Oct. 26th: 2200 hours
When Corporal Klinger arrived at Major Houlihan's tent, he was carrying the items Lieutenant MacAllister had requested. He was also wearing his steel helmet and some old football shoulder pads. Sarabeth, with her arms full of folders, saw him and grinned. "Klinger, I don't reckon your precautions are that necessary."
"I'm not so sure, Lieutenant." He explained, "I've seen her this mad before. And Mrs. Klinger's only son doesn't intend to become a target."
"In that case, after you set those things down, I suggest you head for the hills." She knocked on the door. "Major Houlihan? It's Lieutenant MacAllister and Corporal Klinger."
They entered the major's quarters. The company clerk placed his laden tray on the nearby table.
"What's he doing here?" Houlihan demanded.
Klinger backed away. "Just leaving, ma'am." The corporal replied and quickly shut the door.
MacAllister placed her burden on the bed. "I wasn't sure if you'd had a chance to eat, Major. So I had Klinger bring you something from the kitchen. It's vegetable soup. And it's actually edible for a change." She uncovered the bowl and arranged the silverware. "Would you rather have coffee or brandy?"
"Brandy." The major sat down at her table.
With careful motions, Sarabeth opened the bottle and poured the beverage into the two crystal glasses. "Major Winchester says you aren't supposed to just slosh the brandy into a glass. You're supposed to add a little bit at a time and gently swirl it around the glass so it can 'breathe' and accentuate the aroma."
"Just pour me a drink, Lieutenant." Houlihan ordered. "And sit down." She said with less anger in her voice.
As the Texan sipped her drink, she glanced at her reports on the cot and then at the opened suitcase. A flash of colorful cloth caught her eye. "How pretty! May I look at that?"
Major Houlihan nodded her permission and tasted her soup. "This is good." She ate as the other woman sat down and examined the material.
"I love embroidery like this. Such tiny stitches! You almost need a magnifying glass to see them."
"I splurged on that. I felt like I deserved something pretty."
"You're right. Everybody needs to give themselves a treat now and then." MacAllister told her with a smile. "My grandmother tried to teach me how to sew like this. But I was always more interested in riding horses and climbing trees. I still use some of the techniques she taught me when I'm suturing, however. I'd like to get something like this for my tent. It would sure brighten things up."
"I found this in that little shop next to the military airport. You know, the one with the green dragon on the sign."
"I didn't see that one."
"You couldn't have missed it." Houlihan said. "It's just outside the perimeter fence. Surely, on your stop-over from Japan to Kimhbede, you saw it."
"Actually...I...I never left the plane during that stop-over." Sarabeth told her.
"Why not? I know some parts of Tokyo aren't safe for a woman alone. But right around the base...." Major Houlihan tried to understand the other woman's hesitation.
"Kimhbede was supposed to be safe, too." MacAllister responded with a touch of irony. "I wasn't concerned about security, however." Sarabeth stared into her glass. "You see, Major. During WWII, in 1943, my brother, Bowie, was tortured and murdered by Japanese soldiers. And...I still have a great deal of hatred and hurt inside me because of that."
MacAllister looked at Houlihan across the table. "So, when I saw all those people outside the plane, I just...." She took a deep shallow from her glass. "I just refused to walk out there amongst my brother's killers. They may not, personally, have had anything to do with his death, but...." The woman shrugged. "Anyway, that's why I stayed on the plane."
"I'm sorry." Major Houlihan sympathized with her. "I didn't know."
"It's not necessarily something that I talk about a lot." Sarabeth looked at the embroidered picture again and settled back into her chair. "Look at this! There's even teeny-tiny fish in the ocean!"
"There's seven birds in that pine tree by the house, too."
"Seven?" The lieutenant was skeptical. "It's too little. There's one. Two. Three." Silently, she studied the piece again.
Presently, MacAllister asked, "Major, you wouldn't happen to want to talk about why you're mad at half the world's population, would you?"
"I'm not mad at all of them. Just one." Houlihan said. She emptied her glass.
"I see." Sarabeth returned to her bird counting. "I've found another one."
"Give me another shot of that rotgut."
The Texan glanced at the woman with amusement. She filled her glass again without comment, however.
"Charles Winchester would have a fit---if he had heard that, wouldn't he?" Houlihan noted.
"I was thinking the same thing." Sarabeth admitted with a smile.
The major stood and walked around her quarters. "Ever hear of a Lieutenant Colonel Donald Penobscott?"
"He's your husband, isn't he?"
"Soon to be ex-husband. That good-for-nothing weasel! One of the reasons I was looking forward to Tokyo was because we were going to get together and talk. He said we were going to work out our problems. But, when I got to Tokyo, he wasn't there. He left me a message. He was on temporary assignment in San Francisco. And that we'd talk later."
"This afternoon, I found out that he's been assigned there---permanently. At his request! The stupid jerk. He won't even tell me to my face that he's leaving me! I don't know why I expected this marriage to work. Look around you. All I have to offer anyone is bullets, bandages and blood." Houlihan stated sadly.
"Actually, I think you have a lot of offer someone. But this is definitely not a place conducive to romance." MacAllister agreed.
"And this is not getting any work done." Houlihan spoke briskly. She cleared the table and placed her tray on the floor. "Let's look over those reports, Lieutenant."
"Yes, ma'am." Sarabeth picked up the folders from the edge of the bed. "I brought over everything. I didn't know if you wanted to look at the rest of these or not." She handed her a clipboard from the stack. "This is the list of all the things you wanted done. The sheet on top is everything we managed to complete."
MacAllister handed Houlihan the next folder, as well. "This is Parnelli's latrine health inspection report."
"I didn't assign anything like that."
"No, ma'am. But I did." The lieutenant replied evenly. She pulled the next folder. "These are the duty logs for the week. And these are the surgery records: cases, treatments, follow-ups in post-op, evac. schedules, etc."
"This one details the results of Colonel Blankenship's surprise inspection. Everything she saw, everything she said."
"So, Colonel Blankenship pulled a surprise inspection, did she?"
"It was certainly a surprise to me." The Texan remarked. She looked at the next two folders and sighed. "Here is Doctor Hunnicutt's evaluation of my ankle. And this one is the tribunal's recommendations." She placed those folders on the table and glanced at the last one in her hand.
"And, this one...this one is my request for a transfer. I'd rather leave voluntarily than be kicked out."
Lieutenant MacAllister carefully set that paper on top of the other ones.
"That's a lot of reading material." Major Houlihan responded. She walked over to her satchel and took a folder from a side pocket. "Here's some reading for you, as well." She handed it to the other nurse.
"What is it?" MacAllister asked.
"It's Colonel Blankenship's evaluation of the nurses in this camp before, during and after surgery. She made a special effort to find me in Tokyo---to make certain that I received it before I left. She is very meticulous in her inspections."
"She wasn't too thrilled with our living quarters."
"She was also unhappy with the fact that you, as head nurse, was scrubbing walls like a common orderly when she arrived. Nor was she very pleased when you refused to call a full review of the nurses until after OR clean up had been completed."
"She informed me of her dissatisfaction, Major." MacAllister replied.
"Read that report, Lieutenant. After you've finished, we'll discuss it some more."
"Yes, ma'am." Sarabeth opened the tin of cookies on the tray. She offered some to Major Houlihan and took one for herself. She turned to first page of the colonel's report. The head nurse selected a report from her stack, as well.
"Discounting the remarks about unmade beds, it's not really such a bad report, Major." MacAllister observed.
"No, it isn't. Colonel Blankenship was very impressed with your system for breaks. She said that, approximately every six hours, whenever a surgeon finished with a patient, you asked him if his team could take a break. And when that doctor returned to his table, you asked the next surgeon who completed his operation the same question. And you did that until all four teams were given a chance to rest."
"You did leave instructions that breaks should be taken at least once every eight hours, if possible. Because of the long OR session, I decided six hours was more appropriate."
"The colonel also liked the way you had the post-ops staffed. She said everyone knew what they were supposed to do. And that duties were switched without any confusion." Houlihan added.
"Again, ma'am, your contingency plans were followed."
"I've checked the work schedules. The assignments are different."
Lieutenant MacAllister straightened in her chair. "Major, I was very careful to stay within your guidelines. The fact remains, however; I was the one in charge."
"And yet, every time the colonel tried to praise the way you were handling things, you insisted that it was all my doing."
"The established procedures were yours. I merely adapted them."
"Why didn't you take the credit for your work?" Major Houlihan asked in exasperation. "It was your organization of surgery she was watching...not mine! Don't you realize how important she is? She could easily have you reassigned as head surgical nurse at Tokyo General---with the rank to accompany it. She was very impressed with you."
"Major, I don't want to be in charge at Tokyo General. All I want is to stay here."
The lieutenant considered her words before replying. "Because I like to think that I'm doing some good here."
"Your ankle can't be certified as 100% fit."
"My ankle needs to be cut off at the knee." MacAllister retorted dryly. She refilled Houlihan's glass. "But it won't stop me from doing my job, ever!"
"You're undisciplined." The major took another cookie and passed the tin to Sarabeth.
"You ride rough shod over your nurses and try to stomp out any individuality they possess." MacAllister refuted as she selected a cookie.
"You constantly defy my authority."
"You need to get off my back and ride Parnelli---hard. She's the sloppiest nurse I have ever seen."
"You had the perfect opportunity to take over as the head nurse of this outfit."
"You're the head nurse of this outfit."
"Yes, I am." Houlihan agreed. "And I need a reliable nurse as my second-in-command: someone who is a good surgical nurse and who can keep the OR running smoothly when I'm at the other M*A*S*H units---on Colonel Blankenship's orders---explaining why my hospital is so efficient."
"I'm a very good surgical nurse. And I can run an OR."
"I don't like my nurses trading jokes with the doctors."
"I reckon I can manage to keep my mouth shut...some of the time." Sarabeth MacAllister responded with a grin.
Major Houlihan nodded. "Clear our of here, Lieutenant. I have a report to write for Colonel Potter. You and I will go over your duties as second-in-command after I meet with him in the morning."
MacAllister's smile was radiant. "I can stay?"
"Pending the colonel's approval, you can. Dismissed, Lieutenant."
"Yes, ma'am!" The nurse began to gather the folders she had brought with her.
"Leave them." The older woman directed. "And leave the brandy bottle, too."
"Yes, ma'am. Good night, Major. And thanks!"
An exuberant whoop was heard in the compound a few minutes later. Recognizing the voice, Colonel Potter, Major Winchester and Major Houlihan, each in their own tent, smiled in satisfaction at the sound.