Chapter 22 - The Beginning
"Dad, did you hear a knock at the door?"
Hawkeye and his dad were reading in Daniel's study. It was the beginning of October and there was enough of a chill in the air to warrant lighting a fire.
"I think I did," said Daniel, looking up from his book. "Why don't you go see, Ben?"
Hawkeye sighed, "That requires moving." He was stretched out on the leather couch in front of the fireplace. He was about two nods away from a nap.
Hawkeye opened the door and smiled to see a large bald man wearing an obviously expensive coat.
"Why Charles! I never expected to see you on my doorstep. What brings the Head of Thoracic Surgery of Boston Mercy to our humble abode?"
"Pierce. May I come in?"
"Of course. I mean, please come in! Mi casa es su casa. Welcome! I'm speechless."
"So would you like to come into the study? Dad and I have a fire going."
"Actually...Hawkeye...I'd like to talk to you alone."
Hawkeye's smile faded as he saw that something was deeply troubling the other man.
"Sure, Charles. We can go for a walk, if you'd like. I'm partial to the beach."
Seeing that Hawkeye wasn't coming back to the study, Daniel decided to go into the front room to see who had been knocking at the door.
"Dad, may I introduce to you, Charles Emerson Winchester the Third, formerly Major Winchester of the 4077 MASH. He is currently the Head of Thoracic Surgery at Boston Mercy in Boston, Mass."
"Pleased to meet you," said Daniel extending his hand. "Ben's told me a lot about you."
"Yes, no doubt he has," said Charles taking the other man's hand. "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, Dr. Pierce. Hawkeye has told me a lot about you as well."
Hawkeye took his coat out of the closet and said, "Dad, Charles and I are going for a walk. We'll be back in a little while."
They walked in silence for a while.
Charles broke the silence, "Pierce, this is really a lovely place. I had no idea."
Hawkeye grinned, "Why Charles that sounded dangerously like a compliment."
"Of course. That's how I meant it," he paused for a moment and then said. "I really need someone to talk to."
"Sure Charles, what's the matter."
"I've had a difficult time making the transition from Korea. I've moved out of my parent's home."
"Charles! You've left mummy and daddy? You've run away from home?"
"Pierce, please! This is hard enough."
Seeing that he'd gone too far, Hawkeye said, "I'm sorry, Charles. That was out of line. Old habits die hard. I'm ready to listen."
"I can't seem to get those Chinese soldiers, they weren't even soldiers, out of my mind. We saw so much horror. And you were there longer than I....I think I will forever see those faces." There were tears in his eyes as he remembered.
"I left my parent's home because I couldn't stand my father's controlling. I wasn't back home an hour when my parents had scheduled social activities for a month...the symphony....dinners. They were even in the process of planning a ball with the cream of Boston society."
"Why Charles, I would think..." he saw the pain in the other man's face and stopped himself from making a wise crack. "For me it was a welcome home picnic. It seemed like a good idea at the time I guess."
"Yes. I know what you mean. It's...what I mean is...after what I've seen and where I've been...I never thought I'd hear myself say this...I can't stand the shallow attitudes of Boston society. But at the same time it's all I've ever known until being sent to that upholstered cesspool. Now I'm not really sure where I fit.
The second night I was home I got drunk at dinner and told my father off. I've since found an apartment. I think it's time I start supporting myself without Mother and Father's help."
"Charles, why are you telling me this?" asked Hawkeye
"You're the closest thing I've ever had to a friend....Hawkeye."
"Boston isn't far from here, Charles. Let's keep in touch."
"Thank you, I'd like that," smiled Charles.
"Come on up to the house. We're just having sandwiches for supper, but you're welcome to join us."
The two men embraced. Charles pulled a bottle out of his coat pocket. "How about some Cognac for dessert?"
Hawkeye picked up the ringing phone. "Hi Ben, this Mary Jo, your friendly neighborhood switchboard operator. You have a long distance phone call from Boston, you want me to patch it through?"
"Sure, Mary Jo, thanks. Did he say who's calling?"
"Somebody named Dr. Freed...something...I couldn't hear him very well. I'll patch him through."
"Hello, is this the home of Hawkeye Pierce, formerly of Korea?" asked the voice on the phone.
At once Hawkeye recognized the voice on the other end of the line immediately. "Hey! Sidney! To what do I owe the honor of this call?"
"Actually Hawkeye, I've been in Boston this week for a psychiatric convention. Since Crabapple Cove is close I thought you might like some company for the weekend, that is if you don't mind my inviting myself."
Hawkeye smiled, "That would be great...sure...come on up. We'll make you feel right at home. You'll love it up here...Autumn in Maine is incredible. We could even get a poker game going with some of the guys around here. It's a little calmer here than the 4077 was."
"I'm looking forward to finally seeing the famous Crabapple Cove. I'm really looking forward to not staying in a hotel. Okay, Hawk, I'd better get off the phone here before I have to deposit more money in this phone, besides there are a few more boring lectures to sit through. See you Friday night, if that's okay."
Hawkeye smiled wide and said, "It will be great to see you again, Sidney."
Sidney got out of the cab, took his suitcase, tipped the driver and looked around. The cab driver smiled and drove off. No wonder Pierce had been so homesick. This place really does look like it came out of a Norman Rockwell painting. He marveled at the expanse of blue sky.
He looked at the large house in front of him. It was impressive. It was a two story, frame house, complete with bay windows and turrets. There was a huge yard around the house and all around the trees were ablaze with red and gold. It looked like an idyllic place to grow up in. Sidney could see that Hawkeye's descriptions had been accurate.
The front door flew open and a familiar figure ran up the sidewalk. There was Hawkeye in his ubiquitous Hawaiian shirt. The two men embraced in a big bear hug.
"Sidney, it's great to see you!"
"You're looking pretty good yourself."
"Come in and meet my dad. He just got home from work and he's looking forward to meeting you. Oh and Sidney, he knows all about Owens and the baby on the bus. No one else around here does. So when we play poker tomorrow night with some of the guys from around here..."
"I understand completely. My lips are sealed."
"That will make for some interesting conversation," said Hawkeye and Sidney laughed out loud.
"I see you haven't changed, Pierce."
"Yes, I have. I've become a stanch civilian, dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of beer and a lawn chair."
"That's quite a breeze you've got going on here, Hawkeye."
"Yes it comes off the ocean."
"Ben," said Daniel from the doorway. "Let Dr. Freedman come in before he freezes his tukhus off!"
"It's been a great weekend, Hawkeye. I'm going to hate to leave here tomorrow. It was interesting meeting Toby Wilder and Dick Barber. I only knew them from those nightmares you had, remember?"
"How could I forget? But I'm happy to say that neither Dick nor Toby have been bombed here in Maine. Hmm...let me rephrase that...they haven't been bombed by artillery. I've seen both of them pretty bombed." Hawkeye and Sidney laughed.
The two men sat in Daniel's study in front of the fireplace. The crackling fire was soothing. There was a bite in the air. Hawkeye thought it might snow soon.
"Have you heard from BJ?" asked Sidney.
"Yes, actually, he's been pretty true to his word about keeping in touch. We take turns calling each other. Peg just found out she's pregnant again. They're expecting the next little Hunnicuttt in May. BJ is beside himself. I'm really happy for him."
"Has he gone back to work, yet?"
"Yes, he's started working as a surgeon in a nice big San Francisco hospital. He said it's nice to have an operating room that's clean, bright and only has one table."
"What about you? Have you gone back to work yet?"
"I've been helping my dad a few days a week. But to be honest, Sidney, it's nearly as boring as Korea when there were no wounded."
"It's boring? Isn't that what you wanted? I thought you wanted to make Crabapple Cove say 'aaah.'"
"I'm finding that 'aaah' makes for some dull conversation. Actually, I have put in a couple of applications. There's a hospital with a new trauma center in Portland where I think I stand a good chance of getting a job. I think it's right up my alley after my experiences in Korea.
Three months ago I didn't think I'd ever want to work with trauma of any kind. I'm finding that I'm not my dad's kind of doctor. Listening to old ladies' complaints about their aches and pains and treating poison ivy seems so..."
"Yes, that's a good word, Sidney. I just feel like I can do more good by doing what I was trained for."
"You mean meatball surgery?"
Hawkeye laughed out loud, "Good one Sidney. You got me with that one. But I think you know what I mean."
"Yes, I do. Let me know if you need a reference."
"So tell me, Hawkeye, what else is going on?"
"Aha! I knew this wasn't just a social call. Sidney I'm in fine fettle! You can put your couch side manner away!"
"Humor me, Hawk. I can't seem to help myself. I just have the feeling that there's something you're not telling me."
Hawkeye sighed. Sidney would keep digging and he really did want to confide in someone. "I miss her."
"You miss who, Hawkeye?"
Hawkeye glared at the psychiatrist. "Who do you think?"
"Bingo. We talked that last night after the going away party in the mess tent. She seemed to have her whole future mapped out. It didn't sound like there was room for me. She's married to the army...what an interesting 'love' triangle that would make, wouldn't it? I wanted to tell her that I love her and wanted to hold onto her forever. I never thought I'd want to marry someone and settle down...least of all Hot Lips Houlihan!"
"So why didn't you tell her how you really felt?"
"I was terrified, Sidney. I didn't know if I was really stable..."
"I still have the nightmares and some anxiety, but it's not debilitating any more. Half of my dad's practice is made up of babies and small children. I think I've gotten past that hurdle."
"Hawkeye you sound like you have a severe case of sanity. As for Margaret, I don't know what to tell you. Do you have any idea where she might be?"
"No. I gave her my address and phone number but in three months I haven't heard a single word. I figure I was right, she's married to the army. She's probably already met some bird colonel that she's making beautiful cadence with...and Sidney...thanks for coming all this way to check up on me."
"My couch is your couch."
It was an early November morning in Crabapple Cove. It was now four months since he'd left Korea. Hawkeye stood on the rocky beach watching the sun come up over the ocean. No matter how down he was feeling, the site of the blazing colors on the water and the ocean breeze seemed to be just what he needed to lift his spirits.
It was a cold morning for a walk on the beach. It hadn't snowed yet but he could feel it in the air. He was certain there would be a heavy blanket of white on the little town by nightfall.
Tomorrow he would start his new job at the trauma center in Portland. He was apprehensive and excited at the same time. He knew that working in a trauma center had the potential to trigger old memories and nightmares. But that was a chance he'd have to take. It wasn't as if the nightmares had stopped, they were just more manageable.
He and Charles were becoming good friends, war had indeed made strange bedfellows, chuckled Hawkeye to himself. Charles had met a nurse at the hospital who seemed to understand his quirky personality and liked him in spite of it. She also loved classical music. She was helping Charles rediscover his joy in music. He was able to tell her about the incidents with the Chinese musicians. She really was a perfect match for the high brow Bostonian.
It turns out that Nurse Louise Anderson had served as an army nurse in Korea for a short time three years ago and at the 4077th no less. She said she remembered Hawkeye but he hadn't been able to place her. Wait! He did remember her now.
"Aaah Bach!" he laughed out loud.
Occasionally he called and talked to Sidney when he needed reassurance. They planned to meet in New York in a couple of weeks to have lunch and talk.
Colonel Potter had called two nights ago. He was a stubborn old bird, thought Hawkeye. He's not going to lose track of anyone if he can help it. He probably knew where Margaret was. Hawkeye just couldn't bring himself to ask the question. He was afraid of what he might hear. He wasn't sure he could handle hearing that she had found some general to take care of her.
BJ had called last night. Peg was doing well. She'd finally stopped having morning sickness. Erin was growing and becoming more of a little girl than a toddler and was definitely a daddy's girl. Hawkeye smiled, knowing that BJ was wrapped around the child's tiny little finger.
A strong wind blew across the beach causing Hawkeye to shudder and pull his coat collar up around his ears. He looked out on the ocean; the sun was rising higher in the sky. He sniffed the sea air and thought he recognized a familiar scent that wasn't indigenous to Maine.
"Margaret?" he whispered. He turned his head to see a petite blonde with ice blue eyes. She had a pink coat wrapped around her. She shivered and smiled up at him. He stood still for a moment drinking in the sight of her. It felt as if BJ had been there and nailed his feet to the ground. He was afraid to move for fear that he might be having a hallucination.
"I served the army with divorce papers," she said.
"You...what? You mean...that you're not..."
"In the army? No. I resigned my commission. I think I've found something better."
Hawkeye held out his arms and Margaret ran to him...he held her close. He leaned over to kiss her and she met him halfway. It was a kiss that rivaled the kiss they'd shared before they left Korea. After a few moments Margaret pulled away and turned her head. She looked out at the ocean, still enveloped in Hawkeye's arms. "It is the most magnificent sight on this earth" she said.