Chapter 5

What to wear, what to wear? Olive drab or my robe? Finally I decided on just wearing my underwear and getting into clean scrubs again. Shower was vacant. Except for Father Mulcahy, who was cheerful. Argh!

"Father, you know, after a session like this, your cheerfulness ought to be outlawed!"

"Oh Hawkeye", he laughed his tiny laugh as usual. "How can you crack jokes yourself and call my cheerfulness a crime?" He was positively jovial. That was not exactly rare but still. Maybe he had not had his breakfast.

"I am full of surprises, Father!" water was cold. Freezing cold!

"You probably haven't gone to mess today, have you? Any idea whats there for breakfast?"

"Father, you know my views on death-by-eating. Ranks right up there with suicide. I may not be religious but I do condone suicide. Are you seriously asking me this question?

"No, no. I heard Col. Potter threatened the cook and as a result, the breakfast is good."

"Good as in? Non-existent? He refused to cook, saving hundreds of lives?"

"Oh Hawkeye! Can you ever get serious? Why do you always have to joke about everything?" So the cheerfulness was only temporary. I had the magic touch!

"Sorry father. I did not mean to! Its just that...Uhhh, forget it. Anyway, no. I did not go to mess and have no plans either. The coffee I had a few hours...Never mind. I am not hungry!"

"Going to sleep, I believe?" He asked in a neutral tone. I had dampened his spirits. How? I wouldn't know!

"No, got post-op duty. Actually I asked BJ to let me do it. One of my patients was sicker than most and somebody bungled on his post-op orders. Now I wanna make sure nothing gets messed up again." I suddenly felt drained and exhausted.

"Surely BJ is a responsible and an exceptionally competent doctor. He could have done it just as well, couldn't he?" All was not forgiven. Father Mulcahy was mad at me too. Four out of five in a matter of hours. I was on a winning streak today, having riled up Potter, Margaret, Frank and now Father. And yeah, I forgot Kellye. And then there was that new nurse. I was on a roll today!

"Thats not the reason Father. I trust BJ with my own life, which, to me, is infinitely more important than anyone else's, truth be told. I am just not sleepy and if I HAVE to stay awake, why not let BJ rest while I stay awake doing something useful, right?" I hoped this made some sense. It sure did when I was thinking it.

It probably did. I saw some softening around his eyes. That was a good sign. I was not ready for a shiner. I liked being a coward. Enjoyed it! Reveled in it. And I was proud of it.

"Alright Hawkeye. Whatever suits you. But if I remember correctly, you did not take time off during this session in OR, did you?" I did not understand what the big deal was. It was not like I did this for the first time. Everytime we pulled a long one, I was unable to sleep during the session ,and the only rest I did get was those catnaps right in the OR during change-of-patient ceremonies.

"I did, father. When you did!" I winked at him and suddenly remembered his earlier admonishment." Sorry Father, long day!" I was done and decided to leave before they had to operate on me to pull my foot out of my gut. It was at least hip deep by now.

I returned to OR to get into a pair of scrubs, leaving my robe there. I knew some bean counter somewhere was keeping tabs on our turn out. I could not care any less. They were too many. We were too few. It was like climbing on a descending escalator. For every step climbed, we came down three steps. I had lost track of the day or date. I knew Radar would know it. But what difference would it make? None!

And I needed coffee. Or did I? First things first. I got into the pharmacy and pilfered some antacids. Next stop was Post-Op. President's Day sale on surgery! Even aisles were taken. Hendricks was doing fine now. Rest of them were not as bad as he was. All limb wounds had good pulses. All chest wounds had good air entry and breath sounds. It was the belly wounds that worried me at times like this. Why did it have to be the size of a barrel? And with so much stuff shoved in? One stray bullet or shrapnel and it was an unholy mess. For now, all bellies were soft or else, ready to be. Our first patients from this session were already mobile. Some were even shipped away, depending on where they needed to be. Assembly Line, thats what we were, no matter who denied it and how forcefully. I had patched up some of my previous customers. And others' too. One had Frank's hand all over his gut. Took me a while to break his adhesions!

Now I had to put the paper work in order. That had to be the worst job in the world. What I wouldn't give for someone else to handle it for me?

"Captain!" I felt someone tap on my shoulder. Had I dozed off? I was not sure. There was a tray in front of me. And there was food in it. With steam rising. Warm food? I WAS ASLEEP!

"Captain!" this time I did feel the tap. I looked at this person. My first thought was, 'Zombie'. Drawn, haggard, kinda like he had a rather intimate rendezvous with a speeding bus.

"Yes Corporal?" I asked.

"Sir, Lt. Nakahara told me to see you. About the post-op orders on one of your patients."

"Yeah. About that...Not right now, Corporal. Where are you detailed right now? And when does your shift end"

"Sir, I have Post-Op detail now. I messed up on more than one thing last few days."

"Nothing as serious, I hope?" There was something wrong in this picture. He was ready to drop dead. I wondered if anyone else had noticed the condition he was in?

"No sir. This was horrible. I am really sorry sir. It has never happened before. And won't happen again. I promise." It sounded genuine.

"Alright! When was the last time you slept? Or ate, for that matter?" I could see that kid would drop dead the minute he was permitted to do so. And there was no point having such a wasted kid working in post-op. I could not figure out what his duty was like, around here. Maybe orderly or janitorial detail?

"I don't know sir. I have lost track." That sounded familiar.

"Who is your immediate superior? Ask him to come see me. And after giving him this message, go to mess tent. I hear there is some good chow there today. We will talk about that patient later!"

"Yes sir. Radar told me when he brought this tray for you."

"Radar brought this for me? Why? If Radar says its good..." I changed my mind about what I was gonna say. "If Radar said its good, then it probably is."

The corporal looked at me in a funny way. And then got back to being attention.

"Now do what I said. Dismissed!"

Why would Radar bring me food. He knew what I thought about mess. And how did he know? I would ask him later, I thought.

Food did not look or smell scary. Not from this distance. And nothing looked back at me. Those were good signs. I decided to try it out. Or at least sniff it. So far, so good! But before I could put it in my mouth, my stomach cramped like it was gonna explode. I may have made some kinda sound because next thing I knew, there was a nurse looking at me with a worried expression and a sergeant looking at us both.

"Cap'n, you alright?" I heard the nurse ask me. This was getting old now.

"Yes. I am fine. Just hunger cramps.You carry on with your work. Dismissed! Yes sergeant? What can I do for you?"

"Sir, Cpl. Mathis gave me your message that you wanted to see me. I was going off duty so I figured I would come right away before going to bed."

"Mathis? Oh yeah! Uhhhh, Sgt., I am not sure if you saw him when you saw him, but have you seen him lately? I mean, he is completely wasted. I wanted to know why he has been without food and sleep?"

"Sir, Maj. Burns found him smoking behind post-op ward. And he did not salute him right away. So he was given laundry detail along with his regular post-op duty and was restricted to bread and water for seven days. Then this whole deluge happened. I saw him sir. I even sneaked him some food. But he could not eat it. Said it was making him sick. I know he needs rest and food but my hands are tied." Damn Frank! And Potter wants me to make nice to him? Son of a ...

"Alright. I will take care of this. He is off both shifts. And if Frank...Maj. Burns gives you trouble, tell him that you were working under my orders. Or better yet, tell him to ask me. I will clear this with Col. Potter sometime tonight. Dismissed!"

"Thank you, Cap'n Pierce, Sir".

Frank was getting closer to a high colonic everyday

"By the way, sir. What you had was NOT a hunger pang, sir!", I heard the sergeant making a stage whisper before clicking his heels and about facing.

Before I could respond, he was gone.

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