Oct. 6th: 0730 hours
Standing outside the doctors' tent, balancing on her crutches, Sarabeth MacAllister knocked on the door frame. "Come in." Hawkeye Pierce called out. Sitting on his cot, Pierce touched the brim of his Stetson hat as she stepped inside. "Howdy, Miz Sarabeth." He spoke with an exaggerated drawl.
"Howdy, Sheriff Hawkeye." She returned with a smile. The lieutenant surveyed his quarters. Her eyebrows rose in surprise. Two thirds of the tent were cluttered with personal belongings, dirty clothes and other unidentifiable objects. The other portion, in sharp contrast, was tidy, orderly and well kept.
"I can see why y'all call your tent the Swamp! It's a good thing my mama isn't here, she'd make y'all clean up this mess!"
From his side of the tent, Major Winchester, resting on his bed, said, "Let's send for the good woman. I certainly can not make them keep it clean."
"I'm sorry, Major. I didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't, Lieutenant. It is the stench of unwashed socks that disturbs me."
"Go back to sleep, Charles." Hawkeye told him. "You need all the beauty rest you can get."
"Amusing, as usual, Pierce. Step over here, Lieutenant, before you are overcome by their putrescence emanations!"
MacAllister was listening closely to their words. She was trying to understand the nuances and the undercurrents adrift in the room. She was, after all, going to have live and work with these people.
The major pushed back his covers. He sat on the edge of his cot, gathered his robe around his pajamas. He stood, tied the sash around his waist and moved a chair closer to her. "Please, sit down, Lieutenant."
"Thank you, sir. But I wasn't planning on staying. I was looking for Captain Hunnicutt."
"Why do you want him when you can have me?" Doctor Pierce asked.
"Because, Pierce, it is obvious that the lady has excellent taste." Winchester retorted.
"How do I know? I haven't tasted her, yet."
"Sorry, Hawkeye." Sarabeth informed him. "I'm not on the menu."
"Not even a bite?"
"Not even a nibble." She countered, not annoyed by his antics.
"So much for that fishing expedition. Can I pour you a glass of liver failure while you're waiting for that lucky surgeon?"
"It's too early in the morning for a drink. And, besides, don't you mean sturgeon?" She asked innocently as B J, fresh from the showers, walked in.
"Please, Lieutenant." The major sounded pained. "Don't encourage him. It only makes him worse!"
Ignoring him, Hawkeye beamed joyfully. "Ah, a lady after my own carp!"
Hunnicutt smiled at the young woman. He instantly joined their banter. "He sounds fin-cere, Sarabeth."
"Reel-ly? I thought he was just throwing me a line." She responded with a grin.
"I've got you hooked, now."
"That's de-bait-able, Hawkeye."
"No. That is quite enough!" The major broke into their exchange. "All of you need to be scooped up in a very large net!"
Slinging his towel over his shoulder, he reached for his shaving kit.
"Lieutenant." Winchester nodded politely to her. "Lox." He nodded to the other doctors as he walked out of the tent.
Sarabeth watched him leave. She grinned at the other surgeons. "Y'all do drive him crazy, you know."
"We aim to please." Pierce said modestly.
"What do you need, Sarabeth?" B J asked as he threw his towel onto Winchester's bed.
"Would you examine my ankle again, sir? I'm sure the swelling has gone done enough for a cast."
"And you want to escape from the clutches of your crutches?" Hunnicutt quipped.
"I do, indeed."
"I'll be glad to. Meet you over in x-ray in a few minutes."
"Thank you, sir."
"OK. B J gets to examine your ankle. But I get to examine the rest of you." Hawkeye leered.
"Nope." MacAllister answered. She gathered the damp towel from the middle of Winchester's bed and tossed it to Pierce. "Gentlemen, in regards to this tent, I reckon I have to side with the major. Sea you in x-ray."
"There you are---one walking cast---in a cast of thousands." Doctor Hunnicutt said while washing the plaster from his arms and hands. "Jeanette, after this hardens, I want another x-ray."
"Yes, sir." Replied Lieutenant Thompson, the nurse on duty.
"Thank you, sir." MacAllister commented. "It feels right. I won't have to worry about termites, anyway."
"Now, all you have to worry about is bubonic plague, botulism and boredom." Hawkeye Pierce gently placed MacAllister's foot onto the table and headed for the sink, as well.
"You really give me something to look forward to, you know that?" The woman smiled at the doctor.
Colonel Potter entered the treatment room. "Good morning, all. Lieutenant MacAllister, I see you're down to two legs, again."
"Yes, sir." She returned his grin and added, "Colonel, now that I can walk without stilts, may I have your permission to visit Sophie?"
"You don't want to ride her, do you?"
"No, sir! I just want to go out and talk to her. Or maybe brush her, sometimes. I miss being around horses."
"I understand. Feel free to visit the old girl any time you like."
"Thank you, sir."
Potter looked at the surgeons. "Hunnicutt, are you finished here?"
"Just waiting for the cast to harden---to get another x-ray, Colonel."
"Fine. I want to see the two of you, and Winchester, in my office in 30 minutes. Thompson, tell Major Houlihan, I want to see her in 45 minutes."
Corporal Klinger walked into the room. Over his fatigues, he was wearing a bowling shirt. A Toledo Mudhen baseball cap was on his head. He was carrying a worn lunch pail in his hand. He spoke to the commanding officer. "Good morning, boss."
"Boss?" Potter questioned.
Klinger turned his attention to the younger doctors. "Hey, guys. That was some bowling last night, wasn't it? I've never seen so many strikes---outside a union hall. The two of you were really hot! I'm sure glad you joined our league."
"Let me guess." B J ventured, "We're in Toledo, Ohio. Right?"
"Of course we're in Ohio. What state do you think we're in?"
"In a perpetual state of confusion?" Hawkeye suggested.
Lieutenant MacAllister was trying to keep her laughter to herself. Klinger looked at her. "I know you. You're the lady who runs the donut shop on 15th street. What happened to your foot?"
"I dropped a pound cake on it."
"And today's special is a fruitcake." Colonel Potter muttered. "Surgeon's meeting---30 minutes." He reiterated and returned to his office.
"He's a good foreman but sometimes I don't understand him." Klinger commented.
"That's all right." Pierce announced. "We don't understand you, either."
B J Hunnicutt said, "Klinger, tell Major Winchester that Colonel Potter wants to see him in 30 minutes."
"Winchester? Ah, yes. The doorman at the Westlander Hotel. Right away." The Lebanese factory worker looked at the woman who was struggling to keep her face expressionless. "Wait here until I get back, lady. I'll walk you to your shop. This is a rough neighborhood."
"You're telling me!" She answered with a laugh. "By the way, Mr. Klinger. This is just a suggestion but you may want to call the doorman major."
"He goes for titles, does he?"
"He seems to think they're important."
"Thanks for the tip. Well, I must be off."
"Yes, you must be." Hawkeye agreed. After Klinger left, he noted, "I think I liked the camel better."
"Mr. Klinger, while the head honchos are at the plant meeting, do you reckon you could do me a favor? I'll throw in a couple of donuts." Sarabeth MacAllister asked the company clerk.
"Sure thing, ma'am."
"OK. Meet me at the corner of Swamp and Signpost. And bring a ladder."
"Oh---a second story job, eh?" He winked suggestively.
"Something like that." She smiled in agreement.
"This board is going on the very top of the post." MacAllister explained. She showed Klinger the sign she had prepared. TEXAS was painted in bold black letters. She had also painted a small Texas flag beside the name of her home state.
"So that's why you wanted all the colored paints."
"That's why. What do you think?"
"I like it. But the bigwigs in the decorating department aren't going to like this."
"They'll get over it." She grinned in anticipation.
"Are you sure you don't want me to climb up there for you?" Klinger asked.
"Nope. My idea. My responsibility. You just hold the ladder steady and watch out for the police."
MacAllister carefully nailed her sign above the one labeled BOSTON. Climbing down, she examined her handiwork in satisfaction.
"There! Let's see how observant our Massachusetts major is. Thanks for your help, Mr. Klinger."
"You're welcome. I've got to get back to the assembly line."
"Right. Gotta beat the time clock. Oh, and Mr. Klinger," she called to him as he walked away, "hide that ladder for a couple of days, will you?"
He smiled. "Gotcha!"
Oct. 6th: 1830 hours
"Wait a minute, Igor!" Sarabeth MacAllister protested as she pulled her tray away from the man who was serving food. "What's that orange stuff you're trying to give me?"
"Those are our green beans."
"Green...." She shuddered. "None for me, thank you. I'm not that fond of ptomaine."
"Ah, Lieutenant." Major Winchester spoke from his place behind her in the serving line. "I see you're tempting your taste buds with our culinary cuisine."
"Tempting them to suicide, you mean." She countered and then smiled up at him. "So, Major, how are you doing this evening?"
"I am quite well, actually. I had an interesting chat with Max Klinger earlier."
"Oh? And what did you and the bowling champ of Toledo chat about?"
They moved down the line. Winchester politely waited until she was seated before sliding onto the bench opposite hers.
"Klinger, in one of his madder delusions, informed me that there isn't a ladder or a step stool to be found in this entire city."
MacAllister raised an eyebrow at him. "Fancy that."
"Yes, I thought that was an interesting piece of information."
"So do I." Sarabeth smiled in reply. Over the man's shoulder, she saw the head nurse approaching. "Howdy, Major Houlihan. Would you care to join us?" She asked.
"Yes, Margaret. Please do." Winchester stood, as a courtesy to her.
Lieutenant MacAllister made room for the nurse on her bench. Major Houlihan chose to sit next to the doctor---across from her. The young woman stared down at her plate for a few seconds. Then, deciding to ignore the slight, she smiled at both of them.
"Major Winchester, I understand that you have a camera. May I borrow it for a couple of days? I'll pay for the film. I'd like to take some pictures to send home---to Texas."
"Certainly, Lieutenant. Are you going to take pictures of the people here or of our local attractions?"
"Both. I thought I'd take some pictures of all of y'all, some of the mess tent, the ranch house, the OR, the signpost...."
"Yes, you simply must have a photograph of that signpost." He remarked with a smile. "It may not remain like that much longer."
Major Houlihan was watching them in confusion. "You won't have too much time to be taking pictures, MacAllister. You go on active duty in the morning. See me at 0700 hours tomorrow."
"Yes, ma'am. I'm looking forward to working with you, Major." Came the polite response. The red-haired nurse glanced at Major Winchester. Her smile returned. "No ladders to be found anywhere, sir?"