by Alizarin Raymond
She felt as nervous as a schoolgirl. And of course it was just silly that she should feel this way- a lack of self-control and sloppy emotional housekeeping. There was no ulterior motive for calling him at this time, it was just that she'd thought about him once. Or twice. And wasn't it entirely reasonable that she wanted to check and see how life was progressing for one of her old friends from that horrible place?
She picked up the phone number. It, in a fashion so very typical of him, was written on a corner of a browning page of what looked like a magazine- a scrap she'd found stuffed in a pocket of her fatigues when she'd arrived in Tokyo. Of course he'd hidden it there, probably as a joke...like he was always joking. Knowing him as I do, it's probably the phone number of a senator. Or Harry Truman's.
Yet she'd kept that scrap of paper religiously tucked away in her pocketbook, alongside the neatly entered names and addresses of professional colleagues and acquaintances. And it didn't seem a bit out of place, now that she thought about it. He was a professional after all.
And with that small scrap of self assurance, Margaret Houlihan picked up the phone and dialed the number on the paper.
"Yes...hello. I was wondering if I might speak to Hawkeye Pierce please?"
"Certainly ma'am. May I say who's calling?" A pleasant older man's voice, one with more than a hint of mischief about it she immediately identified as the elder Pierce- bestower of that ridiculous nickname of his. But admittedly, the first book she'd borrowed from a library on returning from Korea was The Last of the Mohicans.
"Ah...well, I'd like to make it a secret if I may...if you don't mind?"
"Of course not ma'am, I'll just grab 'im for you," he pleasantly oblidged with a departing chuckle.
There was a soft bump as the receiver was placed on a table. In that moment Margaret Houlihan had a flash back image of the Swamp- with its ingrained filth and inherent grottiness and found herself wondering if he'd ever cleaned a room in his life. And if he made such a mess of his dad's place...
She heard him singing a tune as he came towards the phone, one of those incessant showtunes he was always whistling when they were in that other place.
She found herself humming them sometimes. And on more than one occasion, she'd had to physically stop herself, admittedly because they were very catchy and did have this silly habit of growing on you.
Another soft bump as the receiver was picked up.
"Y'ello! This be Hawkeye Pierce, your friendly neighbourhood civilian here!"
She found herself doing that sometimes, qualifying the fact that Korea was very far away, even though it had been a year and a half since they'd returned to the relative normalcy of civilian life.
"Oh...Pierce....Hawkeye. This is Margaret Houlihan. From the 4077th. Hello. How are you?"
"Oh my god, Margaret!" And he laughed out loud like she remembered he used to.
"Hey! Like you even need to announce the 4077th, Margaret! I'd remember you every day of my life! Wow, it is good to hear your voice Margaret! How are you? How is everything? And am I babbling, is the real question!" And his riotous laugh this time held the smallest touch of self-conciousness.
"Well...yes you are Pierce. And I'm wonderful thank you, everything is just...wonderful."
"Oh, god, that's really good to know." And there was a pause.
"But Margaret....is everything okay?"
"Oh yes, I'm sorry Hawkeye, everything's wonderful. It's just....good to hear your voice."
"Oh wow, and yours. Hey you know, we haven't spoken for over a year Margaret. I'm sorry I haven't kept in better touch, but I thought you might not want to have much to do with, ya know...all of us from the camp. They're not the most pleasant of memories. Some are. Others aren't."
"That right, we haven't spoken since that last day at camp....a sad day." Margaret could not stop her voice from trailing off.
"It was..." came the murmur from the other end. "And...err...while we're on that particular topic, I really should apologize for..umm...kissing you like that just before you left too. It was pretty presumptuous of me, I know," he said guiltily, but with what she knew to be his charmingly sleazy grin projected down the phone.
"You didn't just kiss me. I kissed you back, remember," she said somewhat indignantly.
"Aha...that's right, ya did." And she heard his shy smile through the phone.
"I did. And I hope it left an impression on you Pierce." And there again was Major Margaret Houlihan surfacing.
Strangely, he didn't have an answer for that one. Just a soft chuckle and a change of subject.
They'd talked for hours. Inconsequential things really, just of work and family and friends from the old place. He'd been as crazy and at the same time as calm as she remembered, and she found herself becoming that person she rather enjoyed being when she was talking with him. Goofy and silly was a nice change from being so strict and straight all the time. And after a while, she just plain gave up on finding a justifiable reason to call him, relaxed and enjoyed the warmth and familiarity in Hawkeye's voice.
He replaced the receiver carefully and sat staring at it for a few moments.
"Who was that Hawkie?" his dad asked over his shoulder from the stove. "Sounded long distance.." he remarked.
"That? Oh, that was an old friend from the war. Korea. Margaret."
"Oh really son? Hmm...maybe it's about time for that birds and bees chat I've been planning. What with girls callin' you at home and all."
"Aww...stop funnin' me dad. No, she's ah, a good friend, remember I wrote about her several times in my letters to you."
"Oh, Major Margaret, of course. Well, it must have been nice to hear from her again, eh?"
"Nice.." Hawkeye repeated tonelessly.
And then he blurted it all out, in a rush, because it really was very good news...
"Well, she said she's thinking of visiting Maine. I'm going to meet her. We're going to have dinner. It seems kinda trivial after the whole intercontinental battle of grandious proportions we went through, but really, it'll be good. I hope." Hawkeye stood and raked two hands back through his hair. "So what's for dinner?"
"Whoa. Settle down son! That's 6 sentences in a breath, hold your horsies!"
"Ah...right. Babbling. No, it's just good news, that's all," Hawkeye admitted.
"Doesn't she live on the other side of the country though?"
"She does, but she's coming over for a medical..thing and said she wouldn't mind coming the extra way to catch up."
"Well, that's just plain nice, that is. So when is the lovely lady arriving? And do I get to meet the object of my boy's affections, is the real question."
"Daaad," Hawkeye drew the word out in his most exasperated tone.
The elder Pierce smiled quietly.
She saw the familiar curve of his back clothed in a white coat, as he bent over a small boy on his examining table. She tiptoed towards the room, gently placing her bags by the door and stepped quietly through the door.
And before she'd even announced her presence, Hawkeye said with more than a trace of a grin in his voice:
"...could you hand me a sponge please Margaret?"
"Ayi!" Margaret squealed and slapped her hands against her legs in frustration. "How did you know I was here?!"
"AHA!" And he spun around from the table, took two comically large paces across the room and wrapped her up in a hug.
Margaret giggled and returned the hug with twice as much gusto.
He pulled back with a sly grin.
"Well. See, we've employed a new fangled kinda security system on the premises, one that involved me smelling your perfume, hearing that familiar breathing.."
...she self-conciously held her breath for a moment.
"..and not forgetting the fact that I told Jamie here to wink if any gorgeous ladies should walk through my door. And Jamie," he grinned back at the little boy lying on the table "..let me complement you on your taste in girls. This one's an absolute spunk!"
Jamie giggled from his spot on the examining table as Margaret slapped Hawkeye playfully.
"Oww!" cried Hawkeye indignantly. "Margaret...that hurt. Oh, you're lucky I know a nurse. Shall I undress and we can begin?"
"Stop it Pierce!" The response was an automatic one.
But she couldn't contain the smile that threatened to spread across her face and didn't even try before she hugged Hawkeye again.
"It's been too long. You look good Hawkeye. Civilian life becomes you," she said with a smile.
In the white coat, with a stethoscope hanging about his neck, it need not have been almost two years since they'd last seen one another. His hair contained not much more grey than it had, and the lines about his mouth and eyes only served to give more character to his outlandish grin. He was the very picture of professionalism, in his own private surgery, until for some reason, she looked down at his feet, and saw he was wearing ridiculously large, bright yellow, chicken-feet slippers.
She had to cover her mouth with her hand to stifle a laugh.
"And you Margaret, are a vision of loveliness, as always. And you cut your hair short! It looks really good." He reached out and brushed a lock behind her ear affectionately.
"Oh, thanks.." she touched her face self-conciously.
"Can you just give me one second?" Hawkeye said. "I've just gotta kick Jamie out of the room, so you and I can play Doctors." And he tipped Jamie a cheeky wink.
"Now my little man Jamie," he said, turning his attention to the boy sitting on the examining table.
"I'll just give you this bit of paper to give to your dad, which just tells him what I told you about keeping dry and warm and to keep taking that medicine I gave you, and your chest will be feeling lots better soon, okay?"
He lifted Jamie down from the table and turned back to his desk, reaching behind an incredibly high and disarrayed stack of papers.
"And because you correctly identified the *Majorly* beautiful Margaret Houlihan,"
Margaret smiled and coloured at the same time.
"..coming through my door, you get a handful of super atomic Jelly Beans! Tada!" And with a flourish, Hawkeye whipped out a ridiculously shaped glass jar containing jelly beans of all colours and offered it to the boy.
"Hey, thanks Doctor Hawk! See ya later." And Jamie scampered out the door with a fist-full of jellies.
"It really is amazing...how much these things cure," Hawkeye said, pitching a jelly bean into the air and catching in his mouth.
"Hawkeye, you haven't changed one bit."
He stopped his manic flow of chatter of chatter for a moment. With that, he held out the jar to Margaret with a sheepish grin and she dug deep, looking for any colour but green.
"Looking for anything but green?" Hawkeye asked quietly. He smiled gently at Margaret's shocked expression.
"I do the same," he confessed.
Margaret didn't have an answer for that one. Hawkeye sensed that she needed a change of subject as much as he did.
"Nope, you haven't changed a bit Margaret," he said, studying her face. "Ah, no, I tell a lie. You might have gotten just slightly more beautiful," he grinned.
"And you have gotten no less forward." The words came out easily. Habit.
"Ah, good to hear!" Hawkeye chuckled. "Sooo....you do know I'm cooking you dinner tonight don't you?" Hawkeye said with a proud grin. "I've since become domesticated, living as we did in culinary hell."
"Oh yes. And I'm particularly glad I know a doctor, because I imagine I'll be a victim of food poisoning by 9 this evening," Margaret said with tongue firmly implanted in cheek.
"Ouch, Margaret! You mock me!" Hawkeye smiled. "Ah, you'll see. And you'll be ever so glad to know that my taste in booze has matured since we last shared a drinkie. I've acquired a taste for the 'fine wine' after my taste buds grew back."
Margaret snorted a laugh through her nose and clapped a hand over her mouth in surprise.
"Ah, there's that ladylike laugh I've missed so much!" he laughed riotously, feet pistoning in the air and his hand slapping his knee in triumph. As she remembered he used to.
"C'mon then," Hawkeye said, after the fit of laughter had subsided to a grin. He rose and extended a hand to Margaret, which she took gently.
"Lemme take my best girl home to meet my dad," he said cheekily.
She hit him. As he remembered she used to.