By Laura Stephanie Quinn
After what seemed like an eternity, sunbeams broke through the clouds of doom, and melted away the snow. The staff at the 4077th welcomed spring, thus, an impromptu celebration was called. By order of Lt. Col. Henry Blake, commanding officer, there was to be a grand party at the Officersí Club the coming Saturday; the official start of spring. This seemed to lift the spirits of the personnel, with only two exceptions: Majors Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan.
"Colonel, this is completely against protocol," Margaret stated while Frank stood by nodding. "A party to celebrate the arrival of spring -- this is ridiculous! Iíve never heard of anything so preposterous!"
"I agree," Frank finally said. "Sir, this is no call for a party; itís not like itís anyoneís birthday. But if it were, I wouldnít celebrate it -- nobody ever celebrates mine." Frank was on the verge of whining.
"Aw, Frank, would you can it?" Henry, visibly annoyed, pleaded. "Look, Iím just trying to boost morale. You know, the winterís been rough on everyone, especially the young ones. A lot of them have never been away from home for so long, and what with the war, their winter blues has been much worse. I think a little party would cheer them up."
"Sir, the military is no place to be cheery," Frank countered.
"Thatís for sure," said a familiar voice. The majors turned around to see Hawkeye Pierce sauntering in, with Trapper John McIntyre at his heels.
"Oh what do you want Pierce?" Frank muttered.
"Frank, Iíll ask the questions here," Henry began, "now, Hawkeye, Trapper, what can I do for you?"
"Permission to invite Sidney Freedman to the gala, sir!" Hawkeye screamed in mock seriousness.
"Sure, Pierce, permission granted," Henry laughed, while, unbeknownst to him, Corporal Radar OíReilly, company clerk, scurried into the office. "Radar!" He screamed.
"Iím right here sir," Radar said, looking up from his clipboard.
"Radar, can you place a call to Dr. Freedman?" Henry asked.
"Sure thing sir," Radar answered. Then, turning to Captains Pierce and McIntyre, he added, "Would one of you sirs please come with me to talk to Dr. Freedman?"
"Iíll talk to him," Hawkeye volunteered.
"Okay, Hawk. Iíve got Post-op duty anyway," Trapper said, "But Iíll walk you to Radarís office." Trapper extended his arm.
"Thanks, but Iím seeing somebody else," Hawkeye joked.
"Okay, everyone, dismissed," Henry said finally.
Throughout the week, preparations were made for the party. Major Sidney Freedman arrived on the Wednesday before the event, and upon arrival, a game of poker was played in his honour. Corporal Klinger, who had Kitchen Duty, was forced to juggle the grueling task of cooking edible food with creating an outfit perfect for the affair. But on top of that, he agreed to do Nurse Bakerís mending, and help Nurse Kelly throw together an outfit of her own. Meanwhile, Frank and Margaret stood their ground, and continued to voice their dislike.
On Friday morning, the nurses unveiled their contribution: a large sign that read "WELCOME SPRING". Everyone thought it was a lovely surprise, however, they were about to receive another, not-so-nice surprise.
"Hello, MASH 4077th," Radar stated as he answered the phone. "Yes, one moment please." He quickly ran into Henryís office, "Colonel Blake, thereís a General Springer on the line for you, sir."
"Thanks Radar," Henry said. Then he spoke into the receiver, "General Springer? Colonel Blake here. How can I help you?"
"Oh, I just thought Iíd give you a call myself before dropping by," General Springer began, "as you know, I am to visit the 4077th with a special outstanding achievement award to present. Your staff is one of the best, and Iíd like to personally congratulate you for running such a successful, organized unit.
Now, about tomorrow, Iíll be bringing Captain Smith along to assist me in the small ceremony. Heís also an excellent photographer. You can expect us at 17:00 hours. Good day Colonel."
"Good day to you too General, and thanks for the call." Bewildered, Henry sat down and hung up. "Radar!!!"
"Sir, Iíll put on an announcement and notify the camp," Radar said as Henry tried to get the very same words out of his mouth.
Radar immediately announced the change of plans on the PA, which was followed by a flood of complaints, and a deluge of wounded.
In the OR, Henry personally apologized for the party cancellations, however, protests continued throughout surgery. Father Mulcahy tried to console patients and personnel alike, as he was the only rational one left.
"Well I, for one, am glad," Frank announced. "Personally, I canít wait for General Springer to arrive. He and I have a lot in common."
"You mean he doesnít have a chin either?" Trapper quipped.
"And I always thought chins were mandatory for making General. There go Frankís chances," Hawkeye teased. Frank responded by pulling down his mask and sticking out his tongue.
"Careful Frank!" Margaret cried. "Youíre spitting on the patient!"
Afterwards, the disappointed nurses and corpsmen were still discussing their canceled party.
"Thanks for doing my mending, Klinger," Nurse Baker said. "Sorry it was all for nothing."
"Hereís your scarf back, Klinger," Nurse Kelly said, "I wonít be needing it, but thanks anyway."
"Any time girls. Thanks for giving me all that polish," Klinger replied, before heading back to his tent to change; after he changed, he headed over to the Swamp.
Dressed in a housecoat, slippers, and hoop earrings, Klinger entered the Swamp, where Hawkeye and Trapper were sipping martinis.
"Why Klinger, you donít feel our humble home is good enough even for casual wear?" Trapper asked as he examined Klingerís get-up.
"Iím upset," Klinger whined, "Iíve spent the last week mending sleeves, sewing buttons, and polishing my tiara. And for what? Nothing!"
"Well, I think I know a way to save the party, but itíll have to wait, Iím due in Post-op," Hawkeye said. Then, as Frank came strolling in, he added, "Unless Frank here wants to trade shifts with me."
"Are you crazy?" Frank cried.
"No, but I am!" Klinger chirped.
"What are you doing in an officerís tent, Corporal? And get out of that dress!" Frank ordered.
"Sir! I derobe for nobody!" Klinger shot back.
"Seriously, Frank, will you trade shifts?" Hawkeye asked again.
"Forget it Pierce."
"Margaret will be there."
"Margaret?!" Frank cried. "Alright," he continued, trying not to look excited, "Iíll trade shifts; but this is the last time."
Ten minutes later, Frank was off in Post-op with Margaret, his joy of spending time with her making him completely oblivious as to where he was. Meanwhile, Hawkeye, Trapper and Klinger had alerted camp to the Ďemergencyí meeting in the Mess Tent.
"Everyone, we have a lot of work to do if we want to have the party as planned," Hawkeye announced once everyone had settled down.
"Whatís this all about Pierce?" Henry asked, perplexed as always. "The General will be here this time tomorrow, we need to clean this place up a bit."
"Henry, face it, this place and clean just donít agree," Trapper said consolingly.
"I think we ought to listen to what Hawkeye has to say. He may be on to something," Father Mulcahy remarked.
"Thank you Father," Hawkeye began, "Now, letís get down to business. Nurses, your sign is lovely, but Iíll need you to add an ĎERí to it. Radar, you think you can organize a team to create a nice little ceremony area?"
"Sure Hawk, I bet the guys would help," Radar answered, turning to the other enlisted men, who seemed eager enough.
"Great! In the meantime Trapper and I will get started decorating the Officersí Club," Hawkeye continued.
"And one more thing," Trapper cried, "Donít say a word of this to Hot Lips and Ferret Face! I think weíve all had enough of their complaints, especially the high-pitched one."
"Youíre right, Frank has been whinier than usual lately," Henry put in.
"Alright everyone, we donít have any time to lose!" Hawkeye cried. "Letís get to work."
Later that afternoon, Hawkeye and Trapper called another meeting, this time in the Officersí Club, to hear progress reports from representatives of each group. The Captains, themselves, had done a magnificent job of getting the Officersí Club relatively spic and span.
"Pierce, McIntyre, whatís with all these decorations?" Henry demanded as he examined the room closely. "What have we here? Toilet paper streamers, paper flowers....youíve got to be kidding! Mistletoe?!"
"Thatíll be my station sir," Hawkeye quipped, "Just have the nurses start a line in front of me."
"Radar, how did you and your team do?" Trapper asked, changing the subject.
"Well, we didnít have anything to make a real podium with, so Father Mulcahy lent us his," Radar explained.
"Yes, my altar has become a makeshift podium," Father Mulcahy said, smiling. Then he added more seriously, "I hope the General doesnít mind speaking from behind the crucifix."
"Sounds great Father," Trapper stated. "OK, next order of business: the sign. So girls, can we see it?"
"Ta da!" Nurses Kelly, Baker, and Cooper cried in unison as they unveiled their latest creation: a big, colourful sign that read "WELCOME SPRINGER!"
"Thatís beautiful! Thanks all of you," Hawkeye exclaimed. Then, after giving each nurse a kiss on the cheek, he added, "How many other nurses deserve my heartfelt thanks?"
"Choppers!" Radar called suddenly. Sure enough, only seconds later, two helicopters landed, carrying a group of badly injured soldiers.
"Pierce, McIntyre, letís go," Henry ordered, already half way out the door.
"Aw, but I wanted to thank the other nurses," Hawkeye whined.
"Yes sir, Iím coming sir..."
Much to the luck of the doctors and nurses, there werenít too many casualties. The helicopter pilots informed Henry that fighting seemed to have decreased lately, and that they shouldnít expect insanely high numbers of wounded men within the next few days.
After finally removing every piece of shrapnel, stitching up every wound, and seeing each patient safely to Post-op, the staff retired to what would hopefully be a quiet evening. Henry joined Trapper and Hawkeye in the Swamp for drinks, while Frank discreetly slipped away to Margaretís tent. Radar finished some last-minute reports before turning in with his teddy bear, and Klinger was busy in his tent, consulting with some of the nurses, about what he should wear the next day. By daybreak, everyone seemed to be well rested and in good spirits, anticipating the arrival of General Springer.
"General Springer, welcome to the 4077th," Henry said after saluting.
"Thank you Col. Blake," General Springer said warmly. Then, noticing the altar-turned-podium, he asked skeptically, "Is this to be the site of the award presentation?"
"Yes sir," Henry began, "we thought it would be best to make use of something we already have, than to spend more money on building supplies."
"Good work Blake, thriftiness is a quality that I wish the Army saw more of," Springer complimented. Then turning to his associate and photographer, Captain Smith, he added, "Smith, you should be taking notes. Iíd like to see our outfit embody more of the intelligence displayed here at the 4077th."
"Um, General Springer, with all due respect sir, could we get on with this thing? We have a lot of work to attend to around here," Hawkeye put in.
"Watch it Pierce!" Henry admonished quietly.
"Of course, I completely forgot that you must be quite busy in these parts." General Springer approached the podium and the camp fell into order. He gave a short speech, praising the 4077thís skills, success rate, and organization. As he came to a close, he motioned for Henry, who was to his right, to step up to accept the modest plaque. Captain Smith crouched down and snapped a photo of Springer and Henry shaking hands. Henry proceeded to thank the General for the honour, and asked that his chief surgeon and head nurse, Hawkeye and Margaret, join him in accepting the award.
"This is an enormous honour," Margaret began. "I know first-hand how difficult these working conditions are, and I know of the tremendous effort put in by each and every one of you, particularly, my nurses. I am proud to accept this on behalf of the nurses, and I thank you General."
"Captain Pierce, would you like to say a few words?" Springer asked politely.
"Sure, why not? Iíll say a few words."
"Make it VERY few words, OK Hawk?" Trapper muttered. The rest of the staff, obviously eager to kick off the festivities, shot Hawkeye pleading looks.
"Iím going to make this as short as possible," Hawkeye began, "Everyone here is great. You all work really hard. Even Frank pulls his weight -- well, sometimes. Thank you very much for this plaque, and Iíll see you all in the Officersí Club."
With that, Hawkeye broke into a run, with Trapper, Father Mulcahy, and an entire fleet of nurses and enlisted men right behind him.
"Whatís going on?" Springer demanded in a most agitated tone.
"Well, General, you came all the way out here to give us this nice little plaque, that we thought weíd do something nice for you," Henry explained nervously, almost tripping over his feet as he led the General to the Officersí Club.
As Henry pushed open the door, the lights went on inside, and as General Springer stepped in, the crowd of people cried, "SURPRISE!"
Frank and Margaret, who were standing behind the General, looked aghast, and quickly turning to Springer, they instantly cried something about their having nothing to do with this ridiculous surprise.
"Why, you shouldnít have!" Springer said, obviously touched.
"We didnít!" Hawkeye exclaimed. Confused, the General turned to Henry, who told him to nevermind.
"General Springer, do you mean to tell me that you are pleased with the surprise?" Margaret inquired.
"Why, yes I am."
"Well, you should know, I didnít mean what I just said, about having nothing to do with this," she began. "What I meant was that I had nothing to do with these frightful decorations. My role in this was more in a supervisory position."
"In that case, howíd you like to join me for the first dance, Major?"
"Iíd love to General."
Father Mulcahy struck up a lively tune on the piano, while Igor manned the bar. Hawkeye and Trapper took their places on their favourite barstools, each with a nurse at his side. Klinger bedazzled everyone in his brand new red gown, a matching scarf around his neck, and a sparkling tiara on top of his head. Henry strolled across the room to where a group of nurses was conversing, and Radar discussed the prospects of another poker game with Sidney Freedman. Meanwhile, Frank looked even more pathetic than usual standing alone in the doorway, whining for Margaret to join him.
"Hey Major Ferret Face!" Hawkeye called, martini in hand. "Why donít you make yourself useful and give the OR a good scrubbing?!"
"Thereís an idea! Thatís about the only way Frank could make himself useful in OR," Trapper added. Frank scowled and stalked off, taking up Hawkeye on his suggestion no doubt. Trapper threw his head back with laughter, while Hawkeye leaned on his friend for support.
"What shall we drink to?" Trapper asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Letís drink to what this gala was originally about," Hawkeye suggested. "Letís drink to spring!"
Trapper nodded in agreement. With that, he and Hawkeye raised their glasses, tapped them together, and swallowed the remaining liquid.