It is not long after his mother leaves.
He does not tell his father first. Henry is deep in his pursuit of Grail documents and effectively lives in the Library of Congress, except on the occasions when he comes home to squirrel away notebooks full of impenetrable, gnomic scribbles into hiding places long-since discarded by his only child as “too easy to find”.
He tells the priest, because that is what Henry has always told him to do when he has a concern, and because his mother has gone, and because the priest is the only damn person who still comes to their house to see if the weird, dusty and now-motherless child is alive. Instead of to talk Grail with Henry: the latter is a long list, and chief among them is Marcus.
He tells the priest. Not at church, because he gave up going, when his mother went.
Father Rollinson says: “Don’t be ridiculous, girl.”
Indiana squints hopelessly at Father Rollinson. He hadn’t expected understanding but he’s still disappointed not to receive it, led here by a kind of futile optimism which will dog him until the world finally knocks him into a cynicism that runs contrary to his nature. He looks at the parlour, filled to bursting in every direction with the overspill from Henry’s study. He stares out of the window, and says nothing.
“He needs a woman about the place,” Father Rollison says, trying another tack. “You’ll grow out of this.”
Indiana picks up one of the cookies from the tray before him, and realises with a gloomy start that Father Rollison probably thinks he made them and that this is some kind of feminine breakthrough. The tray, the cookies, and the dust on his pants are all evidence of a recent raid on a bakery, carried out with the assistance of two younger boys, but he can hardly tell Father Rollison that.
“Your mother left,” Father Rollison says, as if Indiana is somehow unaware of this momentous change in his life. “Don’t take his daughter away as well.”
At last Indiana says, “Wouldn’t he rather have a son?”
“He needs a woman around the place,” Father Rollinson says, retreating back to what he knows – which, Indiana thinks with the unpleasant spirit of a thwarted ten-year-old, is not much.
“What about what I need?”
Father Rollinson sighed. “Don’t be so selfish.”
His father, he was bemused to find, took no such view.
“Junior,” Henry said, barely looking up from a manuscript that was possibly older than America and which certainly should not have been in his study. He had three magnifying glasses of varying size and his spectacles were balanced precariously on the very end of his nose.
Indiana, who had come trembling to the study and spent most of the week before winding himself up into a turmoil of horror, packing and unpacking the bag he was sure he would need in his role as a future fugitive, said, “…Dad?”
“Junior,” said Henry, more decisively. “That’s what I was going to call you.”
“Indiana,” said Indiana, finding his tongue at last. ‘Junior’, he thought, smacked of the same lack of imagination that had seen him saddled with ‘Mary’ for the first ten years of his life. He had mostly stopped shaking now, the nervous energy replaced by lightheadedness and what felt almost like an out of body experience.
“Indiana’s the dog’s name,” his father said.
“And mine,” Indiana said, doggedly.
“We’ve already called the dog Indiana,” Henry said, scanning the manuscript with a magnifying glass. “And we’re moving to Utah.”
“You’re already called Henry—“ Indian protested, and caught up. “Utah?”
“The Mormons have a lot of very important documents,” Henry said, turning over the manuscript with considerable tenderness.
“But all my friends are here—“ Indiana said, momentarily forgetting that he was fighting for the right to be named after the dog.
“You’ll make more,” Henry said, busying himself with the next strongest magnifying glass.
“Shh, Junior,” Henry muttered. “This is important work.”
He joins the Scouts. It seems like an appropriately masculine activity, and there isn’t much else to do in Moab: his father approves more of these friends than the boys he used to steal cookies with.
The down side is that his chest is growing puffy, and in the heat of a Utah summer, wearing a vest two sizes too small, he feels almost faint.
A tussle with outlaws, the law, snakes, and a man armed with a whip frustrate him and scar him, but not so much as the day, a week later, that he finds blood in his underpants.
“How do I make this stop?” he asks, and his father shrugs.
“The curse of Eve,” Henry says.
“I’m not a woman, Dad.”
“Well,” says his father, pensively annotating a diagram in his Grail Diary. “Your body doesn’t know that, does it?”
“I have a family history of uterine cancer,” Indiana told the surgeon. “Dr Brody referred me. It’s preventative.” He was fifteen, armed with a forged referral, nerves, fury, money borrowed from a variety of sources, and the fervent hope that Mathis would not know that Dr Brody was a Doctor of Archaeology who wouldn’t know a uterine cancer if it bit him on the behind.
He was wearing stays for the first and only time in his life.
Mathis took Indiana by both hands, avuncular and patronising in a way that few people had been since he cut his hair short and started to talk from his chest and worn too-tight vests and eventually bandages that cut into his skin and bruised him. Mathis said, “This is a big decision for a little girl to make alone. You wouldn’t be able to have children. Maybe it’s better to wait and see. You might not get cancer after all.”
Indiana bit his tongue, then the inside of his cheek, until his eyes watered. He said, in a voice squeakier than he was used to using, “I just don’t want to die like my mother.”
“Oh child,” said Mathis, still holding his hands. “You must be brave!”
Indiana wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and said in a quavering voice, “I do have a referral from Dr Brody…”
Mathis said, “Dr Brody has been too hasty. He’s one of these East Coast types, isn’t he? You can’t just take out a girl’s reason for living on a whim.”
“I have four hundred dollars,” Indiana added. He hadn’t necessarily come by all of it honestly, and some of it wasn’t technically his, but he figured that if his mother had left him money for a wedding she’d want it used for whatever he was going to have instead, and since she hadn’t left him in any money, someone else owed him some.
Mathis released his hands. “All right,” he said. “But you have to know, you can’t go back on this. And you might go septic and die.”
Indiana exhaled quietly. “Just take the money, sir.”
When he woke, groggy from ether and nauseous from something he couldn’t identify, he mumbled, “Is it gone?”
Mathis showed him a steel pan. There was a lump of something reddish brown, smaller than he’d expected. Indiana looked at the ceiling.
“Keep the wound clean,” Mathis said. “Sepsis is a killer.”
He doesn’t die of sepsis, but he spends most of his sixteenth year in hospital. The infection spreads to an ovary: despite dire warnings he finds himself wishing the other one would go too.
Brittle, furious, continually irritated by the nurses’ insistence on calling him Mary, Indiana stews in bed and thinks, over and over: I might be full of pus and fever but at least I’m never going to have another god-damn period.
His father brings him, once, a copy of the American Journal of Archaeology. Indiana is old enough now to understand that this is merely his father’s single-minded, well-meaning attempt to make him feel better about the possibility of his impending death, although still bitter enough to acknowledge that his father doesn’t seem overly bothered by the possibility of his impending death.
Despite this, the American Journal of Archaeology provides him with several hours of entertainment, once he’s persuaded the nurses that he is allowed a dictionary as well. One of them – Nurse Shaffer – tells him she wanted to be an archaeologist too, and dreams of one day meeting a man rich enough to indulge her passion for the history of the Ancient in the Middle East.
Indiana tries to explain that he doesn’t give a damn about archaeology and he would rather learn to fly a plane and that his name isn’t Mary, it’s Indiana, but the morphine injection makes that difficult.
He does not die of sepsis. He has surgical scars on his abdomen, which the nurses fuss about, and he finally makes his peace with digging up the dead, which his father, true to form, largely ignores.
Indiana leaves hospital two days before his seventeenth birthday, and tells his father he will study archaeology.
Europe is in the middle of a god-damn war, and Indiana is stuck in college with a registered ID that says he is a woman, even though he’s finally got the damn thing changed to a male name.
His father refused to pay unless he changed it to Henry Jones Jr, so he’s Henry Jones Jr.
“Didn’t you learn last time?” his father asked, mildly, when he asked for money to have his breasts removed before college. “Do you want to die in a hospital ward?”
“Dad,” Indiana sighed. He hit upon an idea at that moment, with his acceptance letter from Marshall in his hand and a train ticket to Connecticut in his room. He picked up a copy of Archaeological Journal, USA (a competitor to the journal that had first swayed him), and brandished it at his father. “Dad, how many women’s names do you see in here?”
“A few,” Henry said, his brow creasing in the effort of remembering. He brightened, and pointed his diary at his son’s face. “But what’s a name? We already have your name fixed – and a very good name too,” he added, with a chortle. “An excellent name to go into academia in your field.”
“And it’s not going to look weird if Henry Jones, Jr, arrives in Marshall with –“ Indiana lost control of his vocabulary, waved impatiently at his chest, and said something vulgar enough to make his father blink in surprise.
“Language,” Henry suggested.
“Breasts,” Indiana corrected.
“Oh, very well,” Henry had grumbled, casting around for his bank book. He wagged a fountain pen warningly. “But if you die of sepsis this time it will be a waste of a wonderful career.”
That’s not the problem: Indiana, after a prolonged argument with an increasingly dubious series of surgeons, got his chest into a shape that suited him without going back on the sepsis ward. The problem is archaeology turned out to be fascinating beyond his wildest dreams, and it’s not just Europe that’s in this war.
The dig in Carchemish is suspended in 1914 for a god-damn war. Other sites are deemed too dangerous for East Coast college students, despite half of the college students in America skipping out on their studies to serve for other countries.
Indiana is furious.
Marion Ravenwood was a pest. An irritation. A child, as she was fond of reminding him some decades later. What she was not was a tattle-tale.
Oh, she told Abner; of course she told him. Left Indiana stranded a few thousand miles from home when he threw Indy (as Marion brief called him) out on his ear. But all she told him was: he took advantage of me, which Indy would dispute anyhow. There was a degree of advantage-taking on both sides.
What she didn’t say, to anyone that he heard, was what had been involved. Perhaps she didn’t know any better, although he’d have doubted that: too curious, too smart, too fast to be that innocent. She knew something was different about Indy, and she probably had a good inkling what it was.
But she didn’t tell anyone, and for that Indy never quite stops feeling as if he’s in her debt.
After ten years it makes him almost hate her.
He’s in Shanghai. Parts of the city are rubble: the Japanese have unleashed shells on the place with unflinching ferocity, and Indy is torn between ruing his ability to always be in the wrong god-damn place at the wrong time, and sympathy for future archaeologists, who are going to be pissed that they have so little to work with if things go right on the way they’re going.
Shanghai is roughly parallel with Lahore, and the weather is letting him know all about this. Indy’s shirt is a sad rag of sweat and dust and his hat is useful mostly in sticking his hair to his head. He’s got no aim, no goal, no money, and no idea what the hell he’s doing.
Why not call home? Indy thinks. Maybe Marcus could lend him some money.
He nearly collides with the knee-high remains of a wall. It’s in the process of being rebuilt, but the progress is slow. Everyone’s scared: he doesn’t blame them.
Because you don’t have a dime, he thinks, a moment later. You dumb son-of-a-bitch.
He feels a feather-light touch on his outer thigh, and for a moment he assumes it’s another speck of something tossed by the wind. But there’s no wind. The whole city is as hot and still as the inside of a glass bottle left in the sun, and so Indy shoots out a hand, and catches the pick-pocket by the wrist.
The response he gets is high-pitched, fast, and angry, but Indy knows enough Cantonese to know when he’s being called a number of very dirty names.
The girl is dirty. She is maybe eight years old. She looks at him with an expression of mutinous anger Indiana hasn’t seen since he looked in the mirror as a teenager, and kicks him violently in the ankle.
A moment later she switches tack: she pretends to cry, and tells him she’s hungry. The hunger he doesn’t doubt, but the fake crying is pretty bad. “If you blink faster,” he tells her, “you’ll cry more quickly.”
She glares at him, dry-eyed. “Let me go.”
“You just tried to steal from me,” Indy points out. “Unfortunately for you, I don’t have a god-damn bean. I guess you don’t either.”
She says nothing.
“So,” says Indy, squatting beside her and keeping a careful grip on her upper arm. “Why shouldn’t I hand you over to the police?”
Her answer is a kick which, had Indy been blessed with the genitals he’d always felt he ought to have, would have left him gasping on the floor. Instead she connects with cloth, and Indy flicks her in the ear with his free hand.
Her eyes widen. Indy puts his finger to his lips and says, “I’m hungry too. Don’t pick pockets, you’ll only get caught.”
He says, “There are bigger prizes than a couple of coins out of someone’s wallet. Why are you out here? Where’s your mom and dad?”
She points at the rubble, and as he turns to look, still crouched down, she flicks him in the ear back. “They died,” she says, and in her voice he can hear the real, unfaked tears she doesn’t have the time for.
“Okay, kid,” Indy says, letting go of her arm. “We’re gonna get something to eat.”
“What do I have to do?” she asks, wary enough that Indy suddenly hates every other person she’s met to make her ask that.
“Just keep watch,” Indy assures her, “and learn.”
“I’m going to be like you,” Wan-li says. The kid is known mostly, these days, as Short Round, or Shorty. She’s cut her hair off. She’s learning to drive a god-damn taxi cab, because Indy doesn’t need his accomplice bailed out of jail every two minutes for theft.
“A Doctor of Archaeology?” Indy suggests, mockingly, his mouth full.
Shorty throws a xiaolongbao at him.
“Jesus, kid, that was hot.” Indy rubs his face. “Did that leave a mark?”
Shorty shrugs. “You listen,” the kid says, pointing almost directly under Indy’s nose to get his attention. “I’m going to be like you, Dr Jones. Stop calling me ‘girl’.”
“Oh, that.” Indy shovels more food into his mouth. “Sure, whatever. Don’t throw xiaolongbao at my god-damn face in future.”
He teaches Shorty how to count cards.
1936. Dr Henry “Indiana” Jones takes funding from Marshall College and a plane into the jungle in Peru, on the trail of a golden idol.
No one has heard of Mary Jones in his professional circle, and he intends to make sure it stays that way.