Chapter 7 - The Storm after the Calm
Hawkeye stood on the beach watching a beautiful sunrise. He was back in Crabapple Cove. The waves lapped up on the shore and around his bare feet. He looked out at the water...the sun reflecting on the water was magnificent. He was ready to jump into the water for a swim when he saw a figure emerge from the gentle waves. He squinted to see who this person might be. The figure came toward him with hands extended. He called out to Hawkeye..."Doctor! Doctor! Save me, I c-can't breathe!" As he came closer Hawkeye recognized the young man with red hair. His lips were blue and he kept calling to Hawkeye that he couldn't breathe...suddenly his chest burst open spewing blood everywhere. Just as suddenly as he'd appeared the boy disappeared into the water. Hawkeye looked down at the water that covered his feet in horror. It wasn't water but blood...He cried out in anguish...
"Hawkeye! Hawkeye, wake up! You're having a bad dream." BJ sat beside him on his cot, shaking his shoulders.
Hawkeye blinked himself back to the reality of Korea and the Swamp. "Beej, he was there...in the water...the water was blood....Corporal Owens...." He was sweating profusely as he tried to verbalize the nightmare to his bunkmate.
"It was a dream, Hawk. You're in the Swamp, Corporal Owens is gone. It's okay."
"Okay? Do you think it's ever going to be 'okay?' This is one nightmare that will follow me the rest of my life...I kill..."
"You didn't kill him, Hawk. You've got to believe that," BJ said imploringly.
"Oh...what are you cretins yelling about now?" Charles called out, his face half submerged in his pillow. " Pleeeeaase, Have you no compassion for a dying man?"
"Time to wake up, Chuckles," said BJ. "We're due to meet the colonel and Margaret at the officer's club in about 15 minutes. "Good thing for us the place is in our neighborhood. I'll go save you guys a seat. You going to be okay, Hawk?"
"Yeah...sure...you go ahead. Tell Margaret to save a spot on her dance card for me." Hawkeye said as he rubbed his hands over his face. "God, what a nightmare!"
"I can wait for you if you want," said BJ.
"No! I'm fine...now go, will ya! I don't need a babysitter!"
BJ looked at him, not so convinced. He shook his head and made his way out the door.
"Ya know...Pierce...Hawkeye," Charles began. "There really wasn't anything you could have done for that unfortunate lad. As much as I hate to say it, you're a skilled surgeon, nearly as skilled as I...and I couldn't have saved him."
"Why, Charles, how charitable of you," said Hawkeye with more than a hint of sarcasm.
"Not at 'tall. I was merely stating the facts as I see them." said Charles, ignoring Pierce's sarcasm. He understood that anger was a normal reaction to what the other doctor had been through.
Charles had come to see Pierce as more of a friend. For him the turning point had come when Hawkeye had found out that his father was having a delicate operation and hadn't informed his son prior to the event. Hawkeye had been in distress and Charles, of all people, was the one to stand by him. War did indeed make for strange bedfellows.
"Well, Charlie, shall we go join the others? I'd hate to miss the opportunity for free booze." Hawkeye said.
"He woke up screaming from what must've been one helluva nightmare," BJ said to Colonel Potter and Margaret. The three of them were sitting at the bar while Klinger served. He was acting bartender this evening. "He's convinced that he's responsible for killing that boy."
"I put in a call to Sid Freedman...he'll be here tomorrow at 1500 hours," said the colonel.
"How do you think he'll react to that," BJ asked.
"I don't know...I honestly don't know. Your guess is as good as mine, Hunnicuttt."
Charles and Hawkeye entered the room. The colonel leaned over to BJ, put his finger to his lips and whispered, "Time to change the subject."
"Well, I see the party has started without us!" said Hawkeye loudly. "You weren't discussing anything in particular were you?"
"Of course not, Pierce," said Margaret smiling broadly, perhaps too broadly she thought. She had a way of being unnatural when she was trying to act natural. She knew Hawkeye could see right through her. "Come, sit down, I saved you a seat."
"Uh huh," Hawkeye replied with a smirk.
Conversation continued as they drank the night away. It was obvious to Hawkeye that there was an unnatural air to the evening. He felt guilty because he knew that he was taking his anger out on his friends with sarcasm. He didn't want them to feel uncomfortable around him. But he was uncomfortable, he was filled with guilt over Corporal Owens' death. With each pang of guilt, Hawkeye downed another shot.
"Hawkeye, how about a dance with me," Margaret urged, hoping it would ease some tension.
"You want to dance with a killer, Margaret?"
"No I don't. I want to dance with you, one of the most gifted surgeons I've ever worked with."
"And you've...um...'worked' with quite a few, haven't you?" Hawkeye wished he could swallow his tongue at that moment. "Margaret, I-I..."
He never got the words out. She looked at him for a moment, hurt and tears welling up in her eyes. Before he could utter another word her hand came hard across his face. He staggered backward and fell over a chair. BJ and Charles leaned over to help him back to his feet.
Charles said, "We-helll, Romeo, I think you've had one too many...maybe it's time to go sleep it off before the little lady comes back and knocks it off."
BJ gave Charles a look that told him he was about to say too much.
The hour was getting late and the group left one by one until the only three left were BJ, Hawkeye and Klinger. BJ asked, "Hawk, I'm going to turn in...I think you should join me."
"Sorry, you're not my type."
"Suit yourself." And with that Hunnicuttt made his way back to the Swamp. "Good night, Klinger. Don't stay up too long, Hawk. I think you could use some sleep."
"Good night, Captain Hunnicuttt," said Klinger.
"Good night, Dad," sneered Hawkeye.
Klinger gave BJ a look that bordered on panic at being left with the drunk and volatile doctor. BJ responded to the look, "Hawk, I think Klinger would like to close down the bar."
Hawkeye's eyes flashed at BJ, "I don't really give a damn. Klinger another shot!"
"Captain, Don't you think maybe you've had enough."
"I said I want another drink...then I'll leave."
Klinger poured Hawkeye another drink. BJ headed for the swamp, hoping his friend wouldn't do something he was going to regret.
Hawkeye sipped from his glass of scotch quietly, his eyes on the bar in front of him. It seemed to him that no matter how much he had to drink he saw Howard Owens' panic stricken face.
Potter had said to him earlier, "Young men die in war...you can't change that." Where had he heard that before? Ah yes. He remembered. It was Henry Blake after Hawkeye lost his friend Tommy Gillis on the table. That seemed like a century ago. Let's see, how was it he put that?
"...In a war there are certain rules and rule number one is that young men die and rule number two is that doctors can't change rule number one."
Henry Blake. Another friend lost to this crummy war...Trapper left without saying goodbye...Tommy Gillis was dead...Corporal Owens exploded on the table...
The anger boiled up inside of Hawkeye until he felt that he would explode. The room swam in front of him. It was all too much...he couldn't take any more. When did this nightmare end?
Klinger watched, paralyzed with terror, as Captain Pierce stood, picked up a chair and began swinging it, smashing it into anything he came close to. The Lebanese company clerk and temporary bartender combat crawled toward the door, hoping that the raging doctor wouldn't see him. He thought how ironic it was that it was in a bar that his boot camp training was finally useful.
"Damn this lousy war!" Smash! Pierce shattered glasses that were left on the tables. "It's never going to end!"
" I can't take any more of this!" He screamed. Crash! The chair found its way to a pinball machine. The glass flew into the air. In his frenzy, Hawkeye was completely unaware he'd been hit by a piece of flying glass, leaving a gash above his right eye.
As BJ walked back to the swamp, he heard what sounded like crying coming from Margaret's tent. She had left over an hour ago, right after she slapped Hawkeye.
He knocked on her door. "Margaret? Margaret? Are you okay?"
"Go away...leave me alone!"
"Margaret, it's BJ. It might help if you talk to someone."
She opened the door and looked up at BJ with eyes red from crying. His heart nearly broke at the sight of her. He put his arms around her shoulders. She laid her head on his shoulder for a few moments before she spoke, "I talked to someone the other night and tonight he turned on me."
"Margaret, you know that Hawkeye's not himself tonight."
"He had no right..."
"No, he had no right, but he's not thinking straight."
"I know but...."
The two were suddenly interrupted by a wild eyed Klinger running in their direction. BJ headed him off, grabbing his shoulders.
"Captain! Where's Colonel Potter? I-i need to get the colonel...." Max cried, trying to catch his breath and talk at the same time.
The hair on the back of BJ's neck stood on end. "Max, is it Hawkeye? Something's happened hasn't it?"
The panicked company clerk nodded, "Sir, he's on a rampage! He's tearing up the officer's club...I barely escaped with my life!"
Without a word BJ sprinted toward the officer's club with Margaret keeping pace close behind. They stopped at the door, shocked by what they saw.
Tables were turned and broken glass covered the floor and the bar. A berserk Hawkeye in fatigues and red robe was wielding a wooden chair, destroying everything in his wake.
"Pierce!" yelled Margaret. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" She had seen him do some crazy things before but this one went above and beyond. She had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. She clutched BJ's hand and gave it a hard squeeze.
Margaret's outcry startled Hawkeye for a moment and he stopped where he stood. He looked at her in way that made her skin crawl. She couldn't see Captain Pierce in those eyes...it was the look of a wild animal being threatened with captivity. Blood was dripping from the cut above his eye giving him a macabre appearance. Then he smiled, "Why Major Hot Lips. Should I salute? Or would you like to go take a tumble in my tent. I'm sure I can fit you into my busy schedule, between killing patients and..."
"Hawkeye, stop it!" BJ yelled, not really knowing what to say.
"Stop it?" Hawkeye wheezed a laugh. "Stop it, he says. Okay, Captain Hunnicuttt, I'll stop it when this major atrocity stops." With that he resumed his destructive activity.
BJ whispered to Margaret, "Try distracting him again. I'll see if I can't restrain him."
"Shouldn't we call the MP's?" she whispered back.
But BJ had already entered the room.
"Pierce, listen to me! You've got to stop this. Tearing up the club isn't going to accomplish anything!" Margaret cried.
"Margaret, why don't you go back to your tent and play with your toy soldiers."
Hawkeye had stopped again which made it possible for BJ to come up from behind and grabbed him around the neck.
"Drop the chair, Hawk!" BJ said.
Hawkeye dropped the chair and tried to turn in BJ's grasp. He broke free, whirled around and swung in the direction of BJ's face. However he was too drunk to hit his target. BJ grabbed his fist and wrestled him to the floor. Both men sat on the floor breathing hard. BJ held Hawkeye firmly.
Margaret came into the room and knelt down beside the two men.
"Margaret I wouldn't...." began BJ.
"I wouldn't either, Maaaargaret," quipped the other man. "You don't know what crazy Hawkeye, the camp murderer, might do to you."
"Stop it, Pierce!" she cried. "You're not a murderer! You couldn't have saved that boy! We're surrounded by death here. We make life and death decisions every day...."
"Oh yeah, Major..." snarled Hawkeye. "When was the last time you had to make a life or death decision? Huh? You're a nurse. What do you know about that kind of pain?"
"How dare you?! How dare you? You-you animal! Do you think you have a monopoly on pain? The great Doctor Benjamin Franklin Pierce! The great white surgeon! You arrogant bastard! You think that the nurses are here simply for your pleasure. When was the last time you sat by the bed of a dying boy and held his hand? Who the hell do you think you are?" with that Margaret burst into tears. "D-damn you!"
Hawkeye was stunned into silence. All of the adrenaline that had fueled his rampage seemed to drain from him. BJ felt the tension in the other man's shoulders release so he relaxed his grip.
Hawkeye stared at the crying nurse in front of him for a moment. "Margaret," he whispered hoarsely, "I-I'm sorry...." He held his arms out to her and she willingly fell into them. He held her close. Tears began to flow from his eyes, soaking Margaret's hair. It was if the dam burst and all of the horror within him drained out in the form of heaving sobs.
Colonel Potter stood by the door, flanked by two MP's. He looked sadly at the strange scene. Margaret, Hawkeye and BJ sat on the floor amidst the broken glass and furniture. BJ had an arm around Hawkeye and Hawkeye was holding Margaret as though his life depended on her nearness, sobbing as if his heart would break.
"I don't think you'll be needed," Potter told the MP's. He motioned to BJ who was quickly at the colonel's side. "Get Pierce to the VIP tent and sedate him. Sidney has his work cut out for him."