Saturday, it rainedórained so hard it seemed as if a pipe had burst in heaven, and there wasn't a plumber to be found anywhere. All across Korea, battles were raging; between mortar and lightning, to see who could make a brighter flash, between tanks and thunder, to see who could make a bigger boomóbetween blood and water, to see who could soak up more of a dying soldier's uniform. Blood was winning.
Even in the 4077 M*A*S*H, things were looking dismal. After another week of 48-hour days, with cat-naps for sleep and the army's excuse for food in the mess tent, it was no wonder that everyone's nerves were set on edge. And to top it off, an unending stream of causalities poured in, the flu was going 'round, and the still's last batch of gin had tasted funny.
"Suction... NOW!" Hawkeye Pierce snapped at the nurse as a nicked artery started to flood the wound with dark blood.
"Yes sir, sorry sir," the nurse replied stiffly.
"You don't have to call me sir. I-" Hawkeye sighed.
"Need any help?" BJ Hunnicutt called over the routine murmuring.
"No, I think I've just about got him wrapped up." He worked silently for a few moments. "Close for me." Hawkeye instructed the nurse, this time more gently.
"Get some sleep Pierce." Colonel Potter glanced up into Hawkeye's bloodshot eyes. "If you're as tired as you look, you need it pretty bad. We'll call you back if we need you, son." Hawkeye nodded and suppressed a yawn. Why then, when he collapsed onto a cot that someone had considerately placed outside the doors of the OR, was he unable to sleep? He tossed and turned, worrying all the while, until the PA system came on:
"Incoming wounded: ambulances in the compound. Sorry guys, this one's going to be a long one." He rolled off the cot and headed towards the ambulances.
"Massive chest wound, he's starting to hemorrhage. Get him into the OR, quick." Hawkeye turned his head away as he coughed, hard.
"I thought I told you to get some sleep. It looks to me like you've got bit by the flu bug pretty bad there. You-"
"--I'm a doctor, Colonel. Don't you think that I know when I'm too sick to do something? I'm okay, thank you." Hawkeye glared down at Colonel Potter, then began to regret his hasty words. The Colonel was only trying to help.
"Very well then, Pierce. But listen to me, you're not going to be any good to anyone if you keep wearing yourself out like this." As he turned to walk away, Hawkeye wanted to call out to him, to apologize, to ask him...But somehow he couldn't bring himself to do so. It was going to be a long one. He sighed again, and headed back to the OR.
"Beej? Are you awake?" Hawkeye whispered, breaking the silence in the dark tent. They had finally finished with the last bunch of wounded, and then had come straight to the swamp and collapsed.
"Now I am, thanks to you. What is it?" Beej sounded slightly irritated.
"I can't sleep. I've tried everything...Counting sheep, counting more sheep, counting even more sheep--if I count any more sheep, I'll go stark raving ma-aaaaad!"
"Ha, ha. Try a drink." BJ handed him a glass from the still, and got one for himself.
"Beej, you're a doctor...so am I, but, what would you say about a--bleach! What did you put in this stuff, anyways?" Hawkeye grimaced after taking a sip.
"What did I put in it? You were the one-"
"Would you kindly shut up, both of you?" Winchester pulled his pillow over his head.
"Hey, tell him." Beej took one of his pillow and followed suit.
"Well then, I'll just head over to the officer's club. At least they're serving drinks that won't guarantee you a one-way trip to the OR." Hawkeye pulled his blue hat over his head and wrapped a scarf around his neckóit was plenty cold outside.
"Bye now. But Beej-" He didn't even think to duck as the pillows hit him from behind.
"Don't you think you've had enough, Pierce?" Margaret Houlihan looked worried.
"I'm fine, Margaret, thank you." Hawkeye slurred his words together slightly, but that was the only indication of the number of drinks he had consumed.
"Fill her up again." He pushed his glass across the countertop. The bartender raised an eyebrow in surprise, but didn't object. Business was business...
"After this one, Hawk, go back to bed. Really, you don't look too well."
"Dammit, Margaret, don't tell me what to do! Why does everyone keep telling me that?" Hawkeye's outburst startled the room. A dead silence filled the tent for a few seconds, then conversations started back, slowly.
"I'm sorry, really...I'm just worried about..." Hawkeye saw that his apologies were to no avail.
"If that's the way you feel then. Good night, Captain." Margaret replied as she strode out the door, almost colliding with Klinger.
"Captain Pierce? Letter for you sir." Klinger handed over the letter with his usual flourish. Hawkeye took one look at the envelope and started out the door, ripping the envelope open as he went. He stood in the middle of the camp, just reading, and then he suddenly let out a cry. BJ stuck his head out of the tent.
"Bad news, sir?" Klinger ran over to him, no easy feat in heels. Hawkeye remained frozen in place, reading the letter softly over and over. He looked up, his bloodshot and tired look replaced by pain and frantic worry. He took off dashing towards the jeeps, hopped in the front of one, cranked it, and floored it through the camp.
"Hawk, what-" BJ ran out of the tent, just in time to see Hawkeye and jeep disappear out of sight. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" He wondered out loud.
"What in the name of Beelzebub is going on out here?" Colonel Potter came rushing out of his tent, as did others.
"It's Captain Pierce, sir. He's gone." Klinger stopped to pick up a piece of paper left in the mud. "I'm sure this explains part of it." He handed the soggy letter to the Colonel.
"Come on into my office. We'd better get the MPs on him, before he does something even more stupid. Klingeró"
"Yes sir. On my way, sir." Klinger closed the door behind him.
"What does it say?" BJ tried to look over Colonel Potter's shoulder. The door burst open again. Margaret entered, then Winchester.
"Colonel, I demand an explanation..." she started.
"We're working on that right now Major."
"What does the letter say?" BJ snatched it from him and held it up to the light.
"Dear Hawkeye," he began to read,
"As we told you in our last letter, your father hasn't been feeling too well. We don't want you to worry, but we thought you might want an explanation of why he hasn't written you back. He's in the hospital-" BJ paused as Margaret gasped. "Your last letters have touched him quite deeply. He misses you, Hawk. Not to alarm you or anything, but have you considered that your dad is an old man? One of these times he might not make it." BJ paused, a lump in his throat. "Life in camp sounds very tough, I'm glad you have such wonderful people around to help you deal with it." BJ glanced up again, to see even Winchester looking down at his toes. "I can't read the rest, it's too muddy." His voice was a little shaky.
"Poor Hawkeye." Margaret murmured.
"So that's what got his goat." Colonel Potter sighed.
"And that's why he couldn't sleep." Winchester looked down again. Klinger peeked his head in.
"They've found him, and they're bringing him back. He wrapped his jeep around a tree--was it bad news, sir?"
"Was he hurt?" Margaret cried in alarm.
"A little banged up, maybe..." He looked over to the Colonel.
"Yes, Klinger, it was. Hey!" Colonel Potter had a gleam in his eye. "That letter was from a week ago, at least, wasn't it?" Klinger nodded. "Klinger, I want you to start trying to get Crabapple Cove on the line. I know you're no Radar, but..."
"Yes sir!" Klinger exited again.
The roar of a jeep's engine once again filled the camp. Two big MPs had Hawkeye between them, and forced him into the room. He didn't even put up a struggle. Hawkeye could not, would not, meet the gaze of his friends. As he stood there head bowed, shivering, water dripping off his slumped shoulders, BJ remembered all the times Hawkeye had comforted him when he had needed it.
"Oh, Hawk. Weó" BJ bit his lip as Hawkeye looked up. Hawk always had sad eyes, but now they were filled with such grief and helplessness...He looked down again, and the MPs put him in a chair. He put his head in his hands. There was a moment of silence, broken only by a ragged breath from Pierce.
"Is that all?" one of the MPs asked.
"Yes, thank you," Colonel Potter replied. They left, shaking their heads. "Pierce, I sure wish you would have told us what was wrong, but still..."
"What he's trying to say is..." Margaret looked down at him.
"Hawk, we're sorry," BJ summed it up.
"Incredibly sorry," Winchester agreed. The two went on, rattling off apologies and reassurances that his father would be fine.
"Take a closer look at him, boys." Potter smiled. Hawkeye Pierce was sound asleep.
He awoke late the next morning, while everyone else was returning from the mess tent from lunch.
"Colonel Potter, sir?"
"What is it now, Klinger?" Potter looked up from his paperwork.
"I have Crabapple Cove on the line, sir."
"Oh! Well, go get him, quick!"
"Yes sir!" Klinger rushed across the camp, barely stopping to knock on the door of the Swamp. "There's someone for you on the phone in Colonel Potter's office, sir." Klinger saluted him as he pulled his robe over his uniform that he had fallen asleep in, and put on his slippers.
"Hello?" Hawkeye spoke into the phone, as Potter and Klinger beamed behind him. "Dad? Is that you?" His voice was incredulous. Margaret and BJ entered just in time to hear him. "Dad, how do you feel? Are you okay?" He listened intently into the receiver; his voice had a tremor in it. "Oh, no, I didn't worry too much...yes, life here is fine..." He sniffed, and Margaret put her hand on one of his shoulders, BJ, on the other. "Yeah, I...I, did. I tried to take off in a jeep to Crabapple Cove. Yeah." He chuckled, and smiled for the first time in days. "Are you sure you feel fine? Dad? Dad?" He tried to get the line back, but he couldn't. Hawk slumped back in his chair, eyes closed, but it seemed as if some of the lines were erased from his face. Margaret could have sworn she saw a tear on his eyelash, she bent over and gave him a hug.
"Feel better?" She whispered in his ear. He nodded, and closed his eyes for a few more seconds. And she didn't let him go, not until the PA system came on overhead, and the choppers were heard in the distance. The raining had stopped.