Chapter Two - Emily, You're Not Gonna Believe This One......
Charles Winchester rounded the corner, and spoke in genuine surprise at what he saw.
"Me-he-Caintyre? Is that truly you?"
Trapper grimaced, hating any concession to the aging process that of all their close 4077th friends, only he, Frank, and Potter seemed subject to.
"Yeah, Charles--its me. Please--do not start in. Okay?"
"I shouldn't see why I would. Why, I always felt that toupee looked rather absurd on you. I applaud you for ditching it. On the right man, a small ring of hair can look very much like a Roman crown."
Trapper nodded appreciatively.
"Hey, thanks a lot, Winchester. I mean it, pal. Thanks."
Charles smiled, his trap fully sprung.
"Oh, don't thank me, McIntyre. I said it looked that way on the right man. Whatever made you think I was referring to yourself?"
Quite casually, the Boston Blueblood left the Boston Back-Bay Expatriate in the dust. Trapper was fuming.
"Is there any way this day could get any worse?"
Trapper's stomach shrank as he heard giggling in the background. Familiar peels of strained laughter.
"What's so funny, Frank?"
A Burns who the years had somewhat mellowed, at long last, pointed at Trapper.
"What--I would not have given--to see--hhee--him do that to you, back when! I'dve had some cover--hhehehe!!"
Trapper rubbed his now-exposed scalp.
"Frank--are you gonna just stand there and tell me that the fact that we and Sherm are the only members of the senior staff who are mortal doesn't bother you?"
Frank shook his head, and shrugged.
"Nope. You see, Trap--I say--let Pierce, and Margaret, and Walter--and all the rest of them live on straight through to the distant future. Ya know why?"
Unused to coherent philosophy from Frank Burns, Trapper nodded, despite himself.
"No. Tell me why?"
Frank pointed outside.
"Well, look at the world today. The future is going to stink like nine-day old garbage. And we three smart guys--will be taking a pretttty comfortable dirt-nap. Heh! They'll be begging us to let them into our private mausoleums! But WEEEEE won't let them. That'll teach those guys to live forever."
As Frank left, Trapper stood dumbly, rubbing his temples. Seeing a chair, he sat down.
"Okay, Trapper. Get a hold of yourself. Its your own fault for letting Winchester get to you--and for talking to Burns at all. Just sit here, and forget all about hair, and aging. We each get our three score and ten. We each get our three score and ten. We each get our three score and ten...."
As Trapper repeated his mantra, Walter O'Reilly emerged into the hotel floor hall, and knocked on the door to the Pierces' room. Margaret answered.
Once-Radar held up an empty bottle.
"Yeah, Margaret. Geez, I hate to bug you guys, but I'm out of Silver Fox Number 32 Hair Dye. I'm startin' ta show my usual colors. Yez got anything?"
Margaret gently frowned.
"Sorry, kid. I scoured the whole state of Illinois for an hour--and couldn't find any."
"Likewise me. I scanned the thoughts o' every beautician I could find from here to The Great Lakes Boot Camp--and nothin! What am I gonna do? I already look 40. If my current stuff washes out any further, I could end up lookin' 25. I couldn't handle that. You guys are lucky. 30 is a lot easier to play with than 20, when it comes ta not lookin yer age."
Trapper felt an oncoming blood vessel implosion, and so tried to ignore the conversation. He would fail.
"Oh? You think so? That's a crock. I mean, it used to be enough to clean our hair with lemon juice--it lightened everything, and no one asked questions. Now, we have to start spackling oatmeal on, just to make our faces look like we use wrinkle remover after we take the oatmeal off. Poor Hawkeye nearly turned whitefaced when some young couple complimented him on how spry he was--kids can be so cruel. Well, the upshot is, he's had to start walking with a cane, just to keep up appearances."
Radar shook his head.
"That ain't nothin. I know this one guy, he's about 600, a flyer in WW One. His old squadron wants a reunion. The poor jerk never bothered to kill his old ID. Well, he was special to his guys, so's he bathes in bleach, til he's dead. Comes out all hairless and horrid-looking. But he did it for his guys. Then--the knife twists."
"No one showed up?"
"Nope. They all did. And all of them--was fitness nuts. They all looked and felt great, like they was guys half their age. They all rode him about letting himself go so bad. Geez. I had to talk him out of taking his own head, he felt so dumb."
"Its just part of the burden we have to bear, Walter. You know, there are times I almost envy the ones who just have to deal with their happy, simple, three score and ten."
Trapper then ran from the foyer, screaming.
"Geez, waddya suppose's eating Trapper?"
"Who knows? I'm glad he ditched the toupee, though--he looks a hell of a lot sexier without it. Kind of like one of those Roman crowns. Very--hot."
"I'm just gonna go and take yer word on that, Margaret."
Trapper tried to calm himself while talking to a Holy Man.
"Father--please--please--read to me from some portion of The Bible that doesn't involve Methuselah, or anybody that lives too long."
Monsignor Francis Mulcahy smiled.
"More than happy to, Trapper. Always glad to give my dear friends a piece of The Lord's mind--especially when you've all given him so many pieces of yours--usually after Rosie's closed."
Mulcahy stopped, though, and picked up a letter.
"Oh--my. I almost forgot. Trapper, I have a letter for you--one from an old friend. Care to hear it?"
Trapper knew the secret that even most of the 4077th senior staff did not--that the seemingly mortal Mulcahy was in truth a Prophet Of Bajor in human form. But he liked the man too much to resent him for it.
"Fan mail from some flounder, Father?"
The Priest began.
"Dear Trapper--I have begun to work in my father's office. Imagine me, assistant to The Federation Ambassador to The Klingon Empire! Well, I visited my mother's grave the other month--its right next to yours, on the family plot, near the bass-stream. Kehleyr loved fishing as much as you. You were a great source of fun and laughter and I hope truly to see you again, perhaps even in St'vo'khr. With Respect, Love, and Honor, Your Descendant, Alexander Rozhenko Of House Martok, 2377. PS--rumor has it that some lost ship was found in The Delta Quadrant. Wow, that's far!"
Mulcahy put down the letter.
"Oh, he's such a fine young man, Trapper. Now, about that verse..."
But Trapper had departed when the letter had mentioned his grave.
"Well--he never was very big on religion."
Now, a furtive knock came at the door to Bob Hartley's room.
"Yes, how can I help you?"
"Yeah, Doctor Hartley. I'm---I'm--"
Trapper hesitated. What with Burns and McIntyre, Hartley had to wonder if the 4077th staff all suffered from short-term memory loss.
"You-you wanna come back when you've nailed that one down?"
Trapper shook off his fog.
"Nooo. I'm John McIntyre, Chief at San Fran General. I'm with the 4077th reunion. Doc--I'm going way out of my head. We have to talk."
Hartley nodded, and bid him enter, since Emily was out shopping.
"Okay, John. Call me Bob. Do you prefer Jack, or Johnny?"
"Trapper, Bob. Just Trapper. As in time-Trapper. As in running out of time-time Trapper."
Bob was a bit thrown.
"Just-just Trapper it is, then."
McIntyre was overheated, agitated, and on the verge of hyperventilating. But for Bob, he had one important thing going for him. His name was not Jerry Robinson.