"Love on the Line"
By David Long
"Incoming wounded! Incoming wounded!" Radarís announcement broke the silence of the night in the compound. It was late at night and most of the camp had settled in only a couple hours before from a twenty-four hour shift in surgery. Yet everyone was quick to abandon their familiar if not comfortable beds when they heard the call.
"This one has a bad chest wound, get him in there first!" Hawkeye ordered.
Everyone rushed around the compound. Corpsmen taxied the patients into the O. R. Nurses hurried to and fro with the blood and medication. The doctors moved from one wounded person to another, dispatching diagnoses and orders. In a matter of minutes the compound was again vacant and silent.
All the action had moved indoors into the O.R. and post-op. "These donít look like our usual innocent by-standers..." Pierce remarked cutting the tension in O.R. "Thatís because some of them are from the 8055th MASH," Colonel Potter explained. "The shelling in their area came too close too quickly for them to bug out. Because of the number of their doctors and nurses who were wounded, they had to send some of them here with their wounded."
"Some war. Donít those people know the Red Cross-sign means Ďstopí? Of course I guess these doctors and nurses did look threatening, walking around with needles and other sharp instruments."
"Colonel, any word on if weíre bugging out?" B.J. inquired.
"I spoke to General Hamilton and he said weíre to stay put. Apparently our guys were able to reestablish their line."
"So theyíre back to where they started."
"And weíre back in the O.R. where we started. Itís deja vu all over again," Hawkeye quipped.
The O.R. session lasted over eight hours, stretching well past dawn. The compound came to life again with some personnel heading to start their shifts and others escaping back to their quarters with the hope of getting at least some sleep. Finished his daily reports and clad in his white overcoat, Radar proceeded to post-op with a round of orange juice for the patients and a bottle of grape Nehi in his coat pocket for later.
Dr. Pierce was on duty in post-op with Major Houlihan. Hawkeye moved from patient to patient, inspecting their wounds and checking their charts. Sitting at the desk near the door to Radarís office, Margaret worked on the duty logs. Radar pushed the cart carrying the orange juice past the Major.
"Morning, hereís your juice." Radar distributed the glasses to the patients on both sides of post-op, slowly inching the cart along. Several of the patients were wounded nurses and corpsmen from the 8055th.
Stopping at the last bed on the right, Radar handed a glass of juice to a woman who had her leg in a cast. "Morning, hereís your juice." Radar took one look at her and was captivated. She had a petit face with smoldering brown eyes, which was highlighted by short brown hair. The woman had a far away look in her eyes that caught Radarís attention. "Um, is something wrong, maíam?"
"Oh, Iím sorry. I just noticed your bottle of Nehi and it reminded me of home. I havenít had any of that since I left the States."
"Well, you can have mine." Radar removed the bottle from his pocket and held it out to her.
"Oh, noÖI mean I couldnít."
"Really, I want you to have it."
"Why thank you." Smiling, she reached out and accepted the bottle. Her smile melted Radarís heart. He somewhat cautiously sat down on the edge of her bed, fearing that he may be intruding but not wanting to leave.
"Are you from the 8055th?"
"Yes, I am. Lieutenant Melissa Sinclair."
"Iím Corporal Walter OíReilly, company clerk. Everyone calls me Radar though."
"Well, sometimes I know somethingís going to happen before it happens."
"Oh how interesting. You must be very good at your job."
"I try. Donít they have any grape Nehi at your camp or nothing?"
"No. They donít serve too much besides coffee in the mess tent and the local bar doesnít have any. Where do you get yours?"
"I get some from our Officersí Club and some from Rosieís Bar across the road...." Radar and Melissa talked for almost an hour. They discussed their experiences in Korea, their interests and hobbies, and about how homesick they both felt. Finally a nurse came by to check on Melissa.
"But didnít you just check on my cast a few minutes ago?" Melissa asked.
"No, Major Houlihan checked on it an hour ago."
"Wow, where did the time go?"
"Oh! Iím late for the birthing classes!" Radar exclaimed looking at his watch. "You see, I help Major Houlihan with her demonstrations to the Korean women...Iím not actually in the class. Iím sorry, I have to go."
"Well good luck, it was nice talking to you."
"It was nice talking to you too."
Radar quickly said goodbye to Melissa and started down the aisle with his cart. Bump.
"Oh, Iím so sorry, Captain Hunnicutt!"
"Thatís okay, Radar. It was only my ankle. I have an extra one anyway." B.J. gave one of his wry smiles. "Are you okay? You look a little distant."
"Yeah. Um . . .Iím just a little late for Major Houlihanís class." Radar pushed the cart to the other end of post-op and hustled off to the mess tent where Margaret was already in the midst of her lecture. She looked disappointedly at him.
"Corporal, youíre late."
"Just donít let it happen again."
That night Radar lay awake in bed for some time. His eyes stared at the ceiling, but his mind was somewhere else. He kept thinking about Melissa. When he finally did fall asleep, he dreamt of her. They were standing together on the porch of a farmhouse in Iowa. Their son and daughter were racing down the dirt road on their way to school. The sun was still emerging from the horizon, giving light to the cornfields as though they were gold. The air had the smell of the morning dew and was filled with the sound of birdcalls. Suddenly the two children vanished. Radar looked puzzled, trying to figure out what happened to them. Melissa turned and gave him a kiss before he went off to work in the fields for the day.
After a short embrace, he stepped off the porch and headed for the barn to get some tools. As he opened the barn door, he heard a plane approaching. He looked up to see a North Korean bomber flying overhead. Awestruck, Radar stared as the pilot dropped his load. A huge flash blinded him momentarily; when it subsided, the farmhouse was nothing but rubble. Radar turned back toward the barn door and looked inside only to find post-op, its beds filled with wounded. He rushed down the aisle toward the last bed on the right, which was surrounded by a screen. When he reached the screen someone tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
"Radar, wake up. You missed revelrie this morning."
Radar opened his eyes to find Colonel Potter looking over him. He sat up quickly. "Oh, Sir, Iím sorry!"
"Thatís okay, son. Hawkeye and B.J. said to thank you for letting them sleep in."
This was the first morning that Radar missed revelrie since he had arrived in Korea. Radar quickly put on his glasses followed by his boots and his OD green shirt. Colonel Potter opened the door and left for the compound. Radar started toward his desk to begin work on his morning reports but he hesitated. He turned and opened the one door to post-op a crack and peered inside. Seeing Melissa sleeping safe and sound in her bed, Radar headed back for his desk shaking his head.
When it came time to distribute the orange juice to the patients in post-op, Radar brought along a bottle of grape Nehi for Melissa. She invited him to sit and talk. They chatted for almost an hour about almost anything and everything.
Radar was helping out with EVAC on the third morning when he saw Melissaís name on the list of those returning to their units. His mouth opened and his heart sank. He barely had time to react to the news when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Radar turned to face Melissa standing there.
"Well, I guess this is goodbye."
"Thanks again for the grape Nehi."
"Oh, youíre welcome. Did you want one to take with you?"
"No, but thanks for the offer. I enjoyed our time together."
Roar. The sound of the busís engines starting interrupted their conversation and indicated the time had come. They both stood there, neither one sure what to say.
"Well, good luck."
"To you too. Iím glad youíre feeling better."
He watched with a lump in his throat and a sigh in his chest as she boarded the bus and they waved goodbye to one another. He stood motionless looking on until the bus disappeared completely from sight. Radar had but two regrets, one that had been unavoidable and another for which he had no one to blame but himself. He regretted that she had to leave and that he didnít give her a kiss goodbye. "What am I thinking?" Radar said to himself. "Iíve only known her for a few days. How much do I really know about her? Besides, a beautiful girl like her would never go for someone like me."