by Beth Mott
John McIntyre trudged wearily up the walkway that led to his beautiful Boston home. It was late in the evening and the rain was gently falling around him. Pausing momentarily to put his key in the lock, he opened the door and walked inside.
Not knowing who was still up and about he as noiselessly as possible removed his damp raincoat and gently shook the rain from it.
"How did your meeting go, darling?" A voice called from the kitchen.
"Long." John replied as he hung his coat up so that it would dry out overnight and stepped into the kitchen. "A bunch of wrinkled old doctors trying to revamp who's in charge of what."
"Are you hungry?" His wife asked as he came up behind her and planted a kiss on the side of her neck.
"A little." He admitted as he moved to the refrigerator. "What is there?"
"There's some meatloaf leftover from supper and a little bit of salad." Louise McIntyre replied as she finished putting away the last of the dishes she'd been drying. "Would you like me to fix you a plate?"
"Sure." Her husband replied with a slight shrug of his shoulders. He wasn't a big fan of his wife's meatloaf, but he figured it was better than starving. If there was one thing that he'd learned when he was over in Korea it was that food, any food - even Louise's meatloaf, was a far cry better than the Korean fare he'd eaten.
He sighed slightly at the thought of Korea. It had been almost a year since he'd left that man made hellhole, yet he could still picture it as clear as if it was yesterday. The wounded, the sounds of artillery fire, the blood! Suddenly another part of that place came into mind, the face of a man with sparkling blue eyes, a mischievous smile and a highly infectious laugh that could send almost anyone into a fit of riotous laughter of his or her own.
It had been months since he'd thought about his old war buddy, but his concern for him was still there. How was he fairing over in Korea without him? Was he still in Korea? Was he still on this earth? The last question made a shudder of fear run through him.
His wife's voice brought him back to reality. "So, did you get the position you were hoping for?"
"Yeah, I did." He nodded with a tired sigh.
She gave him a puzzled look. "I would have thought you'd be happier to get the position. It's what you've been hoping for isn't it?"
"It is." He agreed. "And I am glad, at least I was at first. But after listening to those old geezers tell me what was now expected of me all I feel is tired."
"My poor darling." His wife commented, giving him a teasing smile.
"I'm going to go watch some television." He told his wife, giving her a quick peck on the cheek. "Call me when supper's ready."
He walked into the living room, turned on the television and flopped down in his favorite armchair.
"Good Evening." The reporter on the television greeted. "This is Korea, October ninth, nineteen hundred and fifty two. I'm Clete Roberts..."
"Great, another documentary on the Korean War." The War veteran complained under his breath. As he debated getting up and changing the channel the reporter continued his introduction.
"...I'm speaking to you from the recovery room of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital - A M*A*S*H..."
"The 4077th!" The former resident of that unit repeated in surprise. Then addressing his wife he called excitedly. "Louise! Louise get in here!" Then looking back at the television screen he commented. "October ninth? That was only two days ago!"
"...The fighting began out here more than two years ago..." Clete continued.
"What is it, John?" Louise asked anxiously s she came running out of the kitchen. "What the matter?"
"Sit down." Her husband instructed eagerly.
"It's a report on the 4077th." He quickly explained, gesturing towards the television program he was watching. Louise's eyes opened wide with surprise as she silently complied with her husband's urgings.
Meanwhile Clete was saying. "This isn't the first time we've been to this particular unit, but we've returned because it's record of efficiency and the people that make that record are a truly unique story." Rising up he turned and called. "Doctor! Doctor!" He walked up to a dark-haired man who was talking to one of the nurses.
"Yeah, just a second." The doctor said and then turned back to address the nurse he'd been talking with.
"Hey, that's Hawkeye!" 'Trapper' John McIntyre exclaimed excitedly as his old friend appeared on screen.
"Hawkeye?" Louise repeated, her tone questioning. Suddenly recognition flooded over her. "He was your bunkmate at the 4077th right?"
"That's right." Her husband nodded enthusiastically. "He was also my key to sanity while I was there."
"I wonder how his sanity is fairing now." Louise commented as she watched the man on the television curiously. "He's been over there for how long now?"
"Over two years." Trapper commented, his tone sorrowful. He paused in order to hear the conversation between Clete and Hawkeye.
"As a practicing surgeon, how do you cope with these unusual circumstances?" Clete asked the other man seriously.
"Well, usually I just turn my mind off and hope it'll all go away." Hawkeye replied, his tone mildly teasing. Then quickly he added. "But that doesn't always work, so usually you just do your job and try to forget that there's a war going on outside the window."
"Amen." John McIntyre agreed under his breath.
The scene moved from Post Op to Colonel Potter's office where Clete was speaking to the unit's Commanding Officer.
"I've seen the casualty reports." Clete was saying. "And the number of wounded men that pass through here is staggering."
"Who's that?" The old 4077th inmate exclaimed with surprise at the sight of the unfamiliar man sitting behind Henry's desk.
"Yeah, we've got enough clientele to open a hospital." Potter agreed seriously.
"Colonel Sherman Potter." Louise read as the Colonel's name flashed on the television screen. "It says that he's the Commanding Officer."
"...Makes for some long sessions in OR." The Colonel continued to comment. "I've seen surgeons so tired they almost fell asleep on their patients."
"Makes sense." McIntyre commented to his wife as he observed the other man. "He's sitting in Henry's old office."
"Henry?" Louise repeated, looking at her husband seriously. "Wasn't he the one that was killed on his way home from Korea?"
"That's right." Her husband nodded in confirmation. "His plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan."
"Who was left in charge after Henry went home?" His wife asked curiously.
"Major Frank Burns." McIntyre remarked annoyance evident in his tone. "Major 'Pain In The Neck' himself." His wife smiled slightly as she recalled how much her husband had disliked the two Majors that had been in his unit.
On the television Clete Roberts had changed interviewees again. "What's your most difficult problem here?" He asked his new companion.
"Well, ah, for me it's getting use to doing things the army way." Klinger admitted seriously. "You see, back home in Toledo, if we needed something we just stole it...borrowed it."
Both 'Trapper' John and his wife chuckled at the other man's honest comment.
"Did you know this guy?" Louise asked curiously as she continued to chuckle softly.
An amused smile spread across her husband's face. "Oh, yeah, I knew him. Though I didn't recognize him at first without the dresses and earrings."
"Excuse me?" His wife looked at him with a look of surprise on her face.
"He was the corpsman that I told you use to dress as a woman in order to get out of the army." He chuckled slightly as he remember some of the outfits he'd seen Klinger sport in his campaign for a Section Eight discharge. "I don't know if I've ever seen him in plain old army fatigues before."
On the television Radar was commenting on the amount of paper work and requisitions the Army required for anything.
"...I mean, wow, over here they got paper work and requisitions for everything!" He exclaimed in amazement.
"And Radar knew just what and how many of what were needed." John commented with a broad smile. "He was quite the kid - sweet, innocent...and he almost worshipped Hawkeye. Looked up to him like a big brother."
"What did Hawkeye think of that?" Louise asked inquisitively.
"He basically treated Radar like an honorary younger brother." He replied. "Which was nice for both of them since Radar is the youngest in his family and so far from home and Hawkeye didn't have any brothers or sisters of his one to look out for."
"He's an only child then." She stated with mild surprise.
"Yeah," John nodded distractedly. "His mother died when he was about ten."
"How sad." His wife commented her tone sorrowful.
"Yeah." Was her husband's distracted reply. He'd noticed that his buddy was back on and wanted to hear what he was saying.
"What do you miss the most?" Clete was asking. The camera focused on Hawkeye as he thought for a moment.
"Just off hand, I'd have to say a mattress thicker than a motza." He paused for another moment as he thought again. "My own bathroom with a combination lock, any woman out of any uniform, and the entire State of Maine."
"Where's Hawkeye from?" Louise asked her husband.
"Crabapple Cove, Maine." He replied as Potter added his own thoughts to the question.
"Well, I miss playing spoons with my wife." Was Potter's reply to Clete's question.
"Playing spoons?" Clete questioned with surprise. "I don't understand, you mean music?"
"Well, you cuddle up together like two spoons in a drawer." Potter explained and then after a brief pause he retracted. "Ah, wait a minute, that's a little personal, maybe you shouldn't use it."
"Whatever you say." Clete said obligingly.
"Ah, what the hell." Potter exclaimed amiably. "I'm sure there's plenty of people back home do the same thing."
"He sounds like a pretty easy going sort." Louise remarked as she carefully observed the new Commanding Officer for a few moments.
Her husband merely grunted in reply as he kept watching the television expectantly. He had suddenly gotten curious to see the doctor who had replaced him. He was wondering if he was another Frank Burns type or if he was a kindred spirit like himself and Hawkeye.
On the television another new interviewee appeared.