by Robert Pilkington
The commanding officer of the 4077th M*A*S*H, Lt. Col. Henry Blake, dragged his feet into his office. He and his surgeons had just come off a 6-hour shift in the OR. Still in his scrubs, Henry walked over to his liquor cabinet and poured himself a small glass of whiskey. He took a small sip and sat down at his desk. It was then the camp's company clerk walked in, Radar.
Clipboard in hand, he approached the Colonel's desk.
"What is it, Radar?" Henry asked, yawning. The Corporal handed him the clipboard.
"Just need you to sign these, sir." He said politely. Henry sighed heavily and took clipboard.
"I'm always signing things." Complained Henry.
"Yes, sir." Commented Radar.
"Sometimes I'd think I would be more convenient as a rubber stamp."
"What is this anyway?"
"Requisition for more pens, sir." Henry glared up at Radar as the office door opened once more. Captain 'Trapper' John, a camp surgeon, popped his head in.
"Henry," said Trapper "more wounded. Two jeeps and bus."
"Great!" yelled Henry in anger. Radar lifted his head.
"Two choppers, too." Reported the Corporal.
In the center of the compound doctors, nurses and corpsmen ran frantically around to the wounded that were being laid out on the ground, ready for medical evaluation. As Trapper and Henry ran toward the scene another surgeon greeted them, by the name of 'Hawkeye'. Henry was called to another case and Trapper knelled down with Hawkeye.
"What have got?" asked Trapper, above the commotion.
"Usual stuff." Said Hawkeye, moving on to the next case. The noise of choppers sounded, the doctor's looked up to see a pair landing on the helipad.
" Can you handle this?" asked Trapper. Hawkeye waved his hand.
"Yeah, go." He said. Trapper got up and bumped into the forth 'surgeon' in the camp, Major Frank Burns.
"Watch where you're going!" cried the Major. Hawkeye looked up.
"Take Frank with you!" he said. Trapper grabbed Frank's shoulder but the Major pushed it away.
"Take me where?" he demanded.
"Choppers, Frank!" said Trapper.
"Go with the nurses!" yelled Frank.
"Go!" urged Hawkeye.
"Yeah, Frank," Trapper started "the army issued new chopper blades and you could have your nose hair trimmed." Then the Captain yanked the Major toward the helipad and, after stumbling, Burns followed. Along with four nurses and three corpsmen, the two doctors reached the choppers. Frank took the one on the left, while Trapper took the other. Quickly looking over each wounded Trapper turned to the chopper pilot.
"What's going on down there? This is the third batch since yesterday's supper." Asked Trapper.
"Big battle at the lines, all medical units are over loaded." Reported the pilot. Trapper administered an IV to a leg wound patient. "At least they're saving you guys from the army food." Said the pilot. With a smile Trapper looked up. "I gotta go back for more." Added the pilot. They unloaded the last soldier and the chopper took off.
Soon all surgeons were in OR, repairing the latest delivery. One shift of nurses was also present and corpsmen were also at work. Except the orders the doctors were giving the nurses all was quiet, which was unusual for the 4077th. It was Major Burns, being assisted by chief nurse Major Houlihan, who broke the silence:
"Colonel, is it true the army has issued new chopper blades?" he asked. Henry, hard at work in a bowel resection, gave a confused look to Hawkeye, who he was working with.
"I don't think so, Frank." Said Henry. Burns threw a used piece of silk to the ground.
"I thought so." He mumbled, glaring at Trapper and Hawkeye. They were smiling under their surgical masks.
"It wasn't the blades, Frank," said Hawkeye "It was the wings."
"Oh." Spoke Frank, honestly interested.
"How long have we been in here?" asked Henry.
"Three hours." Spoke Major Houlihan. Henry sighed and asked for suction.
Trapper began to take off his gloves.
"I'm done here." He announced. He turned to Father Mulcahy standing next to him. "Any more, Father?"
"I believe Corporal Klinger said that was it." Said the Father.
"No new wounded have arrived? Are you sure?" asked Trapper remembering the pilot who said he would be back.
"Well..." began the Father. Just then Corporal Klinger walked in, wearing a nurse's uniform with a blue and red cape.
"Hey, Klinger," said Trapper "are there any more wounded?"
"That's it, Captain." Said Klinger.
"What's up, Trap?" asked Hawkeye, seeing that something was confusing his friend. Trapper shook his head.
"Probably nothing." He said.
After the shift, the surgeons retired to the changing room, adjacent to the OR. Dead on their feet, they began to remove their OR scrubs.
"By golly, these shifts aren't getting shorter." Said Henry. Frank, who rarely complained about long shifts even sighed.
"I've must a pulled twelve pounds of shrapnel out of one Private." He said.
"Only higher ranks deserve to be hit by more shrapnel." Hawkeye yawned.
"You know what I meant!" yelled Frank.
"Would you guys shut up!" cried Henry, his hand holding up his head "I got a whole sympathy orchestra playing in my sinuses."
"It's not that bad up here, in the balcony." Said Hawkeye. Henry got up and left. Trapper sat silent next to Hawkeye, who just happened to notice his perplexed state. "What's wrong with you?" Trapper got up.
"When choppers came in, I talked to a pilot, said he was going back for more wounded, you know, but I don't think he came back." Trapper explained.
"Maybe he went to another M*A*S*H." suggested Hawkeye.
"Or maybe the wounded died at the front while you were making chit-chat!" said Frank, disgusted.
"Frank," said Hawkeye " how would you like your appendix taken out through your throat." Burns took a step back, and looked at Trapper who was glaring at him.
"It was just a guess...," said Frank in a less offensive tone. Trapper took a step toward him and Frank ran out of the room. The standing doctor looked back to Hawkeye.
"Maybe I should have Radar check it out." Thought Trapper out loud. Hawkeye got up.
"I wouldn't worry about it, Trap." said Hawkeye, who yawned again.
"I don't know..." Trapper trailed off.
"You know what you need?" questioned Hawkeye "the finest, homemade, Swamp martini!" The pair began to walk out of the room. Trapper smiled.
"That might do it." He said.
After a quick stop at the Swamp for an infamous martini, Trapper still couldn't get his mind off that chopper. To put his nerves at ease, he went to go see Radar in his dispatch room, right outside the Colonel's office. Trapper had the short Corporal look up the casualties from the last wounded delivery and compare them to the number of men in the company that was hit at the front and then treated at the 4077th.
"Why are you so interested in records all of the sudden?" asked Radar.
"Well," explained Trapper "I was thinking of becoming one after the war."
Still looking through files, Radar gave a confused look. "It's kinda like being a doctor, you have to be well rounded, and work with a needle." Radar paused, still confused.
"Oh, that kind of record!" said the Corporal. He laughed. That's when Hawkeye entered from the Post-Op doors.
"I thought you were with Nurse Anderson." Said Trapper. Hawkeye sighed.
"She seems to be experimenting with new forms of rejection." The Hawk stated.
"Hot Lips says we need more scientifically skilled nurses." Joked Trapper.
"Here we go!" exclaimed Radar as he held up a single piece of paper. Trapper took it and read it over.
"I knew it!" said Trapper.
"What?" asked Hawkeye. Trapper showed him the paper.
"One company that was hit we treated, and from the count here, they're two men short!" explained Trapper. Hawkeye looked at the paper.
"It could be caused by a number of things Trap," explained Hawkeye "They could have gone AWOL, or captured, or they could have died right in the field." Trapper thought for a moment, Hawkeye could be right.
"You could talk to Sergeant Wilkings in Post-Op," Suggested Radar, quietly "he lead the company, he might know." Hawkeye and Trapper looked at each other for a moment and headed for Post-Op.
"You're welcome!" yelled Radar as they left.
Sergeant Wilkings laid in a cot is Post-Op, just as Radar said. He had bad leg wound and came in later with a jeep. He was made priority thus, he now very awake and had overcome the side effects of anesthesiology. He sat up in bed, reading the latest issue of Stars and Stripes. He looked up to see two Doctor's standing over him.
"Sergeant Wilkings?" asked Hawkeye.
"Yes, sir?" he answered. Trapper and Hawkeye sat down beside him. The Sergeant looked confused.
"Sergeant," spoke Trapper "do you know if all of your men are accounted for?" Wilkings looked up at the ceiling like he was thinking.
"We lost one man in the field, and a nurse tells me one died here." Recalled the Sergeant.
"Both of those were in the report." Said Trapper to Hawkeye. Hawkeye nodded.
"Was it like any of your group to go AWOL?" asked the Hawk. Wilkings shook his head.
"It was a very tight group, no one would leave another behind." Said the wounded man. Trapper picked up a nearby clipboard.
"Could you right the names of all your soldiers?" he asked. The Sergeant did and Hawkeye had them compared to all that were reported treated or deceased. A Private Thomson and Corporal Lee came up short, they were neither deceased nor rescued, according to Army record.
"Do you remember what happened to Lee and Thomson?" asked Hawkeye.
"They were both hit," remembered Wilkings "Lee real bad, I put them on a chopper myself. Aren't they here?" Hawkeye and Trapper gave a grave look to each other.