After another grueling day in the O.R. (our Halloween party had almost been cancelled, but the wounded load was light, a first in weeks, but, for sure, to change soon), Radar and I kneeled in front of Henry’s office, listening to him, once more, talk to Headquarters about something. This time, though, he was asking about a new surgeon, one that could lighten the load of every other doctor in the camp. There were four in the camp (there used to be six), so to ask for another would help us dramatically.
I heard this from Radar, my own little spy who told me everything that Henry was doing. I gained his trust enough – even from the beginning – and, because I knew Henry longer than Radar, it made him look up to me more, asking me questions and confining in me. Henry seemed to have rubbed something of himself off on me and my aura was somewhat like his to Radar was what I figured (well, he said something about me being a little like Henry and I took it as a compliment). I guess what Radar meant was that I was trustworthy, a good listener, sympathetic, etc.
Somehow, this made me feel very proud of myself – after all, Radar was eighteen years old and not self-assured in himself – to be one of his confidants, after Hawkeye, Henry and even at times Trapper. However, I turned this trust into some sort of game after Radar insisted on me helping him: find out what news he can from Henry and tell me about it so we could listen in together. In that way, Radar and I became partners-in-crime and we were caught together if Henry happened to open his door and see us (one of us could take the blame, so I could take it all from Radar, so he doesn’t get into more trouble). It made Radar a little more daring, albeit still a little naïve (I even caught him peeking into a hole in the nurses’ showers), and me a little prouder.
“Yes, General, I am sure that we need a new surgeon here at the 4077th.” Henry was about to stutter something else, but remained silent, replying afterward, “Yes, yes, Sir, our Chief Surgeon suggested it as well, oh, yes, Hawkeye – no, Sir, it’s Captain Pierce. He said it would possibly cut down on the strain each doctor has when the wounded come and there would be less time in triage if someone else came here.”
“Is this it, Radar?” I hissed, neither impressed nor surprised. “Is this all the news that you have for us? Henry wants a new surgeon for the 4077th? It seems like Hawkeye suggested it, so says Henry. Then again, it would explain why he didn’t seem too surprised when you announced it at the Swamp.”
“Captain McIntyre also knew of the request and supported it too,” Radar replied quietly, putting a finger to his lips to silence me as Henry spoke louder.
I rolled my eyes (those two doctors kept everything from me sometimes, camp business that we all could use) and went silent again when I heard Henry protest, as if whining, “But, Sir, Majors Burns and Houlihan also agreed with this assessment…”
“And they did,” Radar added in a whisper.
“…which tells me that this unit is in sore need of some new hands and we need it fast and…”
I was sure Henry was smiling in his argument with whichever General about a new doctor, as he usually did when he felt he had the upper hand. And it did seem like he had the upper hand. His argument was sound, strong.
A lengthy silence afterward meant anything (and me wistfully thinking that Henry had something for us for once) and it left me and Radar in suspense and wishing for more. We put our ears closer to the doors – silently praying for some sort of a solution to the phone call – when we heard a voice behind us ask, “What are you two doing there?”
Both Radar and I jumped up from our positions at the door and turned around, half-expecting Majors Houlihan and/or Burns behind us. Instead, we saw the new person at the camp, Nurse Kellye, standing behind us, smiling broadly, and looking like she was ready for a Post-Op shift with Major Houlihan. She held a clipboard and was in a white “lab coat” (well, it’s what I call them, smartass I am) and Army pants and boots.
I sighed with some frustration, not knowing if she was working with Major Houlihan and was going to report us. So, I decided that honesty was the best policy, for some stupid reason. I might as well tell her the truth.
“Radar and I are waiting for Colonel Blake,” I admitted weakly, putting my hands behind my back, as if I were the child caught with her hands in the cookie jar. “Radar here heard about some new surgeon coming possibly and he came to tell me. We usually stay here and listen in to Colonel Blake’s conversations and scram when he comes out of his office or somebody catches us.”
Radar looked like he wanted to kill me when I admitted our crimes (he exchanged looks with me and his was murderous, which was hilarious, to say the least), but Nurse Kellye only laughed. She really thought it was funny that we eavesdropped on Henry, apparently, and said so, adding, “If I could, I would join you, but I’ve always been watched by Major Houlihan all the time, ever since I came here. And I’m not as quick as others when trying to play innocent. I’m always caught every time. But, I’m slowly catching on. In this place, you need it.”
I smiled, relaxing. Radar did the same, but then immediately went back to the door when Henry was heard whooping in his office, jubilant about something (most likely getting his way), and then he became silent again, probably being told to shut up by some General on the other end of the phone. Kellye and I laughed (about Henry and Radar for me, but I didn’t know which she was laughing about) and then smiled at each other, understanding each other for only a moment, a moment I savored.
“I don’t really see you around these parts,” I said to this new nurse, words I heard Hawkeye say to me when he first started talking to me.
“I’m new here,” Kellye replied confidently, shrugging her shoulders with indifference. “I was shipped here a few days ago. I’m in one of the nurses’ tents on the other end of the camp.”
“Don’t I know the feeling of being new,” I replied, smiling a bigger grin at this friendly nurse (at last, it seemed, there was one!). “I’ve gotten the others going through my things in my footlocker, calling me names and pointing their fingers at me when something bad happens to me. Worse, I’m hanging out with the camp’s skirt-chaser and they’re all jealous and confronting me about it, like I broke their hearts or something. It does seem like I did it on purpose.”
“Oh, Hawkeye Pierce,” Kellye laughed, tipping her head back, which caught my attention first. Another was Kellye’s way of seeing things immediately and paying attention to detail, especially to names (and she had been at the 4077th for only a few days!). “He’s one of those, all right. He hardly gives me any attention and I think it’s good for now. But, one of these days, he needs to realize how valuable some of us are.”
“What do you mean?” I asked just as Kellye looked at the watch on her wrist.
“Oh, I have to go!” she gasped, almost dropping her clipboard with fright. “Major Houlihan will put me on bed arrest if I’m late again, like she did to Nurse Cain the other day, remember?” She paused, taking in a breath. “Oh, what’s your name? Maybe we can see each other in the Mess Tent later, for dinner, if you don’t have a shift.”
“Jeanie,” I called out to Kellye as she ran through the double-doors that were next to Radar’s cot, going in the direction that led to Post-Op.
I then had a thought, a theory really. I followed behind Kellye and then looked after her as the door swung and peeked through them. I saw the good Major Houlihan yelling and pointing her finger at poor Kellye, who was almost cringing and wanting to go into a corner.
I guess that I’m not only one. Hell, I remember those days so well, when I was always lost and always yelled at by Major Houlihan. Hopefully, it’ll end soon enough with this Reign of Terror. I stood my ground and I hope the others do too. She knows where the lines are and where she can put her Regular Army boots. If she crosses them, I have people behind me who are willing to get my butt out of a sling. However, Major Houlihan asking me to do things for her is strange enough. I mean, asking me to search through files? What’s up there?
A moment later – turning away from the scene between Kellye and Major Houlihan before I was caught again – I went back to join Radar, who pushed me back as I came back, hissing, “He’s coming out now. Look busy!”
I did it quickly, going for a filing cabinet (as if to look for a file, like I was asked to by a certain Head Nurse) and looking busy as Henry came out of his office, smiling and looking like he won the biggest fight of his life (or, I should say, the biggest fish of the day, since he likes fishing in the stream by the camp). Radar had, by that time, returned to his desk by the P.A. system, looking busy filling out paperwork and readying everything for Henry to sign again, things he barely looks at.
“Radar, I have some good news!” Henry seemed to have yelled (his voice was pretty loud). “We are going to have a new surgeon to come to the 4077th. I want you to get some paperwork for one Major Daniel Simmons, M.D.”
Radar didn’t recite the orders at the same time as Henry (which seemed like a first to me, a rare occurrence), but immediately went from one pile of paperwork to another, taking more forms out of a cabinet by me as he got up and filling them out when he reached the desk again. I assumed that they were for this new doctor, this Major Daniel Simmons.
Henry then turned to go back into his office, but noticed me by the filing cabinet, stopping before he went back to work. “Jeanie, what are you doing here?” he then asked me, looking puzzled. “This has been the third time you’ve been at that filing cabinet this week. Is there something I should be aware of? Or, are you in need of some help?”
I looked up from my “work” and sighed. “It’s nothing, Henry, really,” I replied quietly. “I’m just looking up something for Major Houlihan. She asked me to do some things, oddly enough.”
It wasn’t quite a lie and I didn’t feel guilty about it – I’ve used that same filing cabinet before, to cover up my eavesdropping – because the Major had asked me to look into some people’s files, since I have the skills to do it with secrecy (it surprised me, like she was admitting that I had more power than she did). I didn’t like it, but used it as an excuse often enough.
“Trying to recruit spies of her own,” Radar mumbled, remembering what I asked him to say: plant in Henry’s mind about Major Houlihan’s schemes and try to get her to stop it, which will make she want me to do it more. But it’ll give me an excuse if Henry goes over her head.
“I heard that, I heard that!” Henry started to pace the office space and stopped in front of me again after the third run back and forth, making me nervous. “You’ve been a spy and it’s well-known, Jeanie, because it’s in your file and you have security clearance to be here. But I’d be careful, if I were you.”
“As if I don’t know that, Henry,” I answered tartly, being the smartass again.
“Then why aren’t you ignoring Major Houlihan?” Henry scratched his head.
“Because sometimes, Henry, it’s better to obey than to argue,” I replied, pulling up a file (I didn’t know which one and I didn’t care). “You should know that, as well. But, anyhow, a change of topic here: I give my congratulations on securing us that new surgeon. I’m sure Trapper and Hawkeye will be pleased.”
Henry mumbled something about Hawkeye (they were friends, but I was sure, still, that Henry hated him going after me and vice versa), but let it go, asking, “Are you still seeing Pierce?”
I was getting angrier by the moment and tired of Henry being the parent again. “I see him almost daily and I can’t help it, Henry. So, listen, Dad, I’m ok. I’m not taking time out in the Supply Room, if that makes you feel better. I drink in the Swamp, I dance at the Officers’ Club and that’s about it. Oh, and I get walked back to my tent every night. Do you want to know anything else? Need to hold our hands when we walk?”
I could tell Radar was listening in on us (his ears were perked up), but, Henry, of course, did not care for privacy, almost exploding at my comments. “Jeanie, you’ve been a pain in the BUTT lately and I’m getting a little tired of the attitude. You’ve been dangerously close a few times to be court-martialed and it’s not like you. I’ve never seen you like that before. I am proud you stood up for yourself, but am not pleased with the attitude you’ve been giving me.”
“Maybe if you’d stop picking your nose, I’ll sit down and talk with you civilly and like a human being, if there is such thing,” I replied hotly. “In this place called ‘hell’, I never know. You seem too busy to care, to lift up a finger even!”
“Is that what’s been bothering you?!” Henry yelled back at me, incredulous at such a concept. I didn’t care, though. Giving him an attitude was the only way to get his attention, apparently, and I played it well, showing how mad I was.
“Yes!” I screamed back, not caring about the patients in Post-Op and how unprofessional I was being. “And everything else you’ve –”
“Choppers,” Radar interrupted quietly, running for the door to pass on the news of incoming wounded once more, yelling it out louder, leaving the door open for us to hear him.
“I don’t hear anything,” Henry commented within Radar’s earshot, ignoring me – and the situation – once more.
“Listen for them!” Radar yelled back at him – coming back towards us – as the sound of choppers filled my ears within a moment it was said.
But before Henry ran out behind Radar, he finally turned back to me, finding me going out the door behind Radar. I wanted to ignore Henry for a little while, let off some steam and calm down (I didn’t have to work with him in the O.R.), and try to talk with him again about this stupid stuff here and there. I was tired of throwing my anger at him and wanted to calm down and be the human being around here.
However, before I knew it (and could run away from my problems), Henry had grabbed me from behind with the strength I knew he had – almost getting my left shoulder out of its socket, so fast I was running away from him – and swung me around by my arm, pinning me in a weird angle so that I couldn’t move, but face him. I was trapped, once more, without a way to get out, so I did the only thing I knew to do: struggle for my freedom. I did it for my whole life. Why not try it again, except with Henry?
I then, in my struggling, looked into Henry’s angry face, so full of anguish at the same time, before it softened a minute later. The old Henry was back and I knew it.
“Why don’t we try to talk this out like human beings?” he suggested, softening my hard and stubborn face as well. I wanted to do what he said, so stopped struggling to demonstrate this.
“Sure,” I replied, finally let go from Henry’s grip as I calmed down and replied civilly. “We’ll talk after surgery, ok?”
Henry nodded, calmed down as well. However, we could not talk anymore and there was no time. We had wounded soldiers on the compound – so blared the announcements as well – and we had to move, once more. We had another job to do.