at his friend.
"Frankly, that knight in shining armor sounds like a nauseating bore. But he has one thing in common with the chap in your mirror, my lad. Neither of you would hesitate to lay down your lives to protect that girl from harm."
A smile touched Indy's lips. "Yeah."
"And for what it's worth, Henry, I think you've exhibited considerable restraint these past few weeks. That motherless girl would give you anything you wanted from her, heedless of the cost. I've watched you struggle with that knowledge, and with the knowledge of how much harm you could do her."
"But," Ox's voice firmed "you may rest assured that I would not have countenanced that little…interlude of yours, were you not leaving in a few hours."
"Why did you agree, then?"
Mr. Jones. At the D. Phil level, you will be expected to synthesize knowledge from different disciplines. What does your understanding of psychology and cultural anthropology tell you?"
"Is this the Socratic Method, Dr. Oxley? If it is, classes don't start for two weeks. So give."
"Fair enough. As I understand it, you and Marion have each had an unconventional upbringing. Both of you have spent considerable time in parts of the world where a young lady of Marion's years is considered marriageable, and where a 10 year age difference between a man and a woman is common and accepted. Neither of you really understands the Western perspective on such matters."
Indy nodded thoughtfully.
"Not to mention that you've run tame in their house for years and Abner's, shall we say, laissez-faire attitude has allowed you two to stand on very intimate terms- terms that a more careful father would never have permitted. Based on these experiences, and given your personalities, a mutual….attraction, is understandable. Not to be acted upon, of course, but understandable."
Indy's shoulders sagged with relief. "Yes. You do understand. I'm not some kind of…. And you know, Marion actually said much the same thing to me."
"As you often say, she's a bright little thing.'
"That she is. And I know a gentleman doesn't kiss and tell, Ox, but that was no little girl in my arms out there. Not even close. It's gonna be a long two and a half years, pal."
But a good two and a half years". Ox wagged an admonishing finger. "Even a man of your ability is going to be working hard to finish a D.Phil in that time. But I'll tell you from my experience that you will truly come into your own, both personally and professionally, as you do. You wouldn't do your best work at Chicago, Henry. For one thing, you need to be your own man, not just Abner's prize student. For another, Marion would be too much of a distraction to you."
Indy snorted. "Damn straight."
"Oh, make no mistake; your only chance to avoid blighting your career with a hideous scandal is to leave Chicago. You need to clear your head, and Marion needs to grow up."
Indy nodded soberly. "Nothing I haven't thought of. Besides, I'll have a lot more options when I'm Dr. Jones."
"And when you are, if you are of the same mind, you'll be able to court Marion in some kind of decent, orderly fashion."
"Since when do I do anything in a 'decent, orderly fashion'?"
"No time like the present to start."
Indy put down his glass and extended a hand to his friend.
"And now, I think we've a party to rejoin, Henry."
"Indeed we do."
At 4:30 the next morning Indiana took a very cold shower, drank a large quantity of hot black coffee, and changed into a clean set of field khakis. Then Ox and Pete drove the camp jitney into the city and dropped him off for the first leg of his journey to Paris.
The silver case, carefully wrapped in a clean handkerchief, was tucked into the inside breast pocket of his field jacket. Over his heart.
The cigarette case was not given to a man who will lead a quiet life. Over the years it will acquire scratches, dents, scrapes, and even a bullet hole. When his beloved wife offers to buy Professor Jones a new one-he'll thank her, but say that he likes the one he has. After all, he'll remind her, it was a parting gift from the sweetest girl he's ever kissed.