Oct. 3rd: 0600 hours
Despite the chilly temperature, Sarabeth MacAllister was outside her quarters, enjoying her first Korean sunrise. Afterwards, she hobbled throughout the medical compound, exploring her new surroundings. "Even Big Oak is bigger than this place." She noted in amusement.
Hearing pounding footsteps behind her, the woman turned to see the healthy members of the Australian squad running laps. As they passed by her, they called out their greetings. Mitch Cochlan, leaving his men to continue their exercises, jogged in place beside the woman. "G'day, Texas." He said with a grin. "You don't look like something the dog refused to eat today!"
"You have got to get those eyes checked, Outback." She retorted. "Chasing kangaroos this morning?"
"Beats camels." He answered. Her laughter accompanied him as he moved to rejoin the others.
Still smiling at the soldier's words, MacAllister entered the mess tent. Two of the enlisted men were sitting on benches inside the eating area. She talked to them for a few minutes before moving over to meet a dark-haired woman who was leaving the serving line. Amicably, she approached the other nurse. "Howdy. My name's Sarabeth."
"You claim that you were attacked at Kimhbede." The brunette sneered curtly. "But I'm beginning to wonder."
"What do you mean?" The Texan asked in confusion.
"Well, those Australians out there won't speak to, or even look at, anyone else except you. And, the way I hear it, Hawkeye practically spent the whole night in your tent. After he left, Major Winchester came over. Obviously, it doesn't take you very long to go through men."
"Just what are you implying?" MacAllister asked with alert casualness. One eyebrow was arched in quiet warning.
Ignoring that signal, the woman answered smugly, "I'm not implying anything. But since the shoe fits...."
"Oh, the shoe's going to fit, all right." The redhead replied with a sudden burst of anger. "It's going to fit right up your...."
"Good morning, ladies." A cheerful welcome cut across their conversation. A mild-mannered man wearing eyeglasses approached. "You must be our newest arrival. I'm Father Mulcahy." He smiled at the two of them.
With animosity visibly draining from her face, the nurse smiled back at the man. "Yes, sir. I'm Sarabeth MacAllister."
The priest gestured towards the area where the food was waiting. "May I help you with your tray?"
"Please. I was wondering how I was going to handle it, and crutches, too." She followed him to the serving tables without another glance for the other woman. "How's the food around here?" Sarabeth was curious. "Is it edible?"
"Well," he answered with good humor, "I have found that prayer and a great deal of ketchup helps."
After they were seated, the woman quietly spoke to the clergyman. "Thanks for interceding, sir. Nothing like starting off on the wrong foot." MacAllister grinned before adding apologetically, "I'm sorry, Father. I don't usually fly off the handle like that."
"It's quite all right, my child." Mulcahy was kind. "Our Lieutenant Parnelli can sometimes try the patience of a saint."
When Doctors Pierce and Winchester walked into the mess tent, they discovered their newest nurse and their camp chaplain involved in a lively discussion. With trays in hand, they moved towards that table.
"Well, well. MacAllister and Mulcahy. My two most favorite people in the middle of the alphabet." Pierce noted. "May we join you in the middle of your communion?"
"Sure." The woman smiled at them in welcome.
Captain Pierce sat on one side of her. His appearance hadn't changed much from the night before. Major Winchester sat on the other side of her. He was still impeccably dressed. There was a marked difference in their grooming habits. Grinning, until she noticed the food on their trays, MacAllister grimaced and shuddered. "Terrific. I'm surrounded by egg eaters."
"These are powdered eggs." The captain informed her. "They've never even seen a chicken."
"They are still eggs." She replied dryly. "Y'all know why I can't stand eggs?" She asked. She didn't give them a chance to respond. "Back home, 4:30 am, was always breakfast time. We'd be sitting around the kitchen table. And my mama would put this platter...." The Texan indicated the size of the plate with her hands. "Heaping full of fried eggs---all greasy and runny yolked---in front of us."
"That early in the morning, I was having trouble keeping down a glass of water while my brothers were all around me...gobbling and slurping that gooey mess. Just to torment me, they'd pass the platter---back and forth to each other---right under my nose...."
Lieutenant MacAllister stopped her narration and exclaimed in mild irritation, "Hawkeye, what on earth is the matter with you?"
With every word she had spoken, his grin had grown wider and wider with delight. "I'm enjoying listening to you talk. It's amazing how many extra syllables you can add to short words. That accent of yours makes me think of peach trees and magnolias." He explained.
"More like live oak trees and bluebonnets." Sarabeth drawled. "I'm from the great state of Texas---not Georgia."
"Tayexus. Geeorrgehah. There, you see? Listen to that. It's wonderful! Say something else!"
"Pay no attention to him, Lieutenant." Major Winchester spoke. "He's an idiot!"
Whether by accident or design, the man's last words came as MacAllister finished her toast. Caught unprepared, she laughed, tried to cover it with a cough and began choking for real. She waved away their concern and wiped the tears from her eyes.
"Thanks a lot, Major!" The woman's smile lit up her entire face. "Yesterday, someone was shooting at me. Today, y'all are trying to choke me." She gave the men a gleeful grin. "I'm beginning to think someone doesn't want me here."
"Quick! Escape while you still can." Pierce urged.
"Too late. I've already unpacked." She joked. "But, this is the last time I take an economy class tour."
"I think I'm booked on the same tour." Hawkeye replied. "Is this the one where you see all the cesspool, the mine fields, the olive drab everything?"
"Sounds like my brochure."
"I'd demand my money back, if I were you."
"I will---if they continue to serve that for breakfast." She pointed to their plates. "Reckon I could convince the cook to serve cheese grits every now and then?"
Seeing their blank expressions, MacAllister laughed. "What? Y'all don't know what grits are?" She shook her head in pity. "I reckon I'll have to make allowances. After all, y'all can't help being Yankees!"
"Don't blame me," Father Mulcahy responded with a smile, "I'm from Philadelphia, myself."
"Now, see here!" Major Winchester protested at the same time.
"Pennsylvania is almost as bad." Sarabeth told the priest. She patted the major's arm. "That's OK, sir. I like you anyway."
Winchester started to reply just as Corporal Klinger called through the tent screen. "Lieutenant MacAllister! Lieutenant Cochlan asked me to tell you that he's ready to leave."
"OK. Thanks, Corporal. Will you tell him I'll be tottering along in a minute?" The nurse smiled at the men around the table. "Excuse me, sirs. I want to see him off."
Sarabeth pulled her crutches out from beneath the bench, slipped them under her arms and tried to stand. Moving to assist her, Major Winchester held her elbow until she found her balance. She gave him a bright smile in acknowledgment. Shifting her crutches to one arm, the woman reached for her tray.
"I shall take care of that, Lieutenant." The major removed the tray from her hand and placed it on the table. "I'd like to show you that Yankees," he uttered the word with distaste, "are good for something."
Pierce responded, "Yes, Charles. You make the perfect busboy."
Both MacAllister and Winchester ignored his remark.
"Well, I reckon Yankees can be good for something." The young woman teased. She added, "Thank you, sir. I appreciate the help."
Winchester walked her to the door and held it open for her. He remained, standing in the door frame, to watch her leave.
"Charles, close the door." Hawkeye called. "You're letting the flies out."
The man returned to the mess table and joined the others. "I do believe she will prove to be more beneficial to this outfit than good old Roy."