London, November 1997
Spike sprawled, long legs extended, on the sofa in the hotel suite he was sharing with his grandfather. He cradled the phone by his ear and spoke into the Transatlantic connection.
"It was amazing, Mom. God, it was 'Grandpa-palooza'. The lecture was standing room only and people were lined up out the door to get their books signed. He was like-like archaeology's answer to Bruce Springsteen. And you wouldn't believe all the people who wanted to shake his hand."
His mother's warm contralto answered him. "Well, your grandfather isn't getting any younger, honey. Maybe that's why so many people turned out to see him-they know this is probably their last chance."
"I know Mom." he answered, suddenly sobered. "Don't remind me."
"How did the lecture go?"
"Really well. The people at the museum gave Grandpa a low lectern he could sit at if he wanted to. Now at first he wasn't gonna go for that-he kept grousing that he'd been lecturing standing up for longer than most of them had been alive. Finally I convinced him that sitting down would go better with the Power Point screen so he went along with it."
"I can't believe you got Grandpa to use Power Point!"
"It's easier to load on WIN 95 , Mom. I went in yesterday and set everything up, so all he had to do was click the slides. Really, he did great."
"Where is he now? Can I talk to him?"
"He's washing up now, getting ready for bed."
"Honey, are you listening to make sure he doesn't fall?"
"Mom. This is Grandpa. He'll be fine. And of course I'm listening; I'm keeping an eye out, too. I'm just not letting him think so."
"OK then." He could almost see his mother' smile through the receiver. "Tell him I called and give him my love. I'm so glad you could be with him for this trip, Spike. You and Grandpa were partners in crime from the day he moved in, but now you're-you're really compadres. It's wonderful to see."
Spike's eyes prickled a little and he was glad Mom wasn't there to see him blinking and swallowing.
"I'll do my best to keep him out of trouble, Mom. Love you."
"Love you too. Both my bad boys."
The water sounds stopped shortly after they rang off. Spike opened the connecting door and found his grandfather sitting on the edge of the big bed, wearing a pair of plaid pajamas. Grandpa took off his glasses and laid them on the nightstand. Then his stiff, tired fingers started to fumble at the strings of the eye patch he wore.
Spike sat down beside him and reached over to help.
"No, boy", said the older man sharply, and turned his face away.
Spike grasped his hand. "Grandpa. It's OK. I'm a man, now. Your scar doesn't bother me anymore. It just lets me know that I come from a long line of brave men. And I better not let 'em down, you know?"
His grandfather huffed out a breath. "Well, you are an officer," he allowed.
"Just ROTC, not a real one like you were at my age."
"You'll be a real one soon enough, kid, give it time." Slowly, the old man inclined his head and let the young one undo the knots that held his eye patch in place.
"Holy shit, Grandpa, what did you tie here, a sheet bend?"
He was answered with a lopsided grin "Keep your smart mouth to yourself, mister. Here, scoot over so I can swing this bum leg up and get comfortable."
Usually Grandpa slept on his side, with his disfigured face resting on a clean handkerchief. But tonight he put his hands behind his head and lay on his back, facing the room. A shock of white hair shadowed the puckered skin over his empty eye socket, and the rutted scar of the saber cut that ran down his face. God, he looks like a pirate, Spike thought. He stoops a little, now and it can fool you. But when he's stretched out like that you can see what a big son of a bitch Grandpa must have been in his prime.
"Are you sure this is all right?" the older man asked hesitantly, and gestured toward his face.
"I'm sure. Besides, you're not supposed to wear the patch all the time, are you?
Grandpa smiled, almost shyly. "No, I'm not. Look, I didn't mean to make a fuss. It's just that-well, in my youth I was thought to be a fairly good looking man. Or so your grandmother told me, anyway. And then to find out that I frightened children…."
"There aren't any children here, remember? Yeah, the scar's intense but that's not what scared us kids."
Spike's voice softened. "Don't you get it? We all thought you were some kind of a superhero. What scared us was realizing that you weren't immortal and we could lose you."
He touched the older man's shoulder, briefly. "We're still not ready for that."
"Anyway," Spike finished with a lopsided grin of his own, "The way I see it, you must have been a total babe magnet back in the day. I had to get it from somewhere, right?"
Grandpa snorted. "And you're so charmingly modest. Must have gotten that from me, too."
He looked at Spike fondly. "Your mother says you're me all over again, you know. Including the part where you're a stubborn, pig-headed pain in the ass."
"Well, it's her fault, really."
"How you figure that?"
"She's the one who let me hang out with a bad influence, Grandpa."
On that note, Spike decided it was a good time to change the subject. "So, how about a nightcap?"
"Wouldn't mind one,-but for God's sake don't go near that mini bar. Prices are outrageous, and it's all goat piss anyway. I should have a flask in my grip-if your mother didn't confiscate it."
Spike chuckled. "Mom's got eyes in the back of her head, and she's just bustin' us all the time, isn't she? But not to worry, the archaeological society sent you a nice gift basket, and I think there's a bottle of something in it. Wait here"
Spike ducked back into the sitting room, and returned lugging a substantial hamper. He rummaged through it and produced a bottle and two glasses.
"Better and better. This ain't wine, it's brandy."
His grandfather inspected the bottle, "And a pretty respectable brandy at that" He smiled reminiscently. "You know, my Dad, your great grandfather, spent his last few years living with me in Connecticut. And every Sunday night that I was home, we'd sit down together and have brandy and cigars."
Spike grinned back. "Well since Mom's not here to find out, let me show you what I picked up at the tobacconist's this morning. It's obviously an old family tradition and my heritage."
He reached into his shirt pocket and, with a flourish, withdrew two fine cigars.
Grandpa raised an admonishing finger. "And since when have you been smokin' cigars, Spike?"
"Since somebody I know started keeping a humidor in the back of his closet, Mr. Stash-a-stogie in-his-pocket-before-that-walk-the-cardiologist-makes-him-take."
"So? Your mother doesn't go for smoking in the house." The old man chuckled. "For somebody who was a spy in two world wars, I've sure gotten lousy at keeping secrets."
"Or maybe I inherited your 'sneaky' gene along with the 'studmuffin' one."
"Studmuffin? Good God. Shut up and give me my drink, you repellent brat."
"Comin' right up, you crazy old coot." Spike opened the brandy and poured them both a glass. "Skoal."
"That's 'Professor Crazy Old Coot, .' to you, buddy. L'chiam."
Grandpa lifted his glass and took a sip. While Spike was cutting the cigars, he turned, and toasted the picture he'd insisted on putting on the nightstand, first thing. A lovely woman with huge blue eyes and a dazzling smile looked out of the frame. The old man touched a finger to his lips and then laid it on the glass, over her face.
"Grandpa…." Spike said softly, touched.
"It's good to have my baby close" Grandpa answered, a little wistfully. "This way I can still kiss her goodnight. And in the morning, she's still the first thing I see. Though"-he pressed his lips together a moment- "I did like it a little better when that pretty face was looking up from my shoulder and she could kiss me back..."
"You miss her so much."
"Of course I do. Every day. It's an amazing world you kids live in-computers, CDs, jets , what the hell-but it's not my world. It's not our world-the one I lived in with her. And I miss that, too. Maybe that's why I tell those stories- I know sometimes you kids get bored but it makes that world live again, for just a little while. "
Grandpa lit his cigar and turned it in his fingers.
"In the end" he said at last, "we all become time travelers if we live long enough." He took a puff, but his face was pensive, and his gaze was far away.
Spike looked up sharply at his grandfather. "Hey. Something you're not tellin' me?"
"Nothin' to tell, boy. Just the fact that I'm 98 and I've beat my threescore and ten by a fair bit. I'd like to make it to 100, see you get your commission, but the future is promised to no one."
Spike nodded. Then he snagged a couple of chair cushions and propped them on the footboard. He stretched out opposite his grandfather and took a theatrical puff of his own cigar.
"Aaaahh….this is the life, Grandpa."
"The hell it is. You should be out dancing with a pretty girl, not wasting your time on an old man."
"Hey, I made this trip for you. Though if you're going to that 'Gala dinner' tomorrow night, I might ring some of the cousins and see if they'd like to hit a club or two."
"I can't skip the dinner, kid since I'm the guest of honor. Think of how bad it would look. But there's no reason for you to be there-so by all means go have some fun with people your own age."
"We might even meet some girls, Grandpa- you never know…."
Spike smiled, remembering all the times growing up when he'd come in from a basketball game or a gig with his band, or a date. He'd tiptoe past Grandpa's room and see a light on. If you need me I'm here, the light seemed to say. More often than not, he'd crack the door open and see Grandpa, sitting up in bed reading. Grandpa would say "Hello, boy" or "You're back late" and somehow Spike would end up perched at the foot of the bed talking to him. Come to think of it, Grandpa always had his eye patch on. He must have been waiting up for me…sneaky old bastard.-
A comfortable silence stretched out between them.
Then Grandpa said, as he so often had, "Something on your mind, kid?"
"I was just thinking about what you said and how fast the time goes. Seems like I got outta high school yesterday, and next summer I'll be goin' to boot camp."
"And it'll be a summer you'll never forget" Grandpa answered. "I still remember basic training-we had to drill with broomsticks instead of rifles because the Belgians didn't have enough weapons. At least you'll be spared that problem."
"Yeah," said Spike. "But I'll probably still have to fight some other dude for flippin' me shit about my name."
"What's wrong with your name?"
"Grandpa-why do you think I go by 'Spike'? Other guys have cool names like 'Kyle' or 'Jason'. Even some of those old school names you can get a cool nickname out of 'em-well, except for maybe 'Henry'."
Grandpa raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you think?"
"But my name? It's a pretty-boy name, a sissy name, and every place I've ever gone I've had to fight some wise-ass who thought he had to tell me all about it"
Grandpa sat bolt upright and looked at him searchingly. "Spike, boy, you couldn't be more wrong. I've seen my share of tough guys-and let me tell you, you were named after one of the best and bravest men I ever knew. So if you really think there's something wrong with your name, kid, then I guess we have somewhere to go tomorrow."
The following morning, Grandpa was all for taking a double-decker bus, but Spike managed to argue him into a cab. They were dropped off at a small cemetery. Poppies and Union Jacks were scattered on the veteran's graves, left over from Remembrance Day.
Grandpa looked at the poppies and smiled. "The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11 month, and the word shifted on its axis. The war was over."
"And you were there."
That I was. That war didn't end all wars, though. More's the pity."
Grandpa set off for a corner of the cemetery at a determined pace.
"You been here before?" Spike asked.
"Yes, many times. Uncle Henry and I lay a wreath here whenever we go to London."
It didn't take long to find what Grandpa was looking for- a simple granite memorial inscribed with the words:
Pilot Officer Colin Arthur Williams, DSO. 1904-1943. He slipped the surly bonds of earth, to touch the face of God
Grandpa bent down and traced the inscription with his finger.
"They shall not grow old" he quoted softly, "as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them."
Grandpa sighed. "We said we'd have a drink after the War, didn't we, buddy? But I'm afraid this is the best I can do." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his flask. Ceremoniously, he unscrewed the top and poured a measure of last night's brandy into to the grass.
Then he turned to his grandson-"So, kid-what do you know about this guy? Anything?"
"I've heard the name, of course."
"I imagine you have", said Grandpa dryly. He pointed with his cane. "See that bench over there? Sit down with me and I'll tell you why we're here."
The old man sat down and turned to the younger one. "So, kid –let me tell you about my buddy Col-Colin Williams, that is. Col was the best damn bush that ever was. He flew a little Fairchild plane that was his pride and joy. Guys used to say that he could take her up as slick as a gambler's promise, and touch her down as sweet as a stolen kiss. I met Col when I hired him as a pilot for a few of my little expeditions. Over time we became friends. He was amazing at what he did-got my sorry ass out of a few tight spots, I can tell you."
"I'm sure you can Grandpa."
"Everyone said flying was Colin's one true love. And so it was- until the day he laid eyes on your grandmother, and fell like a ton of bricks. There was only one problem-she was engaged to me at the time."
"So two friends fell for the same girl? It does happen."
"Yeah, it's a pretty old story, I'll give you that. But here's the part you don't know. Colin became your grandmother's first husband, and Uncle Henry's -stepfather. "
Spike shook his head. "Grandpa-what the hell? How did that happen?"
"You kids grew up on my stories", Grandpa replied heavily. "But I don't tell this one with any pride, boy."
"I loved your grandmother more than anything- but I wasn't sure I wanted to get married. I was afraid of being tied down, I didn't think I could make her happy, or that I led the kind of life that went with marriage. Hell, I didn't think, period. And then I got a lead on the Cross of Coronado-I'd been after that thing since I was 13. I must have thought it was a sign that the wedding wasn't meant to be. So I lit out after the Cross, and got it that time. But I lost the greatest treasure of my life. And so I left her, that baby of mine, a week before our wedding-alone in the word with my child in her belly."
"Holy SHIT Grandpa! Did you know?"
The old man covered his eye with one hand "No, I didn't, kid. I swear-I swear on her grave- that I didn't know she was pregnant. But I should have known-and if I'd been a decent man I would have found out soon enough."
Grandpa paused and licked his lips. "Spike, I know you love me, but I don't want you to make any excuses for what I did. Now, times have changed and it's hard for a guy your age to understand what a wrong I did her. Nowadays, single woman have babies all the time, and nobody gives a damn. "
Grandpa's mouth was set in a grim line and his good eye looked at Spike intently. "But it was very, very different back then. A child born out of wedlock was a bastard, an unmarried mother was a whore. There was a huge stigma–they were literally pointed at and scorned. And because I couldn't get my head out of my ass, that brave, plucky little woman-who didn't exactly get pregnant by herself- had to face the music alone. Until he stepped in."
"What did he do?" Spike asked.
"Colin took your grandmother under his wing and just dared anyone to so much as look crosswise at her. He brought her with him to England. After she had Uncle Henry, he married her in a church, and he raised her son as his own. He took care of them-provided for them and protected them- the way a man should."
Grandpa's voice wavered slightly.-"And I know-I know-that he loved them both very much."
The old man's voice firmed. "Now listen to me, boy. Col got that Distinguished Service Order because he died a hero. I've seen his commendation-your Uncle Henry has it. His squadron was escorting a bomber formation when they were attacked. Now, they were getting out of trouble when the Luftwaffe scrambled reinforcements. Col turned back and drew their fire so that the rest of his men could get away and finish their mission. He was the only one who didn't come home."
But what really made Col a hero –what made him a man- was the way he lived on the ground. Don't you forget it."
"So that's why you said what you said that time…."
"Ahh…could you be a little less cryptic, kid?"
"Sorry, Grandpa. Remember that fight I got into my junior year?"
"How could I forget going to the police station in the middle of the night to bail your ass out? Damn good thing your mother wasn't home."
"Yeah, well, it's not like you didn't lay into me enough for two people, man.. But after you bailed me out, you took me home and you put a piece of raw steak on my eye and iced my goose egg and fat lip. And you told me that no matter how many other guys I could take out or how many girls I could get with it wasn't gonna make me a man. You said that sometimes a guy can't walk away from a fight but you can tell a real man because he stands by his word and takes care of his own."
"That was a hard lesson, Spike, and I learned it late. It cost me 20 years I could have had with the woman I loved and it cost me the chance to raise my son."
"But you did learn. You stepped in to help raise me after Desert Storm, Grandpa. Doesn't seem fair, y'know? My dad was killed while I was still a cute little boy, and you had to put up with me while I was the world's most obnoxious teenager."
"Ahhh, don't give yourself airs, kid. Your Uncle Henry was the world's most obnoxious teenager, You didn't even come close."
Spike chuckled. "Well, whatever. But seriously, I learned what a real man is all about from you. And, hey, you never know-I may have an obnoxious teenager to raise someday, myself. I might even tell him a few of your stories."
There was a brief moment of silence. Then the younger man put an arm around his grandfather's shoulders and slapped him gently on the back.
"You know, Grandpa, we're in London so I'll bet there's a pub nearby. Since your buddy couldn't have that drink with you, why don't you let his namesake buy you a pint?"
The old professor smiled. Then he stood up and took his grandson's arm. "I'd like that, Colin", said Indiana Jones
This story was something of a departure for me, but I hope anyone who's read this far enjoyed a glimpse of Indy in the autumn of his life. I choose to believe that Indy stayed physically vigorous and mentally sharp, in spite of his advanced years, because he drank from the Holy Grail.
My inspiration was, of course the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. In the original TV episodes an elderly Indiana Jones, played by actor George Hall, introduces each story of his younger years with a framing story or 'bookend' set in the 1990s. A picture of Old Indy, who wears an eye patch and walks with a cane, can be found here.
The poem Indy quotes in the cemetery is For the Fallen, by Lawrence Binyon. It was written as a tribute to the men killed in Indy's first war, World War I, and is often seen on war memorials in the US and UK.
Colin's epitaph is from the poem High Flight, written in 1941. The author, Pilot Officer John Magee, served in the Battle of Britain, as Colin would have.
At 11:00 on Nov 11 1918 'The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month' the Armistice that ended the Great War went into effect.
As for Spike, in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles Spike is Indy's grandson. He appears in the original bookends for the episodes Chicago, April 1920, and Chicago, May 1920.
More information about Spike can be found here: .com/wiki/Spike and here .com/watch?v=00uVYYvqwLc. Credit goes to 'Stoo' of The Raven forum for posting the video.