The baby kicked ferociously, making the fabric of Soon-Lee Klinger's dress move visibly. She smiled, reflexively placing her hand on her belly.
"Did I just see what I think I did?" Max Klinger grinned broadly from where he sat across the breakfast table from his wife.
"Your son is trying beat me up again." Soon-Lee's command of English had improved greatly in the years she'd been in the United States, so now she spoke fluently with only an accent to reveal her foreign heritage. "I think he will be very athletic, just like his father."
"I'm going to play baseball when I'm big!" The high-pitched child's voice interrupted. Maxwell Q. Klinger Junior was just over four years old. He had been born only a month after his parents returned from Korea. They had remained after the war to try to locate Soon-Lee's family, eventually finding confirmation from some friends that both her parents had been killed. No one knew what had happened to her brother. The Klingers might have stayed longer, but they found that she was pregnant and wanted to be sure the baby was born in the US.
"Hey, that's my boy! In a couple a years you'll be the star slugger for the Mudhens!" Klinger beamed at his eldest son.
"And Amos will be the pitcher," contributed Soon-Lee as she leaned over to give her younger son another bite of breakfast. Two year old Amos' only response was to enthusiastically bang his hands on the tray of his highchair and grin widely, slobbering mushed bananas onto his chin in the process.
"Oh, you are making a mess." Soon-Lee started to rise in order to get a rag.
"No, stay there, honey. I'll get it." Klinger stood up, moving over to the sink to wet the dishrag. "What makes you think this next baby will be another boy?"
"I am the mother, Max. I can tell. Besides, everyone knows if you have two boys in a row the third will be a boy too."
"Who told you that?" There was doubt in Klinger's voice as he wiped off his son's face. Amos squirmed, trying to get free.
"My mother. And you can bet she knew what she was talking about." Her tone was only lightly defensive.
Klinger knew better than to tease about his wife's parents. "Well, you may be right, but I for one would like a little girl to go with our two strapping boys. After all, who else am I going to have to wear my hand-me-downs?"
"That's right. All your lovely dresses." Soon-Lee's smile was playful. "Don't be sad, Max. Even if this baby isn't a girl, there is always the next one."
He grinned at her as he spooned the last of Amos' breakfast mush into his mouth. "Yeah, we're going to have a big family. All sorts of little ones running around."
"More little brothers?" Max piped up.
"You'll have another in just two months." Soon-Lee heaved herself out of the chair and started clearing the table. "Right now, go brush your teeth." Ruffling his hair, she sent her son out of the room.
Klinger lifted Amos out of his highchair and set him in his playpen. "I have to get to work, sweetheart. Broken TV's wait for no man." After returning to the States, Klinger had taken an electronics course and gotten into the repair business, making a decent wage as Toledo televisions had a tendency to break down frequently.
"What time will you be home?"
"Early, I hope." A thought occurred to him. "Hey, how would you like a new TV of our own? Our anniversary's coming up, you know."
"That would be nice, Max, but it's not very romantic."
"Yeah, but think of all the things we could watch! The Ed Sullivan Show, I Love Lucy…it'd be great. Besides, who's ever heard of a TV repairman without a TV?"
"Anyone who has ever met you!" His slightly crestfallen expression made her laugh. "Don't worry too much. You still have a couple weeks to think of another present for me." Silently she made a mental note to see what she could do about obtaining a television as her gift to him.
"Yeah, it's only the 27th, so there's a little bit of time….Holy Toledo!! It's July 27th!!"
Soon-Lee looked at him as if he'd gone insane. Being used to her husband's outbursts, this consisted mainly of a look of mildly amused tolerance. "Yes, Max. And tomorrow will be the 28th and yesterday was the 26th."
"No, you don't understand. Today's the anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty! Today marks five whole years of peace!"
"Oh my goodness!" The realization sunk in. "I had forgotten completely. This is a day to celebrate then!"
"You got that right!" Klinger agreed enthusiastically. "Now I'm definitely getting off early tonight. We'll drop Max and Amos off at my folks and go out on the town. We'll have dinner, go dancing…"
"Not too much dancing." Soon-Lee patted her swollen belly pointedly.
"Yeah, well we'll stick to the slow ones." He conceded her point but remained undaunted. "Hard to believe it's been so long since we were at the 4077."
"I was only there a short time, but I will always remember the camp fondly."
"Oh? Why's that?"
"Because it was there that I met you, silly."
"That's right. How could I forget?" Klinger reached out to gather his wife in his arms. "You've got that part right, sweetheart. No one tried harder than me to get out of the army, but now I'm glad none of those tricks ever got me that Section Eight. If I'd been discharged early, I never would have found you. And everything I went through is worth that."
She said nothing but leaned up and kissed him softly.
When they broke apart, Klinger continued talking. "Yeah, we had some pretty good times at the old 4077. Funny how all the bad stuff fades away and you only remember the good times. Like the time Major Winchester decided to crown himself sultan while Colonel Potter was away and was paying me to be his personal houseboy."
"But why is that a good memory?" Soon-Lee regarded him quizzically.
"Because once Colonel Potter got back and saw what he'd been doing, he had the Major doing my job for a week. Watching Mr. Hoity-Toity deal with all the paperwork and garbage the company clerk has to put up with was a real joy, let me tell you! Man, I sure miss those people."
"Even Major Hoity-Toity?"
"Sure, even him. Major Winchester wasn't all bad, and I usually managed to get back at him somehow anyway. Like the time I gave his bottle of Napoleon brandy to some South Korean soldiers, or when I had him waiting on me hand and foot after I saved his life. And even when I didn't, he always gave me a truckload of money to run his errands. They were all swell people. Captains Pierce and Hunnicutt, Radar, and the rest. The one I really miss is Colonel Potter though. That man was like a father to me. Still have a few imprints of his boot on my behind to prove it!"
"It's too bad you don't see them anymore."
"Yeah, it is. Maybe someday we'll all have a big reunion with our families there and be able to catch up."
"Maybe so." A brief cloud passed over her eyes at the mention of the word ‘families.'
Klinger noticed and immediately became concerned. "Oh, I'm sorry, honey. I didn't think about how you would be feeling. I know how much you miss your family."
Soon-Lee had a ready answer. "Max, I've told you before. You and the boys are my family now. My parents are dead, and there is nothing I can do. I will always wonder what happened to my brother, but we had to leave Korea because Max Junior was going to be born. I believe that he is alright and someday I will see him again. I will always miss them, but I have done my grieving already."
"You're an amazing woman."
She only smiled in response. "So we will go out tonight?"
"You bet! Right now I gotta get to work. The boss isn't going to be happy if I come in late again." Klinger grabbed his hat and brushed a quick kiss on her lips on his way out the door. "I'll see ya tonight, Soon-Lee. And you get your best dress ready, because the Klingers are going to celebrate!
She followed him to the porch. "Only if you promise I will be the only one in a dress!" Although Klinger hadn't worn women's clothing in years, it was still a joke between them.
Klinger turned as he headed down the path to the driveway. "You got it! But maybe just a little choker to spice things up a bit? I've got a gorgeous one that would look just perfect with my new gray suit!"
Laughing, Soon-Lee waved as he drove away.