Chapter 13 - Where There's a Will There's Warmth
"Klinger, do you have any idea what this is about," asked BJ opening a note that the other man had just delivered. It was from Hawkeye, inviting him to the swamp that night for a meeting. This was odd since BJ already lived in the swamp. The note read:
"You are cordially invited to
Spend an evening with
Benjamin Franklin Pierce
In the Still of the Night
At 7 o'clock PM
In the Swamp"
Klinger replied, "I got one, too and so did the colonel, Major Houlihan, Father Mulcahy and Major Winchester. Isn't this strangely familiar? It's like the time that the colonel had us to his tent to say farewell to his old friend. Captain Pierce hasn't lost someone has he?"
"Not that I know of," replied BJ. "He isn't sick or I think I would know. I guess we'll just have to find out in a couple of hours."
"Pierce, this better not be one of your bone-headed practical jokes," said Colonel Potter. "I can tell you right now I'm not in the mood for it."
"Not to worry," replied Hawkeye. "I assure you this is totally on the up and up. In fact I borrowed the idea for this little party from you."
Everyone found a place to sit. Margaret noticed that the tent seemed neat for a change. That was odd for Hawkeye and BJ. She'd often wondered if BJ was as much of a slob at home as he was here. If so she wondered how Peg put up with it.
Hawkeye saw Margaret looking around and said, "Yes, Major, I did do some housecleaning this afternoon. Let it not be said that Hawkeye Pierce is a total slob, only a partial slob."
He pulled an envelope and a folded piece of paper out of his footlocker. He said, "A patient in Post Op yesterday afternoon reminded me of how often we live with people and never tell them how much they mean to us. I know I said some things at Millie's memorial but there's more I want you to know. Before you is my last will and testament." He looked around at the astonished faces. "No I'm not dying that I know of but we might be going home soon and I didn't want to leave without sharing these things. This will's not legally binding. I wrote it a few months back when I went to the aid station. We were being shelled with some pretty heavy artillery and I was scared that I was going to that great OR in the sky."
Hawkeye proceeded with great flourish:
"I, Benjamin Franklin Pierce, being of sound mind and endangered body, hereby decree this to be my last will and testament.
I bequeath my father all my worldly possessions, with the exception of the following. To Charles Emerson Winchester the Third..."
Charles looked at Hawkeye with a bit of surprise. Hawkeye's eyes twinkled as he grinned at the other doctor and continued,
"During the dark days of the war you made yourself available. You've been the victim of a ceaseless stream of dumb jokes. Though we may have wounded your pride, you've never lost your dignity. I therefore bequeath to you the most dignified thing I own: my bathrobe. Purple is the color of royalty."
A giggle went around the room. The idea of Charles wearing Hawkeye's ratty old bathrobe was an amusing picture. Charles grinned, remembering a few of the jokes that his roommates had pulled on him. He had held his own in retaliation, he thought with great satisfaction.
"Thank you, Pierce. You can wear it for me as long as you're alive.
"To Father Francis Mulcahy, I leave five cents. You're a man of God and I know worldly possessions mean little to you, Father. So I leave you a nickel, along with something I value more highly than anything I own, my everlasting respect."
The priest smiled and said, "Thank you, my son. Hearing you say that means a lot to me."
"To you, Margaret, I leave my treasured Groucho nose and glasses. Maybe it'll remind you of how much I enjoyed that silly side that you show all too infrequently."
"Silly side? Me?" giggled Margaret. "Hand me those glasses." Margaret put on the glasses and said, "What d'ya think?" She took Colonel Potter's cigar, and said, "That's da most ridiculous thing I evah hoid!"
"That's exactly the kind of thing I mean," laughed Pierce. It took a few minutes for their laughter to die down. She removed the toy from her face and grinned.
"To Sherman Potter. You always knew what to say, but what not to say. My dad's a lot like that. It makes me miss him a little less knowing that you're around. My dad called me Hawkeye after the Character in The Last of the Mohicans. It's his favorite book. I'd like you to have the copy he gave me."
Hawkeye handed the colonel the book. "I know I'm not dead, Colonel, but I really want you to have it. I don't think Dad will mind."
Colonel Potter took out his handkerchief and blew his nose. He held the book reverently, knowing how much Hawkeye's dad meant to him, "Thank you, Hawkeye, I will always treasure this."
To Maxwell Q. Klinger You may be one of the all time scroungers, but when it comes right down to it you'll give a friend the shirt off your back. So the least I can do is give you the shirt off mine. And not just any old shirt, but my beloved Hawaiian shirt. I hope you'll wear it even if someday it does go out of style."
"Here here!" said Margaret. "I hate that shirt!"
Hawkeye grinned at man from Toledo. "Sorry, Klinger...and Margaret. I'm not dead and so the shirt will remain in my possession. You may not know this, Max, but I know that you went to a lot of trouble to get that Life Magazine with the articles about Maine that you said someone had just 'dumped in your in-box'.
Klinger lowered his eyes and smiled, "Hey that's what friends...no family, is for, Hawkeye."
"That's the end of the will that I wrote. I couldn't think of what I wanted to leave you, Beej. And then I hit on the perfect thing to leave with you. I came back from the aid station and went through the files and looked up the names of every man you'd operated on."
He handed BJ the envelope and said, "There's a note inside to be given to Erin when she's older and can understand. I wanted her to know why her daddy missed the first few years of her life. I think she'll be proud of you, Beej. I know I'm proud to be your friend. You're the best friend I've ever had."
BJ stood and embraced Hawkeye.
Hawkeye started to pour gin from the still into glasses, "I would like to drink a toast to my 4077 family..."
Charles stopped him, saying, "That's all well and good, Pierce, but let's not drink a toast with that alcoholic swill, shall we? I have a bottle of 12 year old brandy that I've been saving for a special occasion. I think this evening qualifies."