Oct. 2nd: 1730 hours
Walking carefully on crutches, Lieutenant MacAllister stepped inside the company clerk's office and stared in amazement at the mess. Papers were stacked, haphazardly, on every surface. Some were scattered on the floor. Corporal Klinger was at the desk. He was digging through a stack of reports, obviously searching for something.
"Corporal, I thought you were a medic." She noted.
"I am, Lieutenant. I'm also the company clerk. And does anyone think about that? That I have two jobs? No-o-o." Klinger complained. "They just say---Klinger, you moron, you plant life---where's my report? Where's my requisition? Radar had this office running smoothly. But you---you can't even find the office!"
"Sounds like you could use some help." The young woman observed.
"I sure could!"
"After I've finished talking with the colonel, I'll help." MacAllister volunteered.
"No, that's OK, Lieutenant." Klinger smiled at her. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be telling my troubles to you."
"Why not?" She asked with a smile before changing topics. "So, how do I go about getting some more furniture for my tent?"
"You tell the stupid company clerk what you want and then he requisitions it...provided he can find the forms."
"Wrong answer, Corporal." MacAllister corrected him. "I tell the very clever company clerk who can work miracles, that I'd like a desk, a chair and a lamp."
"And maybe a couple more chairs and a small table?" He suggested, feeling more cheerful.
She laughed. "I reckon I wouldn't object. And," she handed him a sheet of paper, "while you're being so generous, I'd like for you to make a couple of calls for me. Please call this one, first. Tell whoever answers that the youngest one is at the 4077th and that everything is all right. Then call the number in Texas. My folks think I'm still at Fort Bracken in California."
"I'll get on it right away, Lieutenant."
"Thanks, Corporal. May I see the colonel now, O Talented Son of the Desert?"
"Of course, My Queen."
Klinger held the door for her. "Thank you." She said as she entered the colonel's office. Lieutenant MacAllister stopped in front of his desk. She nodded to the officers present. Captains Pierce and Hunnicutt were slouched in their chairs. Major Winchester was sitting upright in his. Major Houlihan, with her arms crossed, was sitting near them.
"Colonel Potter," MacAllister said, "now, I'm reporting for duty."
The nurse was looking better. She had taken a shower, had brushed and braided her hair and had changed into fatigues that were not splattered with blood.
"Here are my papers, sir."
"You see, Colonel." Captain Pierce spoke. "I told you she was paper trained."
"Even better." MacAllister answered him mischievously. "I know how to scratch at the door when I want out."
"Speaking of out, would the four of you close my door on your way out?" The colonel asked.
"OK, but we're leaving our fleas behind." Pierce announced as the officers left.
"Sit down, Lieutenant." Potter directed. The woman maneuvered her crutches, pulled up a chair and sat down. "You've adapted to those quite well."
"I've had to use them on occasion." MacAllister replied with a rueful grin. She noticed the pictures on his walls. "What magnificent horses!"
"Yes, they are spectacular." Colonel Potter began telling her about his animals. After a few minutes, however, he broke off the conversation. "I'm enjoying this. But we need to talk business."
He scanned her file. "I requested someone with experience to be my head nurse's second-in-command. Your record is impressive: high marks in school, with an extra year of specialized surgical residency. Immediately afterwards, you were assigned head surgical nurse over three hospitals---all at the same time." He looked up at her. "That must have been difficult."
The lieutenant nodded. "Yes, sir. We didn't have enough personnel to fully staff all three rural district hospitals. So we had to rotate between them. It was quite a juggling act, sometimes."
"I can see where it would be. Lieutenant, you have the experience I'm looking for. My doctors speak highly of your abilities. And we need another good surgical nurse."
Apprehensively, MacAllister looked at him. "There's a 'however' in that statement, isn't there, sir?"
"Very perceptive. Concerns have been expressed that you take too much upon yourself---doing treatment that should be left to the doctors."
"Sir, my hospital territory covers a lot of square miles. Sometimes, it's hours before a surgeon can arrive. I'm used to doing whatever is necessary, until he gets to the hospital. However, since the doctors are already here, I will try not to work too hard."
Potter smiled as he caught her irony. "That is not the only concern, Lieutenant. The main objection is the condition of your ankle...."
"Colonel, it's not that bad!"
He held up his hand and she subsided. "We need able-bodied people here. This is strenuous work. If your ankle isn't reliable, then we can't count on you when we might need you the most."
"Sir, no matter what condition my ankle is in, I will always do what is expected of me!"
"I believe that. But you have more than a simple sprained ankle. You've damaged that old injury, again. You need corrective surgery. You could have that done and still be on staff, once you've recovered."
"Sure, in six to eight weeks---or longer." The lieutenant replied bitterly. "Sir, I requested a M*A*S*H unit because I thought I could do some good here. Please don't send me away before I even have the chance to work in one."
"I've lived with this ankle for years." MacAllister continued. "In two or three days, the swelling will go down and a walking cast can be set. The cast will be on for a couple of weeks. After that, all I have to do is to keep it wrapped and elevated whenever possible."
"I may not be able to carry a litter right now. But I can work OR, pre-op and post-op. Please, Colonel. Give me three weeks before you decide to transfer me!"
"Lieutenant, most of the people around here beg me to allow them to leave---not to stay."
"I'd like to stay, sir."
"All right. I'll grant you three weeks. I think you'll make a fine addition to an already excellent staff. You may find the inmates a little strange, but they're a good bunch."
MacAllister's smile was radiant. "Thank you, sir! I won't let you down!"
"Good. Now, tell me about Kimhbede. According to my records, you aren't supposed to arrive here until tomorrow."
"I was bumped up a couple of flights in California." The Texan explained. "I arrived at Kimhbede base around 0430 hours this morning. I couldn't arrange any kind of transportation until 0900 hours tomorrow. So, when Lieutenant Cochlan offered me a ride, I jumped at the chance. I knew it was risky; but it was better than having to stay at that base any longer."
"I hear you had some trouble with the pilots."
"I know an Australian with a big mouth." MacAllister shrugged. "They just wouldn't take no for an answer, sir."
"Where was their CO during all of this?"
"Right in there amongst them, sir." The lieutenant answered. "Colonel, I'd rather drop the matter. My brother's a helicopter pilot stationed at Kimhbede. I don't know what kind of repercussions he may face."
"Surely he wouldn't want his sister to be treated that way."
"No, sir. But I know that, if Fannin finds out what happened, he'll retaliate. So, I don't want to make an issue out of it. I do have a request, however." She told him with a charming smile.
"And what is that?"
"Those pilots tore my dress uniform blouse. I'd rather not have to pay for another one."
Potter responded with a smile of his own. "Lieutenant, I know a base CO who is going to be very happy to purchase another blouse for you."
Klinger knocked at the colonel's door. "Excuse me, Colonel. Lieutenant MacAllister, your call to Texas has gone through."
"May I be excused, sir?" She asked. "My folks think I'm still in California. I asked the corporal if I could contact them and let them know where I am."
"Of course, Lieutenant. After your call, I want you to report to your tent and elevate that foot."
"Yes, sir. Thanks again, Colonel."
"...Mama, I have to go. I love y'all both. Tell everyone I said hello and to write to me. Yes, I'll be careful. Love y'all. Bye." The young woman stood quietly, thinking about her family before she sighed and handed the phone back to the company clerk.
"Thanks, Corporal." She yawned and shook her head. "All of a sudden, I'm exhausted. I know I said I'd help you this afternoon...but, can it wait until morning?"
"Hey, Lieutenant. You don't have to help me get out of this mess."
"I want to. Captain Hunnicutt won't release me for duty for three days. I can sit over here and work with you just as easily as I can sit and stare at the canvas walls of my tent. See you later, Corporal."
"Looking forward to it, ma'am."