Oct. 12th: 1430 hours
"Lieutenant, aren't you supposed to be off duty for the second post-op shift?" Major Winchester asked while he made his rounds with the ward nurses.
"Yes, sir. However, any time I have a shift change, with a surgeon coming on, I like to make sure he can read my writing." MacAllister answered as she limped beside him. She was smiling but he could see the exhaustion etched around her eyes.
"She's also waiting on her relief." Lieutenant Kellye informed him. "Parnelli's late---again."
"Ah, yes. Punctual Parnelli." Winchester commented and reached for another patient chart.
The major methodically examined each man. MacAllister gave concise reports on the treatments and progress of her charges while Kellye jotted down any new notations the doctor made. The three quickly completed their medical reviews.
MacAllister reported, "That's all of the patients, sir."
"Correction, Lieutenant." He replied. "I have one more patient who requires my attention."
"Who, sir?" The nurse was puzzled. "We've already visited both post-op wards."
"You are in need of a physician's care. Sit down at the nurse's station and let me examine that ankle." Doctor Winchester ordered.
He knelt by her chair and shook his head. "The edema has extended beyond the cast. I don't see how you are able to even stand on that leg, Lieutenant. Have you taken an analgesic?"
"I never take any medication while on duty, sir." MacAllister explained. Her face was pale and her lips were white-lined from his examination. "I'll take some as soon as I get back to the ranch house."
"See that you do." The man said. "Nurse Kellye, bring me a cast saw and a basin with warm water and Epsom salts."
The side doors to the post-op building were opened and rapidly closed against the cool outside air. Lieutenant Parnelli, hanging up her jacket, called to them, "Sorry. I'm late."
"We noticed." Lieutenant MacAllister replied mildly. She was still soaking her foot. Most of the color had returned to her face.
"I overslept. When you're coming off 20 hours in the OR as an anesthetist, six hours of sleep just isn't enough." The nurse explained.
"Yes, it is rough with only six hours of sleep, isn't it?" Sarabeth's touch of sarcasm was lost on the new arrival.
"You said it. I hope I didn't miss anything important."
"Not at all, Lieutenant." Major Winchester answered. "I don't mind repeating my instructions. Would you be so kind as to sign this?" He asked solicitously. He handed her the duty log and looked at his watch. "Good heavens, is it 1500 hours already? One moment, Lieutenant Parnelli. I shall get back to you."
Major Winchester carried the ledger over to Lieutenant MacAllister. After she signed it, the officer called for Corporal Klinger to bring a wheelchair.
"Since your relief has finally arrived, Lieutenant, you may go off duty. You will now take a painkiller, won't you?" His words were not a request.
"Yes, sir. But I don't reckon a wheelchair is necessary...." At his scowl, she ended her protest. "Guess I don't have a leg to stand on, sir." She told him with a grin.
The man shook his head in exasperation. "I'm going to have to find that vaccine quickly." He noted.
When Corporal Klinger arrived, the major graciously extended his arm to the woman and helped her to her feet. Wincing, MacAllister clung to his arm for a moment until she caught her balance. As he was helping her into her jacket, Winchester instructed the corporal to take the nurse to her quarters. The medic promised to deliver her safely. Lieutenant MacAllister looked at both of them in sudden suspicion. Innocently, they gazed back at her.
Outside the hospital, Sarabeth asked, "Klinger, just what are you and the major up to?"
"I'm up to 5' 7 1/2". I think the major is almost 6' 3", ma'am." He grinned. At her annoyed look, he changed the subject. "The mail came in on the supply truck yesterday. But everyone was too busy to do anything about it. You got five packages! I put them in your quarters...which is where you are supposed to be...in your quarters."
"I get the message." MacAllister told him with a laugh. "Onward to the ranch house."
As he pushed her wheelchair across the compound, Sarabeth pulled her coat closer around her. "This wind sure has a bite to it! I bet my tent's going to be cold."
"Major, may I speak with you a moment?" Corporal Klinger asked when he entered the hospital building.
"Certainly." Winchester replied. "Lieutenant Kellye, I shall return momentarily."
Inside the clerk's office, he questioned, "Did she like it? What did she say?"
The corporal gave his report. "When she first entered, she said: Great! You lit my heater for me. Then she looked around at the table. Her eyes got big. and her smile just grew and grew. She said: This is wonderful! and she asked whose idea it was."
"I told her that it was mine but that you had said it needed some embellishments...like the tablecloth, the candlestick and the crystal goblets. I said the cloth bouquet was from me. And the glasses were from you---with the instructions that they were to be filled with Madetta Brandy, only. She laughed and said she had gotten tired of coffee cups."
"When I lit the candle, her eyes were shining brighter than it was. she was biting her lip, like she was trying not to cry. She said: Max, you don't know how much I needed your kindness! And, I can't thank you, or Major Winchester, enough."
"I told her we were glad to do it. Then, I told her to enjoy her meal---even if it did come from the mess tent, take her pain medicine and get some sleep. She thanked me again. And she said to thank you, as well." The corporal smiled. "Major, I'm glad we did that for her!"
"Max, I have to hand it to you---sometimes you do have good ideas." Winchester commented. "Well done!"
Both men, pleased with the results of their efforts, returned to their duties.