by Bettina Rezori
"Radar, where is the supply room form? Didn't Major Houlihan and Captain Hunnicutt check what we need and give you the list with the items to be ordered?"
"Right here, Sir." Radar O'Reilly, corporal and company clerk of the 4077th MASH, handed his superior the paper he needed to sign. "Oh, and here's the duty roaster for the following fortnight. Captain Pierce will be back by next shift, won't he?"
"He'd better be. If he isn't here by seven o'clock this evening he won't get that much sleep tonight. Maybe we'd better put BJ on night duty, Radar. After helping out at the aid-station Pierce will probably be totally whipped. Let's grant him a good night's sleep."
"When is he due to arrive?"
"I guess if the roads are all clear he should be here about late afternoon. But I guess it'll take a bit longer than that. Anything else to sign?"
"No, Sir, that's everything for the moment."
"All right, then let's see what's on for lunch."
"Colonel Potter, Colonel Potter!"
Potter looked up from the paperwork on his desk to see an absolutely terrified Corporal Klinger skidding to a halt in front of his desk.
"Easy, son. What's up?" He stood up and gripped the man gently but firmly by the shoulders. Something about the look in Klinger's eyes promised no good.
"A Korean child just brought a message, Sir. It's from Captain Pierce. He's had an accident and he got hurt and . . ." Klinger got no further because Potter interrupted him and shook his shoulders.
"Klinger, Max, you're almost hyperventilating, take it easy. Now, tell me: What happened to Hawkeye? Do you have the message?"
Klinger nodded and produced a crumpled, dirty piece of paper.
Potter read out loud:
"to MASH 4077 Ouijongbu
had an accident, jeep turned over
20 miles north of camp
The note was not only crumpled and dirty, Potter noticed, but also bore a reddish brown streak which left no room for doubt as to its origin.
"Radar!" he boomed.
"Organise a jeep immediately. Hawkeye had an accident not that far away from us. I'll go and tell BJ to gather his medical supplies. He'll go with you. Klinger, where is the Korean child who delivered the message?"
"I left her with Father Mulcahy."
"Okay, fetch her. She has to go back with them to show Radar and BJ the way."
The stricken look in Radar's eyes wasn't lost on Potter as he left his office to find Hunnicutt. He wanted to stay and comfort him, yet the note in his hands convinced him that his priorities lay elsewhere, right now.
". . . Thank you for the peanut butter cookies, by the way. Every time I put one of them into my mouth and close my eyes I feel just like home. Even Hawkeye says he misses you when he eats them. What a crazy guy! Anyway, have I told you about . . ."
BJ looked up from the letter he had been writing to his wife Peg and put it down. "Colonel, what's up?" he said good-naturedly, getting up from his bunk and approaching the still. "Can I offer you . . ."
The expression on his CO's face made BJ's words stick in his throat with a sudden feeling of foreboding. "What happened? Is it about Hawk?"
"I'm afraid, yes, son. He's had an accident on his way back from the aid-station. He sent a Korean child with a message. You and Radar grab an ambulance jeep and fetch him. Take a first aid kit and get going."
BJ swallowed hard as he tried to fight the queasy feeling that rapidly spread in his stomach. Giving himself a mental kick to snap out of his stupor he quickly gathered his medical supplies and helmet and started out of the Swamp.
Hunnicutt felt a hand on his shoulder just as he way about to open the door. He turned back.
"He'll be okay. Be careful, will you?"
BJ just nodded and sprinted to the waiting jeep.
"It shouldn't be long now," BJ said, shouting to be heard over the noise of the jeep.
The child between him and Radar all of a sudden started talking, pointing wildly to a hut on the left. Almost at the same moment BJ noticed the overturned jeep on the right side of the road.
"Hold it, Radar!"
The mixture of relief and concern visible on the corporal's face resembled Hunnicutt's own feelings. Relief at having found the site of the accident, and concern for the kind of state they would find their friend in.
Radar spontaneously honked the jeep's horn as they skidded to a stop a few yards in front of the hut. BJ had already jumped out of the vehicle before the wheels stopped turning. His first instinct was to run to the jeep. Although he couldn't see his friend pinned anywhere beneath it, he didn't want to lose precious time dismissing this horrid possibility, either, in case it proved to be true.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he didn't find Pierce trapped under the jeep or lying badly injured beside it. Instead he heard an all too familiar "Radar!" being called from the hut.
Hunnicutt's heartbeat quickened at the sight of his buddy standing none too steadily but with both feet under him at the doorway, almost hidden behind an enormous bull which was tied to a nearby pole. BJ started towards him and was a little taken aback when Hawkeye disappeared into the dark interior of the shed, only to come out with his medical bag.
Only then did Pierce realise that his best friend had accompanied Radar. Slowly, he made his way towards him. "Beej! Radar! You wouldn't believe how glad I am to see the both of you."
He took a few more faltering steps, starting to sway slightly.
BJ was at his side immediately. "Whoa! Easy, Hawk. Come on, let's sit you down in the jeep." He took his bunkie by the elbow and, slinging an arm around his back to support him, slowly guided him to the passenger side of the jeep. They didn't get that far, however, as Hawkeye's legs gave way after only a couple of yards and he sank to his knees.
Radar quickly joined them and helped positioning Pierce on the ground. "Captain Pierce, are you alright? We were worried sick about you."
Hawkeye looked at him with a serious look in his eyes. "I hope you're feeling better, then."
In other circumstances BJ would have had to bite back a smile as he saw the typically nonplussed expression that crossed Radar's face for a few seconds. Hawkeye's banter didn't fool him, though. His face was bloody from a huge gash on his forehead, just below the hairline. However the bleeding seemed to have stopped..
Hawkeye wearily leaned back and closed his eyes. He weakly raised a hand towards his face and groaned softly. "Oh God, my head is killing me."
"Hawk, are you hurt anywhere else besides your head?" Pierce shook his head, but BJ noticed that the sleeve of Hawkeye's uniform was ripped open, revealing a deep gash on the right upper arm. He turned to Radar: "I need the sterile gauze packages and a bandage, Radar. Hawk, let me take a look at your face. I need you to put your hand down for a minute. Yeah, that's it. Let's see."
Much to Hawkeye's disdain BJ probed his face gently for a while, proceeding to check his eyes for equality and reactivity. Under the dirt and the dried blood BJ soon discovered an ugly red welt along the right chin.
"I don't think anything's broken, Hawk. You do have a nasty cut and a bruise there. I'm gonna dress it up and then we'll be on our way."
BJ didn't feel the need to inform his friend that his pupils were a little sluggish and that he had a hell of a . . .
"Concussion, isn't it?" Hawkeye murmured. "Got all the symptoms. Dizziness, double vision. Uh oh." Pierce began swallowing furiously.
Hunnicutt recognised the look on Hawkeye's face well enough to react in record time. In a few seconds he had him turned on his side as Pierce emptied the meagre contents of his stomach. BJ supported his friend's head until the dry heaves had passed.
"Sorry, Beej," Hawkeye mumbled, as Hunnicutt wiped his buddy's face with a handkerchief.
"Hey, you said you always wanted to puke on Ouijongbu. Why not now?" BJ said in a light tone. "Look, I'm gonna take care of that gash of yours now, all right? And then we'll see about getting you into the jeep. Think you can walk over?"
Hawkeye peeled an eye open. "I guess I can try, but you'll probably have to support most of my weight."
"That should be no problem." BJ proceeded to take care of Hawkeye's face and afterwards slid an arm under his back, helping him into a sitting position.