Chapter 20 - The End of Things as We've Known Them
"Good job in surgery today, Hawk," said BJ, raising his glass of gin.
Hawkeye smiled, "I think I'm going to make it after all, Beej.
"I never doubted it for a moment," lied BJ.
Hawkeye's expression told him that he'd been caught in a lie. BJ shrugged his shoulders, "I'm glad you're back, Hawk."
"Yeah, we're both back in time to say, 'goodbye.'"
BJ said, "We'll see each other in the states."
"But not every day, Beej. We'll practically be a continent apart. Why can't you just say, 'goodbye?'"
"So have you talked to Margaret?" BJ changed the subject.
"You know what about. It's obvious, Hawk. You're in love with her and I'm betting she's in love with you."
"Beej, she's got her plans made. She's married to the army. I don't want to be involved in a triangle. Besides, I haven't proven to be too stable myself lately ..."
"Hawkeye those were extraordinary conditions."
"I don't see a future for us..."
"Have you asked her how she feels?"
I guess by now you've heard the good news! Peace has finally been officially declared. We were in the OR with the radio on when the cease fire happened. It kind of gave me chills down to my skivvies when the firing stopped and we heard the silence.
I can't say that I'm going to miss standing on my feet for hours on end operating on children...and these boys are looking younger and younger all the time. I guess it's a good thing that this old sawbones is hanging up his scalpel. I think after three wars I've had enough blood and guts.
I'm looking forward to sitting on the front porch, watching the sun go down, with my best gal sitting beside me.
I am going to miss these young folks that I've been associated with. They're the best damned people I've ever scrubbed with, and that's saying a lot coming from this old war horse.
You asked me about Hawkeye. He's doing a lot better. He's been back in surgery and has been doing his usual bang up job. Maybe 'bang up' is the wrong choice of words...but you know what I mean. But back to Hawkeye, he had me pretty worried there for a few weeks. I've been worried for some time that he'd one day implode. He's not a soldier, that's for darn tootin! He won't even touch a gun...says he'll bind their wounds but he won't inflict them. He's a pistol ...ha ha. He's always taken it pretty hard when a patient dies on him. I hope he'll be okay once he gets back to the states. I don't know if he's prepared for the adjustment period. He's a good man and a better doctor
We'll be tearing down the camp tomorrow. The orphanage is going to take Sophie. I hate to see her end up as a plow horse. I hope the kids will ride her once in a while. I'm sorry you won't be able to meet her, Mother. She's one of the best horses I've ever known.
We had a party tonight...a last family gathering. We all shared what we're going to do now that this 'police action' is finally over.
Hawkeye says he's going to take time to get to know his patients better (which I never thought he had trouble doing) and 'make Crabapple Cove say 'aaah.'' Somehow I don't see him lasting long as a 'country doctor.' I may be wrong but I think he's too good a surgeon to waste his talents in general medicine.
Margaret Houlihan said she's decided to go to a big city hospital in the states. For a while she was trying to decide between a post in Belgium and one in Japan. Her father was trying to arrange things for her. It appears she told her daddy, Howitzer Al, thanks but no thanks and will plan her own future. You'd like her, dear. She's a high-spirited lady...kind of reminds me of the young lady I married.
Actually, on the subject of marriage, I think Margaret would exchange her title of "Major" for "Missus" in a heartbeat if a certain Captain Pierce would declare his feelings. But you know me, I don't like to interfere. I leave that to your sister, Porcia...haha.
Speaking of Porcia, how's her lumbago? I know she suffers so with it. Poor woman.
And still on the subject of "gittin' hitched," Klinger announced that he's going to tie the knot with Soon-Lee tomorrow before we strike the camp. She's the pretty little Korean girl I told you about that has taken up residence here at the old four oh double seven. It's been obvious for a while that she's really lassoed the heart of one Maxwell Q. Klinger.
Yours truly is giving away the bride! Sure wish you could be there, Mother. I know how you love to cry at weddings.
It's the darndest thing! Max told me later that Soon-Lee is going to wear the wedding dress that he wore to marry his first wife over the phone. Come to think of it, I think he loaned it to Margaret when she marred Donald Penobscott. I certainly hope that it brings better luck to the soon to be Mr. and Mrs. Klinger.
Stranger still, is the fact that Max is staying in Korea to help Soon-Lee find her family. I hope it's soon. There's been so much devastation in peoples' lives here...so many families separated. I'd like to see at least one happy ending.
Of course, BJ Hunnicuttt will finally get to go home to Mill Valley, California. Poor boy didn't make it home for his little girl's 2nd birthday...at least he can be there for the rest of them. As far as that goes, I won't be a bit surprised if they're welcoming another little Hunnicuttt by this time next year!
Lemme see...who haven't I mentioned? Oh yes, Charles Emerson Winchester the Third. The poor man has really gone through an ordeal over the past couple of weeks. He'd taken a group of Chinese prisoners under his wing. It turns out that they were musicians. Winchester was teaching them to play some of that high brow music he's so fond of. They weren't too bad. Well, they were relocated which broke Winchester's heart and then not too long after that we find out they'd all been killed. Damn war! Sorry Mother. I know how it upsets you when I swear but I get so mad sometimes.
Now Winchester says that music will be a reminder of a miserable experience. My heart goes out to him.
Also Winchester will be Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Boston Mercy. It's a position that he'd really wanted but when Major Houlihan pulled some strings with an influential friend of the family to get him the job, he nearly had her for lunch! Of course he's taking the job and he'll be darned good at it. He's one hell of surgeon and I think underneath all the pomposity, a good man.
Father Mulcahy said he's going to work with the deaf. I wonder what made him decide that? I would expect to find him working with orphans or teaching the boys in his parish to box. I don't know if I ever told you what a great left hook the man has. I'll miss that gentle man. He's one of the most decent human beings I've ever known.
Well, Mother, I guess it's time to bring this to a halt. I'll be busy packing tomorrow and I want to get this out on the last mail truck.
I've been thinking that maybe next year we can get the 4077 staff together for a big soirée at the Potter Homestead. By then everyone should be fairly settled into their civilian lives and would enjoy getting together for little barbecue. We'll have to give it some thought.
I did say I was bringing this to a halt didn't I? Well, Mother, you can tell everyone in Hannibal MO that Mrs. Potter's Mr. Potter will be home soon.
All my love,
"Why can't you just say it, Beej?" asked Hawkeye.
"Hawkeye, will you just stop it?" BJ said. He was avoiding goodbye as long as he could. As badly as he wanted to go home and be with Peg and Erin, he was dreading the moment he had say goodbye to Hawkeye, the best friend he'd ever had and partner for the past 2 years. But this time he wasn't going to leave without a note. He smiled inwardly. He had a plan.
Margaret, BJ and Hawkeye were leaving the mess tent after saying goodnight to everyone.
"What a nice party. I'm sure going to miss everyone," said Margaret.
"I think, when all is said and done, I will too," said Hawkeye.
"Oh yeah, Mr. 'I loved as many of you as I could'! I'll bet you'll miss the nurses. I'm not sure they're going to miss you!" exclaimed Margaret.
"Margaret, you cut me to the quick!" said Hawkeye.
BJ yawned loudly. "I think I'm going to turn in. Tomorrow's a big day. If you two will excuse me..."
"Good night, Beej. I'll see you in a minute," said Hawkeye.
"Would you care for a nightcap in my tent?" asked Margaret.
"Sure. Why not?"
"So Margaret," Hawkeye said, taking a chair in her tent. "You're off tomorrow to help get things in order at the 8063rd, then what?"
"I might spend a little time in Tokyo before going to the states. I have a lot of leave time coming. It might be fun to do some site seeing. I want to check my options as to what Army hospitals have openings and in what cities. What will you do when you get back to Crabapple Cove?"
"I don't know yet. I'll probably see if Dad needs help in his practice, but not right away. I'd like to possibly take some time and just enjoy being home. I miss walking along the beach every morning and watching the sunrise."
"I've never known you to be one to get up early in the morning," said Margaret, looking into his blue eyes intently.
"No, not here, but at home the early morning is the best time of day. It's quiet, except for the birds and waves lapping up onto the rocks. It's the best time of day to go fishing. And there's nothing like salt water fish. Yum!
Speaking of food, maybe I'll take a little trip to Chicago for a BBQ rib dinner at Adam's Rib. This time I won't forget the coleslaw," they both laughed remembering the time he'd gone through a lot of trouble to have ribs and sauce sent all the way from Chicago. He was just about to take a bite when they were interrupted by wounded. "But Margaret," wheezed Hawkeye as he tried to talk and laugh, "how would you remember the ribs, you weren't really around me much then."
"Small camp," she grinned.
Hawkeye sobered a bit and said, "I'm going to miss you, Margaret. You're like no one I've ever met. I would like to have spent more time with you..."
"We still could...you could come to Tokyo instead of going home right away and..."
"And then what? No, not like that, Margaret. I'm through with one night stands. But I can't compete with the army. "
"Compete with the army? What are you talking about, Hawkeye?"
"You've got your life mapped out and it doesn't sound like it could include a civilian doctor like me. I never was a soldier and I will never be a soldier. Your husband is the army. It's your life. Your career. I respect that and I can't ask you to give that up."
Ask me, dammit, thought Margaret. I don't want to live my life alone. She put her arms around Hawkeye's neck and pulled him down so that their lips met. She always felt safe there in his arms. She didn't want the evening to end.
She wanted to tell him that she'd leave it all behind. She could make a life without the army. She wanted a home with children. She didn't feel that she could tell him. She didn't want to push him too hard. She'd made that mistake before. She didn't want to let him go, either.
"Margaret," he whispered, "I-I don't know how stable I am. Who knows? I might turn out to be a wife beater. I don't really trust myself."
She kissed him again.
"Good night, Margaret."
"Good night, Hawkeye."
Hawkeye started to leave and then turned back, "Here's my Dad's address and phone number," he said, taking a slip of paper and a pen from his pocket. "Please keep in touch, I want to know what happens in your life."
I want to be your life, he thought inwardly but didn't feel that he had the right to say it.
BJ opened his eyes and watched Hawkeye come into the swamp. "Did you talk to her? Did you propose?"
"Good night, Beej."
"Do you Maxwell Q. Klinger, take Soon-Lee Han, as your lawful wedded wife, to love, honor and cherish in sickness and in health, to have and to hold from this day forward, as long as you both shall live?" asked Father Mulcahy.
"You bet I do!"
It was a lovely ceremony. Afterward tearful goodbyes were said and all over the camp tents were collapsed.
Colonel Potter had a lump in his throat as he watched. People were leaving left and right to scattered destinations. Charles was gracious in giving Margaret his place on the jeep going to the 8063rd.
Hawkeye was watching as Charles gave Margaret the book that he'd loaned her and then took back because it was 'part of a set.' She thanked him and then looked up to see Hawkeye standing a few feet away. He looked like a little lost boy standing there. She wanted to hold him and never let go.
He looked at her, knowing that this goodbye was forever. He'd never see her again. She'd find a colonel or general and they'd live happily ever after, collecting their pensions in their old age. He told himself that she'd be happier without him.
The two of them ran into each other's arms and kissed....and kissed. BJ thought it could possibly be the longest kiss on record. He thought he might try to break the record when he got home to Peg, though.
The two finished kissing and moved back to the places they'd been standing before.
"See ya," said Hawkeye.
"Yeah, see ya," said Margaret, got into the jeep and she was gone. Charles left on a garbage truck which he said was fitting for this place.
Colonel Potter prepared to mount Sophie for one last ride. BJ and Hawkeye stood in front of him. They said a tearful goodbye and then Hawkeye said, "Colonel we have a present for you. It's not much, but it's from the heart."
The two captains stood at attention and saluted the Colonel. Trying not to cry, he saluted back, mounted his horse and rode off.
BJ offered Hawkeye a ride to the Helicopter pad on his motorcycle. As they rode along BJ yelled over the motor, "You should go after her, Hawk. You'll regret it for the rest of your life!"
"Butt out, Beej!" Hawkeye yelled back.
They came to a stop at the top of the hill. The chopper was waiting to take him to Kimpo.
"Look Beej," said Hawkeye. "I gave her my dad's address and phone number. If she wants to keep in touch she will. I can't ask her to give up her army career. Remember how upset she was when that senator's aid was going to try and label her as a commie? She thought she was going to have to resign her commission. She was devastated. I can't do that to her."
"It's a different time, Hawk. Things have changed. She's changed. You've changed..."
"I've gone nuts a couple of times. The timing is all wrong." Hawkeye sighed.
Hawkeye paused, sighed again and began, "Look I know how hard it is for you to say goodbye, so I'll say it. Maybe you're right and we will see each other again, but in case we don't, I want you to know how much you've meant to me. I'll never be able to shake you. Whenever I see a pair of big feet or a cheesy moustache, I'll think of you.
"Whenever I smell month old socks, I'll think of you."
"Or the next time someone nails my feet to the floor," said Hawkeye, between laughter and tears.
"Or when somebody gives me a martini that tastes like lighter fluid."
"I'll miss you."
BJ said, "I'll miss you. I can't imagine what this place would have been like if I hadn't found you here." With that the two embraced. Hawkeye got into the chopper. BJ yelled, "I left you a note."
Hawkeye could hardly hear him over the chopper blades. He gave the pilot the thumbs up to leave. As the helicopter made its way over the deserted camp he saw the word "Goodbye" spelled out in rocks across the ground in huge letters.
"Goodbye Beej," he whispered softly. "Goodbye...Margaret."
Dr. Daniel Pierce had just gotten home from the clinic where he had his private practice. He was tired from the long day. He'd made a few house calls that day.
The Wilder twins had the measles and were giving their mother a run for her money. Those boys were a handful when they were well. Today they were just sick enough to be ornery. They didn't like the idea of being in a dark room without television. He'd tried to explain to them that you have to stay out of the light when you had the measles. It was hard enough to make one five year old understand...but multiply that by two identical twins and it became twice as hard. He chuckled to himself.
He remembered when Ben had come down with the measles. He couldn't have been more than seven. He'd had to know everything there was to know about the disease. He should have known then that the boy was destined to be a doctor like his old man.
The whole town was abuzz with the news of the end of the Korean Conflict. Everyone knew that Hawkeye Pierce would soon be coming home. Daniel hadn't told anyone about the problems that his son had had over there. He kept his letters about Corporal Owens and the baby on the bus incidents to himself. If Ben wanted to tell anyone about them it would be in his own time. Daniel knew that his son trusted him implicitly with his most intimate thoughts and he wasn't about to betray that trust.
Dr. Pierce heard a car drive up. The door opened and closed. It had to be! His son was finally home! He opened the door just in time to greet the younger man standing there.
Hawkeye dropped his bags and threw his arms around the older man. Both father and son cried, soaking each other's shoulders with their tears.
"Dad! I thought this day would never come!"