A lot of seriousness. A lot of dialog. Personally, I do not like it but I don't know how to keep story going without having this chapter in. So bear with it, if you are still reading!
Mess tent was enjoying one of its rare full-house moments. Of course whoever entered here seldom left without feeling almost as sick as our patients. The only difference was, while patients could be resuscitated, there was no hope for victims of Igor and company. But not today. Somehow, Col.Potter had reinvented food, the four letter word forbidden within the mess tent. I checked on the patients while people ate their lunch. It WAS a full house. Finally, I found a vacant spot against the tent wall and rushed to it before anybody else could. I was hoping to catch some winks. Father mulcahy was sitting on that table. I ignored him. I had enough carnage behind me and after my encounter with him in the shower earlier today, I was not in the mood to provoke him again. My foot was already lodged far down my throat for me to drive away one of the rare, chosen few I actually respected.
"Wake me up when the war is over!" I spoke to no one in particular. Of course I could not sleep here, but just the feeling of something behind my head that was not hard relaxed me.
"Still not feeling hungry?" I heard the father and assumed he was talking to me.
"Who? Me? Naah, Radar brought a tray of breakfast into post-op. I don't know who sent it or for whom. But I cleaned it up anyway, only a coupla hours back, I think."
"Oh. But I asked Radar to get you some breakfast after I showered."
"You sure take long showers, Father!"
"Hawkeyeeeee", I was not sure if it was plain admonishment reduxed or he enjoyed it.
"Sorry father. Force of habit." I meant it though I really did not know how to stop it.
"No, no. That's alright. I have been thinking about you all morning. You do what you have to do to survive here. And mostly,what you do helps others too. But sometimes, it does not. That does not mean its not good. Or useful. Just that, if others get to you, you turn things into jokes but when you get to others, they don't know what to do. And that perhaps upsets them.Anyway, just something I thought. I might be wrong."
"Well. Maybe you are wrong. About me not letting anyone get to me. I left post-op because someone got to me there."
"Oh yeah? Well! Its been a long session and everybody is tired and edgy. Don't let them get to you, Hawkeye? How are the patients in post-op? I haven't gotten around to visiting them yet. Most are probably sleeping off the anesthesia anwyay, I believe."
"Yeah, most are. One is up and about though. Maybe we can move him out and place someone sicker in post-op. I am sure one of Frank's victims might need closer observation. The arrangement and patient dispersal has been rather haphazard."
"I haven't seen anyone really sick either here or at the O-Club. But you know what to look for, right?"
"I certainly hope so, Father. My father paid big bucks to put me through med school."
"Well, it didn't go waste now, did it?"
"Define waste, father! He is not getting anything out of my education. All that money bought for him was a long-distance to think of it, I am not getting anything out of it either. There is no money. There certainly is no job satisfaction. How many times can a man marvel at his own embroidery. On the same patient?"
"I understand Hawkeye. You definitely don't want to be here, doing this impossible task. But these people need you and you are doing a damned good work!"
"Thats the whole point father. I know they need me. My problem is more basic. Why should they need me? That kid I worked on ...the one with a shredded right half of the body, he was not even eighteen. I am tired of this waste. None of us should be here!"
"Hawkeye, they are looking for you in the O-Club. One of the patients needs you." Here comes the buzz-kill!
"It was nice talking to you,Father. Duty calls!"I sighed, more for dramatic effect than anything else. More than my speech, this latest demand for me made my point. The only irony was, I WAS preaching to the choir, quite literally!
'Waxing philosophical again!' Part of me snickered.
'Oh shut it already', the other part hissed. I did not even need somebody to talk to anymore. I had these two different people inside me, talking while another part of me watched them. They were both annoying, that spectator part decided. I wondered how rest of them put up with me. Even I could not put up with me right now. No wonder Col. Potter wanted to see me. And what was that all about. Cracking jokes and mocking Frank was not something worthy of a punishment.
If anything, I deserved a medal!
And there it was, the O-Club. Why did they have to make it so far away from Post-op? All it did was to either get people bombed or help them once they were bombed. Maybe Army worked hard on weeding out any common sense from everyone so no one even by mistake ended up doing something that would actually make sense. Army was diabloical! Maybe it was the olive drab that killed the common sense? That would explain my sanity and ever present common sense. My refusal to wear green helped me retain my sanity in more ways than one. I was more diabolical than Army!!
"Bartender! What's my tab?"
"Hawkeye! Here! This is Maj.Woods. Here..."Baker handed me this guy's chart.
"Ahhh, Maj.Burns. Hmmmm, Lemme see." This guy came with the usual shrapnel injuries. The fact that he was awake was a good sign, I thought, even though his breathing seemed tad bit labored. He had some shoulder and neck injuries. Nothing too serious, I hoped, even if Frank had a walk all over his body. In his boots, I feared!
"Lemme see his pre-op X-Rays while Maj.Woods, you tell me how I can help you?" X-Ray seemed fine but with neck and shoulder injuries...And between shrapnel and Frank's ten thumbs...I leaned forward to examine his chest.
"Dr.! My chest hurts when I breathe. And it keeps getting worse. Nurse gave me some pain killer but it did not do me a lot of good."
"Maj., now that you will start moving, it is going to hurt some. Nothing to worry about if pain is bearable, alright?How is your breathing?" I wondered if he had noticed that he was breathing faster.
"I told you it hurts when I breathe." Wow, was it just me or people really liked sniping at me?
"Is there anything else?" I wondered if he had noticed if his breathing was labored. Apparently not.
"No. Nothing else. Not yet anyway." That was right. Frank was not a stud to begin with. With Margaret's engagement, he was getting worse, if that was possible. Problem was not so much his skill. He was alright for a meatball surgeon. It was his 'could not care less' attitude that landed his patients in a ditch more often than we liked. I made a mental note of checking out all of Frank's patients after I took care of this one. He probably had a pneumothorax. What caused it was anybody's guess.
"Nurse, I want another chest film for this patient. And then, I want you to set up a thoracostomy tray. Send me the wet film, right off the press.And when did he have his last shot of morphine? If its over two hours, give him another. I will be in post-op! Alright Major, I need a chest X-Ray to make sure but I think you will need a minor procedure and a tube in your chest for next few days. Lt.Baker here will give you some morphine to help with the pain. You rest!"
Post op was calm. I checked on Frank's patients and Hendricks. They all seemed fine. I was tired now. No, past tired. I was dead! Still four hours before I get off this shift. I had a few choices. First was to write a letter to dad. I had not yet replied to his last one and the sooner I wrote him, the sooner he would get it and answer it and I would have my next mail call all that earlier. But, thinking about what I had been thinking all day, I postponed this idea. I had no idea what I would write and was pretty sure I won't remember what I wrote. Writing dad was becoming a rather hard exercise lately. Most of the times, I just blurted out everything that was on my mind. Well, almost everything! But ever since they sent the news of my death to him without confirming it first, I saw a change in his letters. The same details that may have amused him earlier now worried him. I could not joke about the same stuff I used to anymore.
It had been a long time since I had seen him and in my memory, I did not see him as the old guy he had turned into. He was still DAD, mostly. The guy who fixed my problems. Was I really acting childish? Sidney would have something to say about this, if I asked him. I wasn't going to! I realized the way I was unloading on my father. And it was affecting him. I could not remain a kid when it came to him. But worrying about him did not get me anywhere either. So now, my letters were not as open as they used to be. We were both playing the same game. Worrying while not letting other know why. The only difference was, if I shut my mouth about trivia, he wouldn't be as worried as he got otherwise. So all I had to do was, 'think before you write'. That couldn't be too hard, right?
That reminded me of two current problems I was facing. One was BJ's awkward behavior. I was pretty sure it was something rather trivial from home. But there was always a possibility that it was something more serious. In all honesty, despite my current dismissal of his possible dilemma, when it came to BJ, nothing was insignificant.He was too important to me to dismiss anything that worried him. And we simply haven't had any chance to talk. I knew he wouldn't talk till I badger him to death. He had post-op tonight, and I was in no shape to badger anyone. That did not stop me from worrying though.
The other problem was Col.Potter. I knew he was bluffing. He loved me too much to do this to me. That meant it was a smoke screen. But for what? And to appease whom? Frank? Margaret? Had they or either of them launched yet another paper chain-lasso to bring me down? Margaret had grown a little over last few months but Frank? I never thought it was possible but he WAS deteriorating. Margaret did not help his situation either. But for them both to take it out on one Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce was just not what the doctor ordered. It had to be Frank. Margaret loved me, I knew it. Not lovey-dovey love. But I am irresistible. Nobody can help loving me!
"Cap'n Pierce?", somebody called my name. I did not know the face.
"Lt.Baker sent this for you!" It was a chest film.
"Aha! I was right. Frank Burns strikes again!" I said as I got up from the chair.
"What should I tell the Lt., Captain?"
"Tell her her knight in shining armor...Uhhh, never mind!I am going there myself and will give her my message in person. Dismissed!"
I was in the O-Club in less than a minute. During day time, it seemed sombre and almost modest.
"Hawkeye, should I call Maj.Burns? He threw a tant...He really yelled and was so angry last time you fixed up one of his patients. He ordered me to wake him for his patients next time."
"He was drunk at that time. On his Shirley Temples. He is a Walking Medical Malpractice in Army drag even when fully rested and sober. Do you really want him here after this session? Or do you not like this major patient? He does have a way with people, I must say." I wondered if the major had been snide towards Baker too. He sure did not try to make friends with me last I was here. Maybe this time is different, seeing I hold the scalpel in my hand?
"NO Hawkeye!" Baker laughed.That was the first laugh I had elicited that day. It felt good, especially when I was not even trying to be funny.
"Alright then. Lets set him right. Hello Major...Your chest pain is due to a small damage to your right lung.I just got it confirmed through your chest film. You will need a chest tube for now and hopefully,the damaged lung will heal in a few days time and we can take out the tube."
"What do you mean a small damage? How bad is it, really?And how do you know it will seal itself?" Questions were not so bad but the tone was bordering on menacing.
"I know cz its my job to know. Now lie back down so I place the tube nice and easy and get going. If you need detailed answers, I have to refer you to Major Burns, your surgeon of record! He will be here to see you when he wakes up."
"Wakes up? How can he be sleeping when one of his patients might need another surgery because of the poor job he did in the first place? And he is a major? And you, a captain? What if you mess up? Who fixes me then? A corporal?" The man was livid. And the effect was contagious.
"Listen, Major! I don't have the time or energy to explain all this. You can take up with Col.Potter or God, whichever suits your requirement for seniority. Now lie back down and let me do my job. And keep your voice down. Other patients don't know about our collective incompetence and I prefer to keep it that way. Nurse, position the major and get me some alcohol to sterilize my hands."
A few more hours, kid! And then you can sleep.
Once the air column started moving right, and I could hear his lung all over his chest, I left my present company. I had enough of this crap for the day. But the day was not over yet.
I had yet to go see Col.Potter.
To be continued...