Part 4 by Rob Morris
Lt. Colonel Blake intensely disliked two things about Post-Op. One of them, of course, would have to be the sight of the shattered young men that more days than not filled that room to near-capacity.
The other was one of the multiple personality conflicts that seemed to be part of the lifeforce at the 4077th MASH. This one was between himself and Major Charles Emerson Winchester The Third.
It only seemed like an hour ago that Henry had gotten used to Winchester's bellowing about his upbringing and the less-than-pristine conditions at the 4077th. Now, Potter had added a new angle.
Henry had a feeling that if the other officers -Pierce and Houlihan in particular- were less apt to question Potter's authority, then The Colonel would feel less of a need to enforce it. Perhaps that would come with time - perhaps not. Either way, Henry was grateful that he was not in charge of this hornet's nest. No, his responsibility was the up-front operation of the unit, while back-office concerns and final command lay with Sherman Potter. One such final command decision had just placed the maverick Hawkeye Pierce as Chief Surgeon, and by extension, Third-In-Command.
"Not a bad choice, really, Colonel. I mean, Pierce has the talent. He sure showed me a thing or two in there. Plus, the only one he rubs the wrong way is Colonel Potter."
Henry had only half-realized he had been speaking to someone about Pierce's elevation. The oddest surgeon on the staff. For Captain Frank Burns, you see, liked being there.
"I'm sorry, Frank. Come again?"
"Well, you know, Pierce in The OR is a lot different than Pierce outside the OR. Hawkeye knows what he's doing, in there. You know, he runs around, grabs every nurse he can find--me, I'm selective--but inside, he's all Doctor."
Blake took in what Burns was saying.
"He sure steps on some toes, though, Frank. Yours, too--and more than once."
Frank laughed an odd little laugh.
"Henry! People have been stepping on my toes my whole life. At least Hawkeye says 'excuse me' before he does it. Sure, he bounds over and cleans up my work. But my work needs some cleaning up, now and again. Kind of like my home life did."
In that lay the trick. Despite Pierce's dismissive helpfulness and Winchester's sometimes cruel abrasiveness, life at the 4077th was a good deal kinder to Captain Burns than life at home had been. Frank's 1st week saw the telegrammed death of his smothering parents coupled with an almost automatic notice of divorce proceedings from a shrewish wife who was probably just as better off without him as he was without her. The upper-middle class surgeon threw everyone off when he agreed to a near 100% surrender of assets in exchange for no alimony payments. It was almost as though he was putting to rest a bed of lies in order to start anew. Which is just what the calmer but oft-befuddled surgeon did. This was in marked contrast to Winchester, who now burst in, as Henry expected.
"Lt. Colonel Blake! WHY was I not informed immediately of this medical travesty? A cheek-inspecting lush from---I can't even say it--M-M-Maine--is handed the plum assignment of Chief Surgeon, while a Harvard Alum and prospective Chief Of Thoracic Surgery at Boston General must have insult added to the su-preme injury of being caged in this utter filth and uncaring squalor."
Henry Blake was so far past having enough of Winchester, he no longer responded directly to the 'injury' de jour.
"Well, Charles, it seems like you've got the situation pre-tty well sized up. So what was your question?"
"So. As always, I'm to bypass you, and go to Potter. He'll then make some vague insinuation about relocating his saddle on the interior of my person, prompting to write yet another report. But, I choose to skip the charming ritual, and then make for my typewriter forthwith. You will both be hearing from several higher-ups."
"Uh-oh, Henry. Mister High Society is going over your head again. Like it matters. Colonel Potter personally knows most of the people you write to, Winchester."
Winchester's snide look told all of his feelings about Burns, but that didn't stop him from expounding upon them, as well.
"Ah, Doctor Burns--the KTO's living redefinition of the archaic term, 'SawBones'."
After some coaching from Pierce, who always felt that kicking an opponent when he was down crossed the line, Burns was ready to fire back at the blueblood.
"You know, Charles? I'm not much of a surgeon. But you're pompous. I'm reading every medical journal I can get my hands on, now, and when I'm done, I'll be a better doctor. You, on the other hand, will still be pompous. But then, you show great consistency in that!"
"Now, see heerrree...."
Henry waved his hands.
"Gentlemen, see here elsewhere. This is where the patients sleep, remember?"
Then, the announcement, as always.
"ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL!!! INCOMING WOUNDED!! ITS NOT A WHOLE LOT, BUT THEY ARE HIT BAD! ALL SHIFTS! REPORT."
As Henry exited after the two still-feuding surgeons, he saw the Compound fill up. Potter and Pierce had brief but tough exchanges, Hunnicutt and McIntyre looked as though a sore subject had passed between them, and Radar and Klinger scrambled with the Corpsmen. He noted that Colonel Potter may have made a mistake in limiting Houlihan's authority over the nurses. She now seemed to have trouble getting them to move as she wanted. On his way to join the fun, Henry passed Father Mulcahy.
"Father, is there a prayer for peace, sanity, and stability in this unit?"
The Padre thought for a moment.
"Henry, I firmly believe that no prayer is ever wasted. But some, like that one, may come closer to it than others."