A Structure of Pride
Note and Disclaimer: Obviously, I don’t own the characters to the show M*A*S*H (CBS and 20th Century Fox do), but if you want to use the main character of this story (which I have created), then please message me with permission first. This is a trilogy about my character, to continue until the end of the war and a little beyond it as well. Enjoy!
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The 4077th, Korea to Bloomington, Illinois
Dear Mom and Clarence,
So, I have arrived here in South Korea, safe and sound (well, it was two weeks ago), but very frightened about the war. It is just like I thought it was going to be (and just as the draft boards described to everybody else): hot, dusty and lacking the comforts of home…although I swear the natives say it’ll turn bitter cold within a few months. The people (the nurses and doctors I work with, of course) are just as equally cold in their reception, not as cheery as the civilians.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I can’t complain. There are enough soldiers here to comfort, our neighbor as the Commanding Officer and even a friendly Company Clerk who knows what Henry wants and needs (oh, yes, that Henry Blake, Lorraine’s husband). Oh, can I mention a sane Corporal that dresses in…well, dresses, to get a Section Eight? It’s a ball here and the jokes are numerous on the military brats…
I stared at the first page of my letter to my mother and stepfather. Damn, I thought, thinking of all the hard times they had given me before I went to West Germany (when I bothered to visit them in my rare spare time, of course) and then here to Korea. Why should I open up my soul to them?
I put down the pen, remembering the hardships of my childhood from those two idiots, and reread what I wrote to them in my first letter to the States. Somehow, though, as I read between those lines, I couldn’t concentrate enough on writing a letter to them because of this and the noise in the tent. Around me, nurses came in and out, mostly with the doctors of the unit, but none of them could have noticed a petite captain, such as me, sitting on her bunk and writing a letter atop of her footlocker, which, I noticed as the weeks went by, that the nurses constantly pried into. The Head Nurse, Major Margaret Houlihan, was not sympathetic when I told her of my suspicions, and only snickered an “It’ll be a while before you make friends” comment. There was no time to talk to Henry and others completely ignore me for some unknown reason.
I always guessed that I was new here and it would have taken a while anyhow.
That’s always the way it goes for me. I’m always kind, less snippy and too modest, so Henry says. I may be happy about leaving West Germany and the troubles there and being here in Korea, but it is kinda cold and strange here. Something is bound to happen here and it’ll be a while before I can leave Korea. I have a feeling about it. I just don’t know what is going to happen yet.
Sighing again, I tried concentrating back on the stupid letter once more, but finding the correct words to describe my position as just another nurse at an M*A*S*H unit in Korea was almost next to impossible. So, I thought harder and managed to pull out some constructive, yet perfectly conservative, words out of my mind to put the finishing touches. I mean, I had to put a little more oomph into it, to make Mom believe that I was really on her side all of this time and not the whore she thinks I am.
Half the time, I have to do it, to make sure she doesn’t damn me to high hell like she does to my father when he was around. In the past, she’s called me a little hellion, a liberal Communist and worse. Being on her side was a good thing, especially after the episodes with Clarence, that jackass, but at the same time, sometimes I wondered if it was worth it or not.
Well, I guess that the pranks on others to relieve the tension of war seemed puerile anyhow. I think I was a little too excited about it, like I always am about new places. You know, as everyone does, my penchant for fresh positions and exhilarating situations, although most people barely call themselves to my attention, even if I am the superior officer (it’s an offense in the U.S. Army, as I’ve told you, and it’s punishable, especially with the enlisted men).But, I can certainly say that Korea, in the middle of a just war with the Communists, is sure a blood-drenching experience.
I do not intend a pun. I do mean that this is a beautiful place bombed for territory and I sure wish it can be resolved soon. I do miss you both, and Dean as well, although I know that his tour here in Korea will be coming up soon, in about another month after training for his post. But as you’ve both said, it is my duty and not a choice to come here and patch up those who fight against the ungodly and unethical Communist Reds.
With much love, Jeanette Karen Morrison
I scanned the few paragraphs (such a small letter indeed, but it’ll do for the time being for them), making sure that there were no offensive words that suggested my inner liberal and less religious spirit. Then, finally satisfied that I mended my words carefully enough after rereading it a few times (and lied in the process mostly), I sealed the letter in an envelope lying alone at the end of the footlocker.
Three folds, stuff the letter in the envelope, seal the damned letter and stamp and address it…it had been a part of my life for many years and it hadn’t changed much in the ten years since I was in nursing school and working for the military. Come to think about it, I had not meant to choose this as a career in my life, but it was an escape route out of where I stood and it got me away. I almost gleefully accepted the “draft notice” (if you want to say it that, it really wasn’t), a few years back, and it took me to places that I never dreamed I would go to. There was a fork in the road and my pathway was clear: go out into the world, when the time came, and not deal with the torture that comes with meddling family members.
I sat back against my bunk and took in the moment, a moment of relaxation. There was still time to revise that letter. I didn’t even want to bother to bring the letter to the Company Clerk, Corporal “Radar” O’Reilly, and have him mail it yet, just in case I thought of something more neutral (or more conservative) to say.
Closing my eyes, oblivious to the chatter in the tent, I felt around the edges of the envelope, as if there was some surprise inside I was excited about, and finally laid it down on the footlocker. To my right, I heard finally heard the satisfying giggles from the nurses over some note one had. To my left, I felt a light breeze – soon to be cold – one that satisfied me, if only for a while.
Naturally, I remembered well what her mother had always said to me about those “loose” women, which was what she would have called the nurses in the tent. The shy daughter in me was always ignoring these warnings, always trying to be “one of them”, but there were consequences to this, as always. Growing up so conservative, I knew that I was too serious, as I was taught to be, and to never indulge in the pleasures that give happiness of a human being.
Well, that particular pleasure had been given to me, but never with my consent. All had been against my will. And I damn the person, who lives with my mother, who done it to me.
Again, my thoughts moved, musing some more.
I couldn’t say that the events, had they been a dissimilar person, would have given anybody sheer happiness. It’s been a hard, cold life. I could hardly switch it with anyone.
Knocking my boots off finally, I opened my eyes and put the envelope down at last on top of the footlocker, weary of the nosy nurses and flirtiest doctors (Hawkeye Pierce had been in here at least four times by now, Trapper McIntyre six, as if to compete with his bunkmate). I hopped back on the bottom bunk, bumping into some nurse in the meantime (she moved out of my bunk immediately), and laid my brunette head on the hard pillow. That pile of hair, always in my way, made a comfortable cushion between head and pillow and it dared me to dream, to dig deep into my memories and recall a time, so far ago, that made me come to this “hellhole” called the 4077th M*A*S*H.