Oct. 14th: 1330 hours
Arm in arm, the two MacAllisters strolled across the compound. The older one adjusted his stride to match the younger one's awkward gait. They were deep into their conversation which was frequently punctuated by their laughter.
"It appears they are headed for the mess tent." Charles Winchester observed from inside the Swamp. In his robe, fresh from the shower, he was shaving near the warmth of the heater. "Why don't you join them, Pierce? You can invite Sarabeth to take a shower with you---as you suggested yesterday."
Hawkeye, resting on his cot, was still in his blood stained scrubs. "I'm not hungry."
"In the changing room, Hawk, you said you were starving." B J contributed.
"Do you suppose, Hunnicutt," the major asked as he set aside his shaving kit and pulled on his fatigues, "that our Camp Casanova is reluctant to meet the brother of his would-be romance?"
"I don't think so, Charles. Just because MacAllister looks like he could pick up a jeep---one handed---and throw it a hundred feet, doesn't mean that Hawkeye is afraid to meet him." B J replied with a grin.
"Look, I'm just not hungry." Hawkeye protested. Squawking noises were heard from his tent mates. "What about you, Charles?" He asked. "I don't recall you drawing too much attention to yourself in the OR when he arrived."
"I was saving a man's leg. Which is far more important than impressing a visiting colonel."
"All I can say is," Hunnicutt contributed, "I'm glad my conscience is clear. I wouldn't want MacAllister mad at me."
"Which one?" Winchester asked with a smile of his own.
"You're going to love eating here, Crockett." Sarabeth informed her brother while they waited to move through the serving line. "The food's terrible but the nausea's great."
"Colonel MacAllister," Major Houlihan happened to walk by, "why don't you sit with us?"
"Thank you for the invitation, Major." The man's friendly smile had a devastating effect on the woman.
"Please, call me Margaret." She stammered.
"Only if you will call me Crockett." MacAllister informed her.
"Crockett---what an unusual name."
"I was named after Davy Crockett, ma'am. A hero who died at the Alamo."
"Really?" The head nurse took the officer by the arm and led him away. "So, what branch of the Army are you assigned to?"
"I'm with G-2." The colonel answered.
"How interesting! Your sister never mentioned that you were with Army Intelligence. Or that you were a full-bird colonel. Or that you were so handsome."
"I reckon that must have slipped her mind." The Texan glanced over his shoulder at his sister. She had an amused smirk on her face.
Still smiling, Sarabeth followed them to the table. Colonel Potter and Father Mulcahy were sitting on one side of it. Major Houlihan directed Colonel MacAllister to the other side. "There's room for you here, Crockett." She indicated the space on the bench next to her.
"Thanks, Margaret." He replied with courtesy. "How about if we move down some more? Sarabeth needs to sit on this side, as well. Southpaws have to take the outside corners, or sit next to each other, whenever possible."
Frowning slightly, Major Houlihan quickly recovered and smiled at him. "Of course." She slid down the bench.
Colonel MacAllister placed his tray on the table. He waited until both women were seated before sitting between them. "This must be my lucky day!" He commented. "Two beautiful ladies to keep me company."
MacAllister introduced himself to the men across the table and shook their hands. "It's nice to meet both of y'all. Sarabeth is always talking about y'all in her letters."
"You know, Colonel, I can't get over how much the two of you look alike. There's no question you're related." The priest observed.
"Oh, Father Mulcahy!" Sarabeth sounded shocked. "Surely you don't really think I look like this big galoot?! You've...you've ruined my entire day!"
"Oh, dear." The gentle man was dismayed. "I'm...I'm sorry."
Crockett elbowed Sarabeth in the ribs. "She's teasing you, Father." He explained. His sister rubbed her side and nodded in agreement.
"I apologize, sir." She told him with genuine contriteness. "We do look very much alike. But I don't cause near as much trouble as my brothers." She grinned at her sibling.
"Little sisters can be a pain, sometimes." Crockett announced with a smile.
"They can, indeed." Major Winchester contributed. He and Captain Pierce had entered the tent, obtained their food and were approaching the table when MacAllister spoke. The major set down his tray when the colonel offered his name and his hand to both of them. "Charles Winchester." He introduced himself, as well. After shaking hands, the doctor moved to sit across from Lieutenant MacAllister.
"Hawkeye Pierce. Sarabeth's a great nurse! We're lucky to have her here at the 4077th." The Chief Surgeon told the Texan when he shook his hand. He sat on the other side of Major Houlihan.
"I'm glad to meet y'all." The older MacAllister spoke to them with the drawl they were now accustomed to hearing. "My sister says y'all are excellent doctors...even if y'all are Yankees." He told them with a grin.
"Thanks a lot, Crockett!" His sister laughed. "Getting back to your erroneous statement," the younger MacAllister declared, "it is not the sisters who are the pains. It is the brothers who cause all of the trouble!"
"Name a for instance." Crockett challenged.
"For instance: who convinced a three year old she could fly? Then let her jump out of the barn loft---just to see if she really could?!"
"It was only 15 feet. There was plenty of hay down there. You didn't get hurt." MacAllister justified his actions. The siblings were face to face, seemingly angry. Everyone could see, however, there was a great deal of affection and love between the two.
"I didn't fly, either!" Sarabeth declared indignantly.
"That's because you didn't flap your arms hard enough!" Crockett retorted.
Sarabeth started to laugh, tried to control it, but gave into the merriment. Her brother was watching her with enjoyment. She shook her head in surrender. "You win, big brother. What do you want?"
"A game of chess with you."
"You've got it. Major Winchester, Captain Pierce, may we come over to the Swamp and use your chess set?"
"Sure." Hawkeye Pierce agreed.
"With one proviso," Charles Winchester added, "I play the winner."
"Certainly." MacAllister looked at the surgeon with increased interest. "I'm looking forward to setting a board with you."
"Hey!" Sarabeth protested. "What makes you think you're going to win?"
Her brother grinned at her in reply.
Margaret Houlihan remarked, "I, for one, think it is simply fascinating to know someone from G-2." She smiled at the visiting officer. "Can you tell us some of the things you do?"
The Texan grinned. "Just last week I located a general's missing cat."
Pierce was incredulous. "You're kidding, right? You weren't actually out looking for some stray cat, were you."
"I spent the better part of a morning searching for that cat." The colonel replied earnestly. "I found her---right before she became the main course for an elderly Korean couple."
"Crockett earned his Eagle Scout badge as a Search-and-Rescue volunteer." Sarabeth offered as an explanation. She grinned at her brother. "I'm glad the Army has finally found a use for your talents, brother mine."
"You know, Hawkeye," the young woman continued, "in addition to apprehending AWOL animals, my brother's also very good at solving puzzles. He's one of the few people I know who can work a crossword puzzle in ink. Why don't you tell him that story you told me...about calling your friend in the Navy to help you solve that puzzle?"
Hawkeye grinned. "OK. See, we were working on a Times crossword, puzzle. All we needed was a five letter word for a bedbug...."
As the doctor told his story, everyone began to eat. Quickly, however, they put down their forks.
"Oh, Crockett, I'm sorry." His sister was unhappy. "I thought I was kidding about the quality of the food, today. This is horrible!"
"So, this is how the North Koreans are attempting to win the war," Winchester noted in distaste, "through food poisoning."
Pierce pushed his plate away. "I can't eat this. I just operated on it."
Glancing at each other, Crockett and Sarabeth MacAllister resolutely kept eating.
"Colonel, you don't have to eat this...slop...just to be polite." Potter was apologetic. "The cook must have worked overtime to make this meal this bad."
"Thank you, sir. But I'm not being polite." MacAllister explained. "You see, there was a period of time when things were really rough around the MacAllister Ranch. Even though we had cattle, every time we had to slaughter one, it meant we had already lost future earnings. So, we tried to make each steer last as long as possible. Sometimes, my mama would put the food on our plates and then she and my dad would watch us eat."
"But they wouldn't eat anything." Sarabeth took over the tale. "Because there just wasn't enough food for seven hungry little kids and two adults. I'd look at their empty plates and I'd feel so bad. I, at least, had had something to eat---but my mama and daddy hadn't had anything at all! That's why I hate to see food being wasted. Every time I see food being thrown away...I see the hunger in my mama's eyes."
She bit her lip, bowed her head and blinked back sudden tears. Tenderly, the elder MacAllister stroked her hair.
"What made it even worse for me," Crockett added, "was, not only did my folks have to go without food, but there wasn't very much for us kids, either. I would look at my younger brothers and sister---and I knew how hungry they were---because I was just as hungry, myself. Except...there wasn't anything I could about it."
"And, this little gal---no bigger than a minute---would be there, smiling at us and telling jokes...trying to make us laugh...trying to make us forget our empty bellies." He shook his head at the memories. "Anyway, that's why MacAllisters always clean their plates...no matter how revolting the food."
"That kind of hunger does leave its mark on people." Father Mulcahy commented. "It makes you appreciate the food you have, even more."
"Not enough for this food." Hawkeye remarked.
Sarabeth sighed and speared another piece of meat. She studied it critically. Her lip curled in disgust. "Crockett...." She looked at him from the corner of her eye. The sadness in her voice had been replaced with mischief.
"Oh, Lordy! I know that tone!" The man grinned. "What are you planning, sister mine."
"Well, brother mine, I was thinking...."
"Always a dangerous habit." He remarked, smiling.
She raised an eyebrow at him in reprimand and continued, "If I were to take my tray and go waltzing outside...."
"You always have enjoyed dining and dancing." Crockett's amused smile was growing wider.
"And, if I suddenly became very clumsy, and spilled my tray, I'm sure Ernie, our camp canine, would help me pick up that mess."
"He'd probably lick the platter clean." Hawkeye contributed to the conversion.
"You're so right! He's such a kind, helpful dog." Sarabeth grinned at him.
"You know," Crockett MacAllister considered her words, "I haven't danced with you in a long time. Sarabeth, do you reckon you can do the two-step with that cast?"
"Just watch me!" She laughed and gathered her tray.
With his usual display of manners, Winchester came to his feet as she started to leave the table. MacAllister stood, as well. He gave the major a nod of approval before turning his attention to the other people at the table.
"Excuse us, ma'am, gentlemen. My sister and I are going to stir up some sawdust." Crockett grinned and picked up his tray. He stepped across the bench and walked to the door. The two sauntered out of the tent. Presently, their laughter and a dog's barking could be heard.
"I find it difficult to imagine an entire household of children like those two." Major Winchester spoke with amusement.
The Texans returned to the mess tent. As they entered, Pierce asked, "Back so soon? I though you kids were going to dance the night away."
"We couldn't." Crockett explained. "Sarabeth kept falling down."
"I kept tripping over your big feet, you mean!" She retorted. "I swear, Crockett, you are the...." Sarabeth suddenly frowned, tilted her head and listened intently. "We've got trucks coming in." She announced.
"With wounded?" Wearily, Colonel Potter asked.
"I don't think so, sir."
"Vehicles in the compound." The PA system was activated. "No wounded. I repeat, no wounded." The people in the mess tent clapped and cheered in relief. "They're here to donate blood, folks. Let's get it before they change their minds!"
"You doctors stay put." Major Houlihan ordered. "My nurses can handle this. Let's go, ladies!" She called to the women in the tent.
"Crockett, you wouldn't happen to know anything about this, would you?" Sarabeth asked in suspicious speculation.
"Not at all. I'm surprised at you!" He replied.
His sister smiled at him. She hugged him tightly. "Thanks, big brother!"
MacAllister kissed her forehead before pushing her towards the door. "Go! You know that Mama has always told you to mind your majors."