Chapter 16 - Into the Depths
"Mind if I join you for a little belt? I'm sure you could probably use it, boys and girl." Colonel Potter said as he entered the Swamp. "I heard what happened. It's all over camp."
Hawkeye sat on his cot slowly sipping the product of the still and staring into space. Margaret sat beside him, not knowing what to say. BJ was filling his glass for a second time.
Potter looked at the blank expressions on the three people, took a drink from the still and said, "That's okay, no need for you to get up. I'll just help myself."
"I'm sorry, Colonel, the ride back from the beach was kind of rough," BJ apologized.
"So I heard," said the CO, glancing over at Margaret.
Hawkeye put his glass down and covered his face with his hands. The colonel walked over and put his hand on Pierce's shoulder. "Is there anything I can do to help, son?"
Hawkeye looked up at Colonel Potter and said, "You could pour me another drink."
"Why don't we all go over to the officer's club and have something that won't eat a hole in the gut? I'll buy the first round. Whaddya say, Pierce?"
"I'd rather be alone..."
"Hawkeye I don't think that's a good idea..." Margaret began.
"Please, Margaret....just leave me alone!!!! Get the hell out, all of you!" He was becoming increasingly agitated.
"Whoa there, son. We'll leave you be...but I really don't think it's a very good idea. If you need us, you know where to find us."
"Well, we've got a camp full of refugees now," said Colonel Potter. "In addition to the ones that came in on the bus we've got the poor people coming to us from Pusan , Uijongbu and all points in between. On top of that we've got Chinese POW's. The army didn't know what to do with them so they corralled them here. This is a MASH unit for crying out loud. And now this bus incident."
Margaret, Potter, Charles, BJ and Father Mulcahy sat around the bar in the officer's club. There wasn't much of a crowd tonight. A lot of the MASH staff were tired from the day at the beach and subsequent ordeal on the trip home.
"How's the baby's mother doing, Colonel?" asked Margaret.
"I spent some time with her when we got back," answered Father Mulcahy. "She's devastated of course. She didn't mean to kill the child, she only wanted to keep him quiet. It's so sad, she's lost two children and a husband to this war. She's with another Korean family now. I do hope she'll be all right."
"You know, Padre, I've heard a lot of stories of mothers sacrificing their crying infants for the safety of others. I've heard more than one of those stories coming out of Nazi occupied countries from the last war. Jewish women in hiding would smother their children to keep them from crying out and alerting the Gestapo of their whereabouts."
"There's a lot of cruelty in the world," sighed Father Mulcahy.
BJ winced at the thought. His thoughts were with his baby daughter at home. He couldn't imagine Peg ever doing such a thing to her. But this was a different place and different circumstances.
He was also worried about his bunkmate. He really didn't think he should be left alone. He hadn't seen Hawkeye drink like this in weeks.
"Well folks, I think I'm going to go back to the swamp and check on Hawkeye."
"I'll come with you, BJ," said Margaret.
"Does anyone hear that...it sounds like a jeep?" asked Charles. "It sounds very close to..."
Before Charles could finish his sentence a jeep came crashing through the back wall of the officer's club. Everyone ran for cover.
"Anyone hurt?" Colonel Potter called when the dust cleared. Satisfied that all in the room had escaped injury he ran over to see who the idiot was driving the jeep. A very drunk Hawkeye Pierce climbed out of the jeep, walked up to the bar and asked for a scotch and soda.
"Great Aunt Martha's bloomers, Pierce! What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I jus wanned a scosh and soda, kernel...Igor...fill er up...Oh Beej...I...could you..." before he could make a complete sentence Hawkeye passed out.
Colonel Potter looked at the wall of the officer's club, the jeep and at the man passed out on the floor in front of him.
"Why can't he take his anger out on something beside the officer's club," the colonel asked, looking up at the ceiling. "I'm getting too old for this. Hunnicutt, Winchester, do you think you can get this drunken yahoo back to the swamp?"
"So, Pierce, have you recovered from your little, ha, Sunday drive," asked Charles the next morning in the mess tent. "You seem to enjoy redecorating the officer's club."
"Beej, what's he talking about?" Hawkeye asked.
"You're kidding? Right Hawk?" asked BJ
BJ looked at Hawkeye and realized that he really didn't remember driving the jeep through the officer's club. Margaret and BJ exchanged worried glances.
Margaret said, "You were very drunk, so that would explain why you don't remember."
"Attention! Captain Pierce, please report to Colonel Potter's office ...on the double!!"
"Ah, yes, Dad," said Hawkeye with a strange smirk. "I'm being called...well tah tah everyone. When I'm calling yoooooouuuu, will your love be truuuuuuueee"
They could hear Hawkeye singing as he walked to the colonel's office. Charles, BJ and Margaret looked at each other, not knowing what to think or say.
"Sit down, Pierce. I've put up with a lot from you lately. I know you've been navigating through some rough waters lately. I understand that, but if you launch one more assault on the officer's club I'm going to have your keester! You got that?"
Hawkeye was confused. He didn't know what Colonel Potter was talking about. He hadn't been to the officer's club last night. At least he didn't remember. "Yes sir, perfectly clear, colonel. If you could just explain what everyone is talking about. First Charles, now you...you say I did something to the officer's club?"
Colonel Potter sensed that Hawkeye was telling the truth. As drunk as he was that wasn't a surprise. But Sherman was afraid there might be more to this than a simple case of getting loaded.
"You're dismissed, Pierce. And Hawkeye, if you need to talk, my door is always open."
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind," Hawkeye said as he left.
"Klinger!" called Potter. "Go get Margaret and BJ...post haste!"
"Yessir, Oh great Leader."
"Can the bushwah, Klinger...just go!"
"Yessir, going sir!"
Five minutes later, Klinger returned with the head nurse and the surgeon.
"BJ, Margaret, I just had a talk with Pierce. I chewed him out about the officer's club and he says he doesn't remember. I believe he's telling me the truth. He seems a little disoriented. I'd appreciate it if the two of you would keep an eye on him."
"Of course, Colonel," said Margaret.
"Not a problem, sir," said BJ.
"Row row row your boat, gently down the stream," sang Hawkeye the shower sprayed his face.
"Merrily merrily merrily life is but a dream," chimed in BJ.
"So Hawkeye, you really don't remember last night...the officer's club, the wall, none of it?"
"What is with everyone and the officer's club. I wish someone would tell me what's going on. Is this somebody's idea of a joke? Okay, I give up...what's the punch line? Tag! You're it! Ollee Ollee Oxen Free!"
"Hawk, you're raving. So tell me, do you remember coming home on the bus from the picnic?"
"Sure I do. I was sitting by Margaret. We were singing songs. I must have been really tired. I think I fell asleep because I don't remember anything after that. Come to think of it I don't remember anything until this morning. I must have been exhausted," he laughed. "It must have been from being in the hot sun all day."
"Attention all personnel: The peace talks are underway everyone! And to celebrate peace we have more war...incoming wounded!"
"Hawkeye, do you feel fit to operate this morning?"
"Sure, Beej, why wouldn't I?"
Beej smiled and said, "Oh...no reason. Let's go. It sounds like this could be long one."
As they were running for triage, BJ caught up to Margaret and pulled her aside. She could tell that something was terribly wrong.
"Margaret, he doesn't remember anything...the bus...the baby...the officer's club. He thinks he went to sleep on the bus."
"Is he fit to operate?"
"I hope so...but we'd better keep a close watch on him."
"Chest wound...looks bad, let's get started," said Hawkeye. "Margaret, scalpel."
Margaret stared at Hawkeye. She was suddenly paralyzed with fear.
"Margaret, what are you waiting for? What's the matter with you? Give me the damned scalpel!"
"B'but , Doctor...."
Colonel Potter looked up from his patient, "What is it, Pierce?"
"I don't know, you'll have to ask your head nurse. She doesn't seem to be able to do her job."
Margaret finally was able to speak, "You can't operate on him like that! He hasn't been put under. Baker, get him under, stat!"
Nurse Baker put the mask over the soldier's face. Hawkeye yelled out "No! You're smothering him! You'll kill him! Stop! He can't breathe!"
Hawkeye knocked the mask out of her hands and put his arm around her neck and held her hands with his other hand. Baker screamed, surprised by the attack.
"I can't let you do this, Nurse Baker!" cried Hawkeye. "You'll hate yourself for the rest of you life."
"Pierce," yelled Potter. "What's this flub dubbery you're spouting?" Seeing that Hawkeye was truly terrified that Baker was smothering the patient he called out, "Klinger! Father Mulcahy! Corral that wild stallion now! Take him to Post Op. Margaret, you go with them and make sure he is heavily sedated. Tie him down if you have to. Klinger when you're done there, get Sidney Freedman on the horn! Tell him we have an emergency!
"Sorry Pierce," said Potter, "I have to take you out of the game."
"Nooooo! You can't put that over him...he'll smother..." Hawkeye was hysterical by now. Klinger took one of the captain's arms and the priest took the other.
"Please, my son, it's okay...Nurse Baker knows what she's doing...she won't hurt the boy...I promise..." Father Mulcahy spoke as calmly as he could.
The priest and the company clerk wrestled the surgeon to the bed closest to the door. It was no easy task, Hawkeye wasn't a small man and in his present condition he fought against everything they were doing. As soon as he was lying down two nurses tied his hands to the bed while Father Mulcahy and Klinger held his arms.
Margaret gave him a shot and he soon fell asleep. Her heart was breaking. This time it seemed that he might have descended to the depths and she was afraid he might not return.
She thought of last night before they left the beach. She unconsciously touched her lips, remembering the kiss they shared. She looked at him sleeping on the bed in front of her, sighed and returned to the OR.
"Bigelow, be sure to keep an eye on him."
"Uh huh. Sure, Sidney I understand. We want to do what's best for Hawkeye. Right. We'll see you early in the morning. We'll keep him out until then. Thanks."
Colonel Potter sadly hung up the phone. Charles, BJ and Margaret stood around his desk waiting to see what the verdict from Sidney would be. "Well, we're going to be one surgeon short around here for a while. I know this is going to put an extra burden on you, Hunnicuttt and Winchester. But it can't be helped. If it goes into extra innings I'll call I Corps and see if they can scrounge up a spare surgeon, but I wouldn't count on it.
Sidney says that he has a trauma induced amnesia which indicates how deeply this tragedy has affected him. The fact that he's becoming combative says that he needs a safe place to work things out. That's safe for him and safe for us."
BJ asked, "Does Sidney have any idea how long this might take?"
"There's no telling, BJ. It's really up to Hawkeye. Sidney will be here in the early A M with an ambulance. He wants to keep Pierce completely out cold until he gets him the hospital. Margaret, it might be a good idea to start an IV so the man doesn't dehydrate. If this is too hard for you, Major, it's okay to assign this duty to another nurse."
Margaret was softly sobbing while BJ held an arm around her shoulder. "No, that's okay, Sir, I'll do it. I'm tough..." she sniffed hard.
Colonel Potter handed her a clean handkerchief. "Here, Major, blow a little of that 'toughness' into one of these."