Chapter 6 - Confronting the Demon
Margaret had been standing by the door listening to the two surgeons when Colonel Potter made his way to the shower tent. He'd taken the clothes and towel in with him. Margaret removed her bloody surgical gown and stared at in horror. It had been nearly as saturated as Hawkeye's. She put her hand to her face, realizing that her appearance wasn't far removed from his. She was covered.
In her distress, Margaret held the once white gown to her as child would cuddle a teddy bear. She wondered where Radar's teddy bear might be, she could certainly use him right now. Her heart was beating so fast right now she felt as if her own chest would explode. She hoped that Colonel Potter could say something that might comfort Hawkeye. He looked on him as a second father. Hawkeye might listen to him, BJ certainly wasn't having much of an effect.
Were they losing their chief surgeon? She remembered the night that the replacement surgeon, Steve, had cracked up. She couldn't imagine the 4077 without Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce. He was the linchpin that held the unit together. If he went over the edge, what would happen to the unit? What would happen to her?
No! The feisty head nurse squared her shoulders. She wasn't going to cave in to such thoughts. She simply wouldn't allow it!
"Hawkeye, if I had the power that would end this stinking war, don't you think I'd do it?" Colonel Potter spoke gently to the younger man as he would to a spooked horse.
"Colonel Potter, I killed him. I sent that boy back to the front...twice!!!!"
"Mule fritters!" exclaimed the colonel. "Son, it's a war! Young men die in war, you can't change that. Listen to me, Hawkeye, there was nothing you could have done for Corporal Owens. He was a dead man before he ever reached your table. Unless you're God there's no way you could have foreseen that embolism. Last time I checked, you're not God."
Hawkeye's agitation seemed to be somewhat pacified. He leaned his head down on the wall in front of him. "You're right, Colonel. Beej, I'm sorry I yelled at you."
BJ moved to the next stall to clean the blood off of his own face and body. "It's all right, Hawk, I'd yell, too." BJ thought there was something strange about the way the other man calmed so quickly. Perhaps he was wrong. He hoped he was wrong. But something wasn't right.
"That's more like it," said the colonel with a smile. "Now why don't you boys finish cleaning up and then head over to the swamp for some shut-eye. You've been at it for nearly twenty four hours. Then in a few hours, when you're rested, meet me at the officer's club for a drink, my treat. Bring Winchester along, I think he could probably use a belt." He turned to leave then looked back, "Oh and, Hawkeye, BJ, that's an order."
"Yessir," said the two surgeons in unison. "Thank you, Colonel, sir!"
"You, too, Margaret," winked the colonel at his head nurse as he passed her on his way out. "You look bushed. I'd say you're next in line for the shower. See you at 1800 hours at the officer's club, Major."
Minutes later, BJ and a smiling Hawkeye emerged from the showers. The latter turned to Margaret and said, "Hey, Major Baby, you need a shower! You're a mess!"
Colonel Potter returned to his office. "Klinger put in a call to Sidney Freedman."
Klinger looked up from his desk. "Is Hawkeye...is..is he...?"
"No, Max, he hasn't gone loco, but I think he might need someone to talk to besides us."
Hawkeye had calmed when the colonel spoke to him. But there was something in his demeanor that caused Sherman to be skeptical. He wasn't convinced that Hawkeye had made it through the crisis.
Margaret closed her eyes and allowed the water to rain down over her, relaxing her tense shoulder muscles. It felt good to finally have a shower...the next stop would be her cot. It had been a long night...twice.
Seeing Hawkeye finally smile and even taunt her a bit was a relief. She silently prayed that he was really okay.
"Sidney, I haven't seen anything like it since the first world war. It hit him pretty hard...uh-huh...yes..horrible...simply awful. I think our chief surgeon could use someone with your expertise to talk to... Super! Thanks Sid! See you tomorrow around 1500. I owe you one."
Colonel Potter hung up the phone. Major Sidney Freedman, an army psychiatrist, seemed to have great rapport with Hawkeye. Hell, he'd come through for him a time or two as well. Sid was a great guy and Sherman hoped that this would help his chief surgeon through his crisis. The last thing he needed was for one of his surgeons to crack up. Surgeons were damn hard to come by out here. Good surgeons even harder. He'd been fortunate to have three top notch surgeons in Hunnicuttt, Pierce and Winchester...that's four counting himself, thought the colonel with a smile.
He looked at his watch, 1745, 5:45 in civilian lingo. It was time to head over to the officer's club to make good on his invitation.