Chapter 4

When I finally returned to the OR, BJ was busy with the same patient I left him with.

"Did I miss something?" I asked him. I knew I was almost done before I left and was almost ready for final touches before he was sewn up and shifted to post-op.

"No. You did not miss anything. Not that I can find. I am closing him now."

I looked at the clock. I had been gone for 12 minutes. Bj was a little slow. I knew it had been long but still, for his previous self, he was working a little slow. Something definitely wasn't right!

Shaking my head, I took the kid on BJ's table. Yet another laparotomy. Yet another dance in a kid's gut. A kid whose sole mission in life should have been to lose his virginity to the prettiest girl in town. This one was not even 18 yet. Kids underage were considered emancipated once they joined the Armed forces. To lie to be a soldier and then be emancipated? The irony of this concept was mind boggling. AND absurd. I decided to consider it at a later time when I had at least some bit of sanity restored. But if I were my last dollar, I would not bet myself on that hope. Hoping to restore my sanity was almost as absurd as...

I was rambling again. Good thing I had plenty of training, first in Boston and NY and then here, in surgery, not rambling. I could do this with my eyes closed. Open. Cut. Suture. Press. Close. There were intervals where you needed suction. Or retraction. Having Margaret on my table meant I did not even have to ask for it most of the time. What a wonderful creature, that woman.

Updates on Hendricks began to improve. I reconsidered not killing the idiot who almost killed the boy. If one lives, so shall the other, I finally decided. But still, the message needed to get across. I could not always hand over my patient to BJ so I could go see what was going on in the post-op. Or, for that matter, the patient won't always be lucky. This one got out of the woods, hopefully. What about next time? I also had to talk to the person responsible for taking down post-op orders. When did you know that a mistake was not just a mistake? Till something happened? I was waxing philosophical again. It was time to do what I did best, after surgery that is. Who was it gonna be this time? Frank? Margaret? Radar? Father? Or maybe Col. Potter. The quiet in the OR was disturbing but I had already been at the receiving end of a torturous punishment , compliments Col.Potter. It was a threat, I hoped an empty one. I was not going to do KP, come rain or snow. Even if it meant court martial. Was my current boredom worth getting court-martialed? Thinking of mess made me nauseous as I felt another cramping pain in my stomach. It wasn't something I ate. All I had eaten since...whenever I had last eaten was a martini olive. No, I had a sandwich while I was in OR. I just wasn't sure when exactly. Or what? There was a mystery bread wrapped around a mystery meat, probably a reject from Nazi camps in WW2. Could it be an ulcer? I never had that problem . At least not yet. Trap had it. But it was not really contagious unless we considered the still as the pathogen. Maybe I try some antacid? That seemed like a good idea.

Finally, after an eternity and a half, I was closing my last patient. And as expected, Frank was bungling his second patient since the announcement about twelve patients. I had to check all the patients he had bungled in this session. Good thing he was slow. Or our efficiency rating would have tanked. Another good thing was lack of malpractice lawyers in this place. I remembered a professor from med school. He was the head of surgical unit 3. He also was the crowned bungler. Frank could have taken lessons from him. What was worse, he was fast too. That meant record mess ups in shortest time possible. Finally he was diagnosed with mania, his license stripped and he was sent to the nearest wacketeria. Maybe when Frank got to that point, they would do the same to him? Or was I hoping for too much?

"Who is doing post-op?" I asked no one in particular.

"I am", came BJ's voice.

"I will cover for ya. I need to keep an eye on Hendricks, IF that's okay with you? Could you cover mine?"

I knew what a murder this shift was gonna be. It was almost as bad as a shift in the OR, if not worse. But I wanted to keep an eye on Hendricks. I trusted BJ but there was also another reason. I knew something was bothering him. And he could use a break.

"Pierce, you have to do KP, remember?" I heard the solemn announcement.

"Col. Sir! You are kidding, right?"

"Do you see my teeth? Do you see me smiling?"

"They are hidden behind your mask, Sir Col. Potter, sir!"

"That does it Pierce. I may have been joshin' ya earlier but now, I am serious. When did you say your R&R was?"

"Col. Potter, you can't do that to me, SIR. You can't!" He was kidding. Right? He had to be? If he wasn't? What if he wasn't? No, he won't do this to me. He was strict and I did draw short straw when it came to drawing fire from him but he was not cruel. And this was barbaric. No R&R?

"I can. And I will. See me in my office after you are done with post-op. Your offer to BJ stands, I gather?"

"Huh? Oh! Oh, yes yes. Unless BJ wants to take his shift anyway. Huh BJ? Can you do my shift?"

"Alright. I can use some sleep. I hate post-deluge post-op anyway. But Hawk, as far as I remember, you did not take any break all this time, did you?"

"Nah, I did. Last one was hardly seven hours ago, remember? When I left for a few minutes and had some coffee? I will be fine. Don't worry!"

"Can we cut this molly-coddling and get back to work? All this caring makes me sick!"

"Frank, were you born with your foot knee-deep in your mouth or you accomplished this task later on?" I asked him sweetly. It had been a while since I had insulted him. I needed my fix.

"Both of you, shut up! Burns, how much work left on your patient? I am free if you need a hand. The sooner we finish the OR, the sooner we can go and sleep." Col. sounded tired.

"I have to resect and anastomose some intestine and repair a couple of rents. That is all. Can you help me out here, Col.?" Frank was incurably inept. Maybe this kid would make it, with Col.'s help.

"Pierce, you finished? Go have something to eat and then get to Post-op, pronto! Don't just stand here and dig your grave deeper. I am still undecided about KP versus no R&R and I am sure the longer you stay without reason, the bigger the chance you will get both. So amscray!"

"Yes sir, Col. Potter Sir!" I did my final Klinger suck-up imitation. Hope it sways him, I silently thought.

First a shower. Maybe that would dampen the effect the breakfast would have on me, I hoped, yet again. The blood in my boots had congealed. If only it was not unbelievably hard to get a boot when you needed it, I would have thrown this one right now. Maybe ask dad to send me some crocs? And a boot? His last letter was still unanswered. Maybe today? I doubted it. Too many patients. And they were everywhere. Mess tent, pre-op, O-Club and of course, Post-Op. That meant longer rounds and a lot of walking. Maybe ask for sneakers too? How about a shoe shop? Or a wheel chair? Or a skate board?

I was rambling. Or was it my thought that was rambling? What difference did it make? Maybe I would ask Col. to return a couple of my left over marbles when I see him tonight?

Showers! I hoped they did not put any patients there. That would be too bad especially if they saw me washing their blood out of my boots.

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