Chapter 15 - Sidetracked
"Stop the bus," said BJ. There was a small group refugees running up to the bus begging for a ride. The bus became a little more crowded with people. The refugees were all speaking at the same time in Korean. "Does anyone know what they're saying?" asked BJ
One of the South Korean soldiers who were with them volunteered to translate. "They say that Chinese soldiers move this way...lot of sniper fire. One girl lose her mother. They ask can we take them to place of safety."
"Sure," said Hawkeye, " the more the merrier!"
"Look at the baby, Hawkeye! Isn't he precious?" said Margaret. One of the refugees sitting in the back seat had a young baby boy on her lap. The nurses gathered around the woman and child, oo-ing and ah-ing.
"Never fails," said Hawkeye. "Get a group of perfectly normal adults around a baby and they all start acting like blithering idiots." He bent over the baby and said, "Coochie coochie coo! See what I mean?" He said to Margaret who just smiled and slapped his arm.
They were farther along on the journey back to camp when the bus stopped again. This time they encountered wounded soldiers. Does it ever end, thought Hawkeye. There were two wounded GI's. The seating arrangement changed a second time. The two injured men were moved toward the back of the bus where they could stretch out after a fashion. Hawkeye tended to one and BJ to the other.
"We've got to get them back to the 4077 in a hurry," observed Hawkeye. "Pass that bottle of plasma back here," he called out. "It's going to be hard to get this one stable under these conditions."
"This one has superficial wounds, he'll be okay," said BJ. "Whenever we get a break, the war always intrudes."
"It's a very rude war," said Hawkeye sarcastically.
As if sensing the tension, the baby started crying. His mother rocked him but he only seemed to cry harder.
Hawkeye turned from his patient and said, "It's okay, little fella, we'll have you somewhere safe soon. Listen to those lungs, Beej, he almost sounds like a squawking chicken, doesn't he."
The child was soon quieted by his mother as she nursed him. He fell asleep.
BJ thought that there was nothing as peaceful as the sight of a sleeping baby. His thoughts traveled to his beloved Erin. He missed her so much.
The bus stopped one more time. This time an MP stepped on and said, "I'm sorry to have to stop you but there are enemy patrols out there. We have to be very quiet or it could be bad news.
The tension mounted in the crowded bus and it seemed that everyone collectively held their breath.
Margaret glanced back at Hawkeye and he returned her gaze. He wanted to take her in his arms and help her feel safe. At least there wasn't any shelling right now. He knew how much she hated loud noises.
For Hawkeye, the silence became oppressive. The walls of the bus seemed to be closing in on him. He broke out in a cold sweat.
Margaret saw the look in Hawkeye's eyes and remembered that look from the time the 4077 took refuge in a nearby cave. His claustrophobia was taking over but this time he didn't have the option of sitting outside the door.
"Hawk? You okay?" BJ noticed that Hawkeye's breathing seemed rapid and shallow.
A whimper from the back of the bus became a cry. The baby had awakened from his short nap and began to cry. His mother tried to rock him but it only seemed to make the baby's crying worse. She looked around in fear.
The baby's crying echoed in Hawkeye's head. He was afraid that the baby's crying would get them all killed. Looks of terror were exchanged between others on the bus.
Hawkeye couldn't stand it any longer. He took a step toward the woman and child and snarled in a stage whisper, "Keep that damn kid quiet!"
The woman placed her hand over the baby's nose and mouth to quiet him. After a few tense moments the baby grew very still...unnaturally still. Hawkeye watched in horror as the baby's head fell back and revealed an expressionless face.
It seemed to Hawkeye that the world had just tilted on its axis. He stared in disbelief as the woman looked at him, the grief slowly taking over her features.
Shockwaves ran through everyone in the bus at what they had just witnessed.
Hawkeye staggered to the seat beside Margaret, his face ashen. The look on his face sent a wave of chills down her spine. His lips were white and he stared into space.
"She killed her baby, Margaret," he said in incredulously. "She killed her baby because of me.
The soldier who had stopped the bus now gave the all clear.
"Sorry to have interrupted your trip, folks. Have a nice evening." He was obviously unaware of the tragedy that had just played out in the back of the bus.
"She killed her own baby?" asked Colonel Potter.
"Yes," said Margaret. "I'm worried about Hawkeye. I don't think he's spoken a handful of words since it happened.
"Thanks for telling me, Margaret. I'll see what I can do. I'll give Sid Freedman a call. I'm sure this will be a tough one, especially since it's coming on the heels of the Owens' boy's death."