Part 5 by Zen Greene
Henry had never thought of himself as a leader. To be fair, neither had anyone else. But he had also never before been faced with a situation where his rather mundane qualities might actually be the very stuff of which leadership might be made.
Oh, the 4077th had excess in plenty. What it conspicuously lacked was any kind of average, mundanity or mean. Potter, for instance, represented the extreme of military order and repression. He would have done any of the less imaginative Roman generals proud. Perhaps in another life, he might have been a valued second to Pompeius Magnus. Hawkeye, on the other hand, represented intellectual brilliance, mental instability and promiscuous dissipation. He could have been another kind of Roman. It was a wonder to Henry that Hawkeye held together as well as he did. He often suspected that the glue keeping him together was the need to needle, particular his beloved enemy, Margaret Houlihan. She was yet another matter. Her excess tended towards a severe repression of excess. She was ordered and disciplines, though not as rigid and doctrinaire as Potter. She had been known to engage in a little creative dissipation here and there, but nowhere on Hawkeye's scale. She was possibly even more intellectually brilliant and versatile than Hawkeye, but tempered it with an applied practicality.
Henry thought about some of the other prominent inhabitants of their self-contained little world. Klinger negated his self-consciously outrageous plays at insanity with his own city savvy and earthiness. Frank Burns' combination of neuroses and inherent gentleness defied easy description. Radar was country naivete corrupted by both peasant cunning and second-hand city cynicism. Henry saw the beginnings of a self-destructive decadence in the lad.
In sum, Henry did not see how any prayer of his or Mulcahy's could possibly influence a God who had knowingly brought together such a collection of human misfits in the first place. But to follow through on his promise to Mulcahy he gave it his best shot - after all, what harm could it do that wasn't already being done? Henry dropped to his knees beside his bunk in what was possibly his first sincere prayer since his confirmation.
"Lord, uh, God, if you don't mind sparing a minute from your busy schedule to listen to my prayer… would you… please guide us here through this godforsaken pit of manure, um, begging your pardon…. Let me start over. Please help us in our mission to heal these poor boys who've been shot apart by other poor guys in this ridiculous conflict. And help us to heal each other - or, if you can…. Well, of course you can, I guess I mean if you would, help us at least not to harm each other any more than this war is already doing. And please let this all be over soon so we can go back to whatever sort of normal lives we were supposed to be leading. And thanks for taking the time to listen to a poor, confused slob who doesn't even know what in the… uh, what he's doing here in the first place. Amen!"
Henry headed outside to take his place in the chaos of the O.R. Kellye joined him to assist on a young boy who had taken a clean shot through the shoulder. Henry set to with a will. At least this boy would make it - wouldn't even be too difficult to repair.
Across at the next table, Hawkeye had taken the most difficult case, multiple severe wounds through the chest and abdomen caused by a piece of artillery. As usual, Houlihan was there to assist him. While off duty no two people could be more antagonistic, in the O.R. they functioned as one. Hawk never had to ask for an instrument or a clamp - Houlihan knew what was needed almost before Hawkeye did. Henry thought that if that understanding could ever make it out of the O.R., there might be some hope for the 4077th.
"Radar, how many more we got out there?" Potter asked.
"Only four, Sir. And none too bad, this time."
"Thank God for that," BJ added.
"My sentiments, exactly," Mulcahy seconded as he laid down a tray of freshly sterilized instruments beside the operating table.
"Father, what would we do without you," Hawkeye asked, as he made an incision into his patient's abdomen.
"Honestly, I can't imagine that things would be much different," Mulcahy said, looking around in despair at the maimed and bleeding bodies being worked on in O.R. They were a sight he has grown far too accustomed to in recent months.
Margaret sent him a reassuring smile. "You underestimate your influence, Father. Just ask Sidney Freedman."
After a blessedly brief O.R. session, the staff dispersed, a little worse for the wear, to the pursuits they had had in mind before being summoned to surgery. Henry walked over to Rosie's for a drink, wanting something to help him wind down, and maybe to numb the events of the day a bit, before he headed to bed.
Picking up his Scotch from the bar, he looked over his shoulder to see if there was an empty table where he might relax. He was a little surprised to see Hawkeye and Houlihan sharing a drink at one of the tables, apparently peaceably enough too. Taking a second look, Henry wondered if he didn't detect a bit of a conspiratorial air between those two. He was half tempted to join them, to scope out his hunch, but hesitated. Any alliance between those two could be as fragile as antique porcelain in an earthquake. He started to turn away, when Hawkeye motioned him over. Well, what the heck, Henry thought, maybe this was his opportunity to encourage a little cohesive teamwork in this unit where it really counted. If he could get these two working together on a consistent basis, maybe the rest of the unit stood a chance.
Henry walked to their table, taking his first tentative steps towards leadership, only faltering a little as his feet encountered a poorly situated table leg along the way. "How are you guys doing after that session in the O.R?" Henry asked, placing his drink carefully on the table.
Hawkeye pulled out a chair for Henry. "As you may have noticed based on two relatively prominent objects over there in your field of vision, Margaret is not a guy." He smiled, waiting for her to take the bait.
He didn't wait long. "Pierce, do you always have to be so-crude?" Margaret snapped at him.
Henry wondered where he thought he had seen the seeds of a budding alliance there. He dropped himself into the proffered chair and took a healthy swig from his Scotch, wondering just what he had been thinking that had made it seem as if he could create some cooperation in the unit starting with those two...