"Col. Potter Sir, cook wants to know if last night's dinner could pass as breakfast? Almost nobody turned up for dinner last night and there is plenty of it to go around..." We all heard, probably with sheer dread, that squeaky voice that belonged to the one and only Cpl.O'Reilly. He had not grown taller! And I could not even let him finish this chain of thought.
"And come around, to haunt us in the day and scare us at nights", I cut him off, appalled at the thought of having the same rejects for breakfast that I had rejected twice already.
"Pierce, if I hear one more word from you, one whine, one wisecrack, I will put you on KP for a week. It might be cruel and unusual punishment for you but you are close to earning it and I am sick and tired of your constant wisecracking and whining! Radar, you tell him to bury that dinner deep as possible. It was toxic. And it could only have gotten worse, I am sure. Tell him , for once, to try and make something edible. People have not eaten more than one meal in last twenty four hours and after this shift is over, some might lose it if mistreated by his cooking and I don't want him to die because he did not listen to an older, wiser man's words!"
"Boy thats just great! When I say it, its whining and wisecracking and when its himself, he threatens the cook of bodily harm. And to think this was a fair war!" This time I just mumbled so Col. could not hear me two tables down. My current work schedule was not short of punishing but KP? That was plain torture, against ALL conventions - whether set in Geneva, Oslo or the Great State of Maine - and religious/moral standards. That did not mean I was empathizing with Igor. He was still in my crosshairs. And thats when I felt the cramps in my stomach. I had stopped having hunger pangs within my first month of getting to 4077. Eating meals in mess was more out of habit than out of need. But even with that, I had never gone for over 24hours without any food. Maybe this time I go for R&R, I get myself something to eat too. Crackers would be nice. You could dunk 'em in martinis.
"Colonel Potter, Pierce is whining again. He ..."
"SHUT UP FRANK!" Col. Potter, Margaret and I all said at the same time.
I snickered so only Frank could hear me and busied myself with repair or removal of the gut.
"Pierce, I will get you for this!" I heard Frank declare quietly. This was a first. And I did not know what to make of it. What we were doing was not something new. It was a regular on our OR show. Or Camp show, for that matter. We were the camp regulars. And except for the time he tried to pin the Mutiny charge on me, or the multiple times he tried to get me court martialed, it never got out of hand. He did what he knew best, whining and complaining. I did what I did best, making him miserable. And after these months, we had gotten used to all of this, just like two seasoned dance partners.
"Oh yeah, Frank? What are you gonna do this time? Go running back to mommie that big bad Pierce dyed your shorts yellow?"
"You DID NOT", He bellowed.
"Of course I did not. It was just a hypothetical scenario, and a good one, I might add. Which pattern do you like better? Polka dots or flowers? I took an Arts course in school. You would love my work when I am done!"
"DON'T. YOU. DARE."
This was going to be a lot of fun.
"Frank, you know, when somebody says that to me, this part of me, this dormant yet dominant, powerful, mean, EVIL part of me takes over. I lose control over my actions and end up doing exactly what I was told not to dare do. Especially if the dare was made in a shrieking, whining tone. I just can't help it!"
"Col.Potter. I have had enough of this...this...this Orangutan. I am warning him and you are my witness. You won't stop him from harassing me and I cannot leave this camp without jeopardizing my Military career but I am reaching the point where you will regret not stopping him!"
"Wow Frank, that sentence actually made some sense. How long did you practice saying it in one breath? And are you threatening me? Or are you threatening Col. Potter?" This was the most fun I had in last coupla hours.
"Maj. Burns, calm down. You know its all done in good humor. Pierce! You are on KP for next week, barring casualties."
"NO. Thats not fair. You can't do that to me. That punishment was if I cracked a crack on mess or whatever they concoct there. Frank was supposed to be fair game! This is Not Fair! I protest! I am resigning my commission effective immediately. Col. Potter? SIR?"
I heard Frank snickering. I could not believe my ears. Potter was joking, I was sure. He couldn't not be joking. Boy I hoped he was joking! He had a wry, killing sense of humor. I knew it. Problem was, I was the one he was killing it with!
"No sireee. I never said anything about mess. Its decided. KP starting as soon as this deluge is over!"
"Frank, you are dead!" I hissed. And hoped he loved BOTH flowers AND polka dots because thats what his underwear looked like! Right Now! I was glad I had already done that. The threat was only post-effect.
Just then the OR door opened again, letting in nurse Kellye. Here was my update.
"What is it Kellye?" I asked, knowing she had eyes for me only.
"His color is the same. Pulse is 115 now. And BP is hovering around 85/50. I don't like the way he is looking."
"What about drain? And urine output?"
"Chest Drain is hemorrhagic.140ml. And output is 35ml. TOTAL."
"Can somebody take over for me? I have to go see that kid."
"I am free." My friend in need, BJ Hunnicut. Finally! The kid can talk, I thought. But chose to keep my mouth shut in case I needed BJ to unload later today, or tomorrow, or whenever possible.
I quickly left the OR. My second time in as many hours. Was it a good sign or a bad one? I never believed in that stuff but there is always a first time. Now wasn't one of those 'firsts', I reflected.
"Kellye, get three units of whole blood, typed and cross matched. And arrange for six more, in case I have to reopen." I told the efficient nurse before I even stepped into Post-Op. If I had to go in again, I needed all my assets in place.
There he was. He was not pale so much as gray. Breathing was not so bad, all things considered. Chest seemed fine or his breathing would have been worse. Could I have missed something in his belly? Every piece of shrapnel was acounted for. It was too soon to know and yet, with every minute, he was slipping away.
"How much blood have you given him already?"
"Just the one Father Mulcahy told me about."
"What do you mean 'told you about'. Where is his chart? I ordered 2 units stat. And then a hematocrit, Damnit!"
"Here is the chart, Captain. And will you please refrain from foul language. And yelling? Some people ARE sleeping, in case you did not see them."
'Not you too, Kellye', I silently groaned as I leafed through the chart.
And the chart had no such entry.
"DAMNIT! Who moved him from the OR? I want his hide. And now. DAMN!!" After counting to ten, I gave her my orders, "Alright, start with levophed in Ringer's 150ml/hr. Titrate the dose carefully! Start Dopamine at renal dose. Give him 2 units whole blood stat and get his hematocrit checked after the second unit is transfused. Also, after three hours, I want a complete blood count, BUN/Cr, 'lytes, LFTs and urinary sodium. I want you to check his vitals every 10mins and send me an update in the OR every 15mins or so and I want the name of the...idiot who transferred him from the OR."
With that, I returned to the OR. One patient I had to abdicate to BJ and the other was ...
NO, he was not gonna die.
Not on my watch.