Chapter 8 -The Fall and Rise of Hawkeye Pierce
"I'm so sorry... Margaret." Hawkeye's words came between sobs. "Beej, I didn't mean to hit you."
"Don't worry Hawk," smiled BJ, "You missed."
"Oh...well in that case...Beej, I'm going crazy, aren't I? They're going to lock me up in the wackateria..."
Margaret caught BJ's eye behind Hawkeye BJ returned a look filled with apprehension. He wasn't sure how to answer his friend. BJ and Margaret helped their fallen friend slowly to his feet which wasn't easy. Hawkeye was extremely dizzy and not exactly light on his feet.
"Hawk, you had a disturbing experience and have had way too much to drink I'm not sure you'd be asking that question if you were going nuts." Again BJ and Margaret shared worried glances.
The three now stood in the midst of shattered glass and broken furniture. As Hawkeye looked around, the realization of what he'd done hit him full force. His head was spinning now and his heart was sick.
"I-I didn't hurt Klinger did I?"
"No, but he's pretty shaken up, though," said BJ.
The three walked out of the club. BJ directed them to Pre-Op.
"Hey, wait a minute. Aren't we going the wrong direction? Why aren't we headed for the Swamp?" asked Hawkeye, who was wanting nothing more than to lay down or head for the latrine to lose the supper he didn't have, whichever came first.
"You have a nasty cut over your eye. I suspect it will take a stitch or two and I might need to dig some glass out of it. There was a fair amount of glass flying in there."
When they reached Pre-Op Margaret led Hawkeye to a table and helped him sit down. "Oh someone make the room stop spinning," he moaned.
Margaret handed him a small mirror. He looked and said, "Ouch!" The right side of his face was bloody from the gash over his eye. He winced as BJ injected a local anesthetic into the cut...he also winced at the memory of what he'd just done. He sat quietly as Margaret gently cleaned his face. He looked down in remorse, his eyes moist with tears.
"Margaret you are an angel of mercy," Hawkeye smiled at her. She turned her head, not wanting to make eye contact. Her feelings were fighting a war inside her head and she didn't want to run the risk of him seeing it.
"Hawk, I'm going to give you something to help you sleep." said BJ, holding a hypodermic.
"Why to I need something to help me sleep? I'm ready to pass out as it is."
"Colonel's orders," replied BJ. "We'll take this and give it to you in the VIP tent where you'll be sleeping."
"The VIP tent? Why the VIP tent? Why not the Swamp." BJ opened his mouth to reply.
"Don't tell me..." Hawkeye said, "Colonel's orders?" BJ nodded.
"So Beej, tell me, what time will Sidney Freedman be here?"
"1500 hours...three o'clock this afternoon."
Margaret ran to him through a field of wildflowers, anticipating his embrace. She could see him coming toward her with the sun behind him. He was laughing that infectious laugh of his, his shaggy salt and pepper hair blowing in the breeze. He was tall and lanky, wearing a blue and white flowered shirt, the kind you'd see in Hawaii. He caught her up in his arms and kissed her passionately. She heard violin music being played close by.
Suddenly he pulled away from her, staring at her with a look of terrible sadness and cried, "Help me, Margaret, please. The blood won't come off no matter how hard I try...please...I can't...I can't..." All of the color drained from his intense blue eyes, leaving hollow, bloody sockets. She recoiled from him in terror. A bitterly cold wind whipped across the field and the man in the flowered shirt shattered, like glass into a million pieces. The shards of glass were carried off by the wind...
Margaret woke with a gasp. She breathed a sigh of relief to find herself in her tent. She looked around, disoriented by the dream she'd just awakened from. What time was it?
It had been about three in the morning before she'd gotten to bed. She reached for her alarm clock. She'd forgotten to set it. It was 0845...she was supposed to relieve Kellye at 0900.
They had managed to get Hawkeye to the VIP tent and sedated him without incident. Margaret had wanted to stay with him but BJ pointed out her need for rest and she'd been too exhausted to protest. They recruited Kellye to sit with him, not wanting to leave him alone in case he should wake up. Margaret doubted that he would wake up with all the scotch and sedative in his system.
Margaret got dressed and grabbed her hairbrush. She had just enough time to make herself presentable and grab a cup of coffee in the mess tent. She sat down at her table and checked herself out in the mirror. There were dark circles under her eyes which wasn't at all surprising. She examined a rusty colored patch in the hair on top of her head. She surmised that it was blood from Hawkeye that dripped onto her head when he was holding her last night. There was no time to wash her hair this morning so she piled it all on top of her head. Her head was throbbing, she needed that cup of coffee.
"Have you looked in on Pierce this morning, BJ?" asked Charles.
"Not yet. I will in a little while, although I seriously doubt that he's going to wake up for a while. He's had enough booze and sedative to give the colonel's horse a lost weekend." moaned BJ rubbing his eyes.
"That's quite a disaster in the officer's club," said Charles. "I'm glad I didn't get to stay for the floor show, as it were."
"Eat your shorts, Winchester!" Margaret yelled.
Charles hadn't seen Margaret come in and was a bit taken aback by the loud comment that seemed to come from nowhere. Charles noted how tired she looked.
"Well Margaret, you certainly are the chipper one this morning," quipped Charles.
"Major Winchester, it doesn't seem that Major Houlihan is appreciative of your observations. I understand that last night was quite a disaster," said Father Mulcahy. He had been at the orphanage since the day before and hadn't been at the officer's club with the others. He had heard about it when he returned that morning. "I must say it certainly is a terrible thing...I do hope Captain Pierce is going to be all right. I will make it a matter of prayer for sure."
"Good morning, BJ, ...Colonel...Father, " said Margaret, obviously ignoring Charles. She'd had a rough night and wasn't ready to have a battle of wits with the arrogant surgeon. She took her cup of coffee and headed for the VIP tent. "If you all will please excuse me, I'm late to relieve Kellye."
"Charles, you do have a knack for knowing just the right thing to say, don't you?" said BJ with a smirk.
"Sorry, just trying to add a little levity to an obviously tense situation," replied Charles sullenly.
"Winchester, if you want to add levity to the situation, might I suggest that you zip your lip," said Colonel Potter in a gruff voice that suggested he hadn't gotten much sleep the night before.
"How's Klinger, doing, Colonel?" asked BJ. "He had kind of rough night, too."
"Ah yes," said the priest. "I understand that Sergeant Klinger was the unfortunate bartender last night. I hope he wasn't hit by any flying glass."
Colonel Potter shook his head, "I let the boy sleep this morning. You know Klinger...he'll be just fine. It's that chief surgeon of mine that I'm a bit concerned about. After last night, I don't know whether I should call for a replacement or wait to see what Dr. Freedman has to say."
"You don't think he'll be sent home?" BJ asked looking down at the table. The thought of spending the rest of the war without his best friend gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"I doubt that he'll be sent home...but Dr. Freedman might want him to do some hospital time. Well, let's just wait and see what he has to say. He'll be here in a few hours, so hopefully we'll have a better idea by tonight. I gotta tell ya, this has me a little worried." The colonel got up to leave. "If you all will excuse me, I think I'll go take a little ride on Sophie. I-Corps says that things are going to be fairly quiet for the next couple of days."
"Perhaps I should stop by and visit Captain Pierce this morning," said Father Mulcahy.
"I think that would be real nice, Padre," said Colonel Potter as he went out the door.
Margaret slowly opened the door of the VIP tent. Hawkeye was still asleep on the cot and Kellye was practically asleep over a book. Margaret smiled, it couldn't be too exciting for Kellye to sit and watch her patient sleep.
"Kellye, I'm here to relieve you. Sorry I'm late."
"That's okay ma'am. You needed the sleep."
Of course the whole camp knew of what had transpired in the officer's club. There wasn't much of anything that happened privately at the 4077 that wasn't known publicly in a matter of hours.
"Thanks, Kellye. Enjoy the rest of your day."
Margaret took the chair that Kellye had occupied, but not before checking Hawkeye's vital signs. Blood pressure and pulse were normal. She sat and sipped her coffee, watching him sleep.
The past week had been full of confusion for Margaret. The other night, after Millie Carpenter's memorial service, it seemed that something could be happening between her and Hawkeye. Then Howard Owens died on the table and the world turned upside down.
She wondered if things would ever be 'normal' again. Not that life in the MASH unit could be considered normal. But for Margaret, part of normal was Hawkeye and BJ and even Charles pulling an occasional practical joke. Normal meant Hawkeye and BJ trying to outdo each other at joking in the OR.
She wiped away a tear that had managed to escape her resolve to be tough. She jumped slightly when a moan from the sleeping surgeon broke the silence. She moved closer to the cot and stroked Hawkeye's forehead. He was becoming restless and was mumbling something she couldn't make out.
He opened his eyes slightly and said groggily, "I have died and gone to heaven."
"Surely you of all people can come up with a better line then that, Captain," replied Margaret. "That's beneath even you."
"Too tired...have to rely on what I know."
"How do you feel?" she asked.
" I feel like I've been attacked by a stampeding herd of scotch bottles."
She smiled at the joke he made. He sounded more like the Hawkeye Pierce that she knew. She hoped this was a good sign. In another moment he'd fallen back to sleep.
There was a knock at the door and then BJ entered. "How is he?" he asked.
"He woke up a few minutes ago and made a joke," she said with slight smile. "This is a good sign, isn't it, Doctor?"
"I hope so, Margaret. I guess we'll know better in a few hours when Sidney gets here and talks to him."
"His vital signs are normal," she said, anticipating the question that BJ was about to ask.
"You're quite a nurse, Margaret and an amazing woman," BJ observed.
Margaret blushed at the compliment. She thought that Peg Hunnicuttt was one lucky woman. BJ was the kindest, most considerate and upright man she'd ever met, besides Father Mulcahy. He and Hawkeye were very much alike in the areas of caring and compassion. But there was something dangerous about Hawkeye.
Margaret found herself drawn to that danger like a moth to a flame. She could think of dozens of reasons not to be attracted to him. But lately reason seemed to be taking a back seat to her heart.
"Are you making a pass, Beej? Am I going to have to write to Peg and tell on you?" a muffled voice came from the cot interrupted Margaret's thoughts.
"Hey, buddy! You're awake," said BJ. He was pleased to see Hawkeye calm and in seemingly better spirits. Of course he was half awake so he couldn't really be sure of anything. BJ sat on the cot next to Hawkeye and looked under the bandage on his head. "I had to put a few stitches here. I did my best sewing so you won't have a bad scar."
"Thanks," said Hawkeye with a yawn. "I was worried about that."
"Well, I'm on duty, this morning, I'll be back to check on you later," said BJ. "Take care of him, Margaret."
Even in his groggy state of mind, Hawkeye could tell that his friends were trying too hard to be cheerful.
"Margaret," said Hawkeye, taking her hand. "Please sit down. I need to say something."
Margaret sat on the side of the bed, not knowing what to expect from him.
"I remember saying some nasty things to you last night..."
"Pierce, you don't have to..."
"Yes, Margaret, I do. You were only trying to be a friend. Let's face it, both of us have pasts...the way I've chased the nurses and jumped from one bed to the other, I have no right to make insinuations about your past...."
Her eyes filled with tears. She didn't know how much of last night he would actually remember. She had been hurt and angered by his comments. Now she wasn't sure how she felt. She smiled at him.
"Thank you, Hawkeye."
He reached up and wiped a tear from her cheek.
"Sidney! I've been expecting you!" Hawkeye said with a smile.
"So I hear," said the psychiatrist. "They tell me you tried to redecorate the officer's club."
"It needed a new look. I'm sure they've told you more than that. Shall we dispense with the small talk and cut to the chase, Sidney? We both know why you're here. I may be disturbed but I'm not crazy."
"I'm glad to hear that. There seems to be some confusion around here about your state of mind," said Sidney with a grin. He hadn't been sure himself what state of mind he'd find the surgeon in. "A sense of humor is a good sign."
"So tell me, do you remember what happened in the officer's club last night?"
"Yes, I wish I didn't but I do."
"Tell me about it."
"I knew you'd say that," Hawkeye smiled at Sidney but the smile faded quickly. He recognized the look on the psychiatrist's face that said evasion wasn't going to work. "Uh-huh, yeah, well. I...had a little too much to drink and got angry and picked up a chair and broke every damn glass in the house and few lights..."
"...and scared the hell out of your company clerk. Now that you've given me the Reader's Digest version shall we go for the unabridged? Hawkeye, I know this is hard for you to talk about....but humor me...what made you so angry that you felt the need to break things?"
"It started the day before when a chopper came with two wounded soldiers with chest wounds...."
Hawkeye recounted the incidents in the OR with Corporal Owens. At times it was difficult for him to talk.
"His chest exploded?" Sidney asked. "I've never seen that happen before, had you?"
"No I hadn't. Colonel Potter said he saw it happen on the battle field in WWI....It all happened so fast, Sidney. One minute I was having a pleasant conversation with this kid who didn't seem to be seriously injured...lot of shrapnel...but didn't seem life threatening. We'd met before..."
"You'd met before? How had you met...you mean socially?"
"We'd met before, as in I'd operated on him twice before..." said Hawkeye becoming somewhat agitated. "We tend to have quite a few repeat customers here at the 4077 body and femur shop.
As I was saying, he didn't seem be that bad off...suddenly he told me it hurt
when he took a breath...I listened to his chest and didn't hear anything out of the ordinary...I thought it was anxiety which is not unusual...then I noticed cyanosis...his lips were turning blue...before you could say 'pulmonary embolism' the artery burst. It was like being in an accident where everything seems to be moving in slow motion. I was hit in the face with his blood and the force of it knocked me into the next table. BJ grabbed me before I could do heart massage and yelled that Owens was gone."
"How did that feel?"
"It felt like...like...everything stopped...like I'd been run over by a tank only the tank stopped on top of me. I vaguely remember Beej and Margaret trying to talk to me...everything was red...the walls, the floor...our clothes...the next thing I remember is being in the shower with BJ sponging me down....I don't remember how I got there.
"You were covered with the guy's blood?" said Sidney. "That must have been horrible for you."
"'Horrible doesn't begin to cover it, Sidney."
"So the next thing you remember is that you're in the shower with BJ."
"Yes and then Colonel Potter came in and talked to me...telling me that I wasn't responsible for the boy's death."
"And you don't believe that? You think Corporal Owens' death is your fault?"
"Yes. Sidney I sent this kid back to the front twice."
"Hawkeye, you work for the army. There are certain criteria a wounded soldier has to meet before he is discharged. As much as you don't like it, that's called doing your job, following orders..."
"In a war there are certain rules. Rule number one is that young men die and rule number two is that doctors can't change rule number one," said Hawkeye in a near monotone.
"Henry Blake told me that...and then Colonel Potter said almost the same thing that day in the shower..."
"I couldn't have said it any better," said Sidney.
"That stinks, Sidney," Hawkeye's voice was ragged.
"Yes it does." The psychiatrist continued. "Hawk, I think there's a part of you that knows you couldn't have saved that boy and you aren't responsible for his death. Why do you want to blame yourself? What purpose does that serve?"
Tears ran down Hawkeye's cheeks, "I don't know how much more of this I can stand, Sidney." He wiped away the tears as if he was trying to blot out the horror of what had happened.
"May I suggest that you are too hard on yourself. Quit beating yourself up...Hawkeye, you're a brilliant surgeon...but you aren't infallible. None of us are. Blaming yourself doesn't help anyone."
"I keep replaying the scene over and over in my head, Sidney...I see that sweet kid's face...and I...I...think what could I have done differently...."
"And what could you have done, Hawkeye?"
Hawkeye glared at Sidney for a moment, resenting him for daring to ask that question. He became thoughtful, remembering Owens, the look of shock on his face when the aneurism burst. It happened in an instant. Hawkeye's anger subsided and his eyes fill with tears. He threw his head back in despair and wailed:
"Nothing! Not a damned thing!" with that Hawkeye broke down and sobbed.
Sidney put his arms around Pierce as if he were a small child, "Let it out, Hawkeye. Let all of that horror out."
They sat that way for a long time until there weren't any tears left. Hawkeye finally pulled away and smiled at the psychiatrist. He was more than just a shrink, he was Hawkeye's friend who'd been there for him more than once.
"Thank you, Sidney. I owe you one."
"I'd like to hear you say that in a poker game," said Sidney and the two of them broke out into riotous laughter.
Sidney felt confident that a few more sessions and some R&R were all that Pierce needed. Hawkeye was a fighter. He was also a man of great caring and compassion. He didn't take losing a patient to death lightly. The incident with Corporal Owens would have been traumatic for anyone. Sidney's sense was that Hawkeye probably wasn't the only one who could use his services. He'd make sure he talked to the others who had witnessed the death.
This war was taking a heavy toll on Hawkeye, but Sidney felt that in the end he would still be standing.
He would put his recommendations in his report to Colonel Potter.
Sidney looked up from his notes and said,
"So tell me, Pierce, what are these rumors I'm hearing about you and Major Houlihan?"