Oct. 11th: 0330 hours
With a tired exhalation, the red-haired nurse knocked at the door of the surgeons's tent. "Anybody still conscious in there?" She called to the men inside.
"More or less. Come in." Captain Pierce replied.
The three doctors were collapsed on their cots. Major Winchester started to stand when MacAllister entered.
"No need, sir." She shook her head and he sank back onto his bed. Drawing a glass of clear liquid from the still, Hawkeye handed it to her. "Well, you survived your first OR session."
"More or less." She answered.
MacAllister placed her hand on Winchester's desk chair. "May I?" He nodded his permission.
The woman swung the chair around to face them, pulled up a stool for her feet and slumped in the seat. She closed her eyes. "I am so tired! I haven't had to stand at a table that long in quite a while!"
Sarabeth took a sip of her drink and shuddered. "Oh, this stuff is awful!" She drank it anyway. "3:30 in the morning and I'm drinking embalming fluid. So this is how we have fun in Korea."
"This is as good as it gets." Pierce agreed.
"Are most of the OR sessions like that one?"
B J answered her. "Sometimes they're worse."
"Terrific." MacAllister set her drink on a table and massaged her temples with her fingers tips.
"Rough day at the office?" Hunnicutt sympathized.
"Yes. And you don't know the half of it."
"Care to talk about it?"
"Nope." She gave the man a fatigued smile. "But thanks for the offer,
B J." Sarabeth reached for her glass and stared into its contents. "Hawkeye, will you give me an honest answer if I ask you something?"
"Pierce? Sincere about anything? That will be a first." Winchester snorted.
"Were you satisfied with my performance in the operating room?" She asked.
"Sarabeth, I think you are a very good surgical nurse. Once we coordinated our movements, I honestly couldn't have asked for a better one."
"Would you want me on your surgical team again?"
"Every single time I'm in the OR." Captain Pierce assured her.
She nodded. "OK. So long as I can keep my doctor happy, I won't let anything else bother me."
"I know other ways to keep your doctor happy." He leered at her.
The woman laughed. "Hawkeye!" She protested in exasperation.
"Sorry. I can only remain serious for short periods of time."
"...Three years ago," MacAllister whispered softly, "we received an emergency call at the hospital. A school bus, loaded with first and second graders on a field trip, had been hit broadside by a train."
"Damn!" The men exhaled sharply.
Sarabeth nodded sadly. "It was like some horrible jigsaw puzzle---matching severed arms...and legs...and heads...to all those little bodies. And we lost every single one of them. Most at the scene. Some at the hospital. It just devastated our community."
"I knew all of those kids. Their parents and I grew up together. Two of them were my nephews. One was my niece." Tears were forming in the woman's eyes. "At the time, I thought it was the worst possible thing that could ever happen. Now, I realize that it was just a warm-up...for this war...and for all the wars to follow."
"I hate this place!!" She announced as she angrily wiped away her tears. "And I hate the people who start these wars!"
"Sarabeth," Charles Winchester gently spoke to her, "you are not alone in that sentiment."
"No." B J and Hawkeye agreed.
"I didn't think I was. If it didn't bother us, we wouldn't be sitting here, before the roosters are even awake, destroying our livers."
‘Man's Inhumanity to Man,
Makes countless thousands mourn.' (Robert Burns)
The major quoted. He gave her a weary smile.
She returned it with one of her own and then sighed and stretched. "Oh, well. Fun and games in Korea."
MacAllister finished her drink and set the glass aside. With her eyes closed, she rubbed her temples again. Then, using her fingers as a comb, she loosened the braids of her hair. Long after the tangles were gone, she continued moving her fingers through her red tresses---over and over and over again---concentrating on sad memories.
Suddenly aware that the men were staring at her, the woman opened her eyes. "What?" She demanded. "Have I broken another unwritten rule?"
"No." Hawkeye answered. "You have just given us back some of our sanity."
"I don't understand."
"That's OK. I don't either." Captain Pierce explained. "I just find your hair fascinating."
A small laugh escaped her. "You and everyone else in Korea. I can't walk across the compound without being gawked at! All the Korean kids look at me like I'm about to turn into a dragon or something."
With stiff movements, the woman stood. She returned the furniture to their original positions and placed her glass by the still. "Right now, since I have post-op duty in about three hours, I reckon I'll just turn into bed. Thank y'all for the antifreeze. And for the company. I definitely needed that."
"Do you want anyone to escort you to your tent?" Winchester offered.
"No, sir. I'll be all right. Thanks again." She paused by the door. "Y'all need to get some sleep. We're getting another batch of wounded in eight hours or so."
Hunnicutt wondered out loud, "Did anyone hear Colonel Potter say anything about more wounded coming in?"
"No." Winchester shook his head in resignation. "However, I have a feeling she's right."
"So do I." Pierce grimly agreed.