Seventy-four hours later, after that conversation with Henry about talking to him civilly when we had the chance, I was done with surgery, hearing, over the P.A. system, about yet another offensive on Hill 403 (the Chinese had also attacked Unsan and MacArthur was bombing communication routes at Yalu) and that more wounded were coming in tonight or the next day, which made me pissed about the fighting and the wounded coming in. I was becoming more and more and angry about the war in general. However, I could do nothing about it. I mean, after all, this was war. And we were only dancing to its tune.
“I see a spring of water in this God forsaken desert,” Hawkeye commented as Frank (I stopped calling him Major Burns because he had not earned respect from me, the same happening with Margaret Houlihan) and Trapper came behind, all four of us heading to the Swamp after such a long shift in the O.R.
“The oasis is only a little farther,” I replied jokingly as Hawkeye leaned on me heavily, tired just as I was. I felt his full weight as he collapsed on me, it being a joke, of course. I had it often after helping the wounded and spending hours (days, I should say, sometimes) on my feet.
“And I can hardly walk…” Trapper added as he, too, ran beside me and then suddenly collapsed on top of me.
“Hey, hey, you two, off of me,” I yelled out playfully, dragging both doctors with all of my strength to the Swamp (as Frank sneered behind us in disgust, most likely thinking about insults in his mind in his own egoless mind), where we saw somebody sitting there on the spare cot. The spare bunk, where many men have stayed at, but never permanently due to Army rotation (Spearchucker Jones, Ugly John and even Duke), held some man there, someone unfamiliar to all of us.
Playtime, thankfully, stopped at the Swamp’s doors and I had both doctors off of me, all instead looking at the man in the spare cot, just as I was. In full dress uniform was a Major (I saw the gold cluster): tall and lanky with blonde hair, blue eyes and a sharp face (and he had a chin, albeit pointed). His icy blue glare when he looked at us, saw our rowdy behavior – in disdain, much like Frank’s – horrified me as he left the eyes on me. I knew, right then and there, that we were in deeper trouble than I had thought previously.
The four of us came into the Swamp cautiously (even Frank), surprised when the Major stood up, all military-like, and saluted us, saying as he clicked his heels together (his icy stare still on me), “Major Daniels Simmons on-duty, Sirs. I have already talked with Colonel Blake and have been assigned to this pigsty called ‘The Swamp’. Army regulations demand a clean tent, cleared of dirty…clothes, garbage and even magazines, not appropriate for doctors in a war zone. Some of the material in this tent is also not allowed on a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.”
I saw the look on Frank’s face (incredulous and happy) and shuddered hearing this creep. I then gave a half-hearted salute to the Swamp’s new bedmate (Trapper and Hawkeye were ignoring the new doctor and being more concerned with sleeping as they went to their cots). Frank, behind me and about going to his cot, saluted and clicked his heels together as well.
“Welcome, Major Simmons,” Frank said jubilantly, walking around me to offer his hand after the salute (I just shrugged my shoulders and went to sit down next to Hawkeye’s cot, massaging his face and head, like I normally did after a long shift). “It’s so nice to meet you, finally. We’ve been in need of you for a long time.”
Major Simmons barely acknowledged my salute, but the effort was noted and I saw it in his eyes as he continued to stare at me when I moved to my usual seat next to Hawkeye. You’ll pay for this soon, his eyes seemed to have said to me as I looked from him to my hands working on Hawkeye. You and those Captains that did not pay me the respect I deserve will pay dearly. You’ll see soon enough. I have the power to do it.
Finally, the Major looked at Frank, for what seemed like slow moments. “I am happy to be here as well, Major,” he replied, shaking Frank’s hand still. “I’m sure that I will help to make this camp into one that is in the best shape there is instead of this insane asylum people inform me it is.”
“Oh, Major, and there is a lot of improvement to be had. You would not believe the fools we have here and what should have been gone ages ago. As you can see, we can begin right where we reside.”
Frank, happy to find someone just like him and Margaret, nodded his head and crossed his arms as Major Simmons looked from me to him, their handshake broken, their friendship cemented into stone. I then saw the understanding between the two as I moved my fingers on Hawkeye’s forehead, with him moaning and ignoring what was going on around him. Trying to shake him awake in the process was tough (it was a futile effort, of course), but he and Trapper had to hear about the conspiracy in Frank’s mind, going from him to the next Army nut case. He was out to get the camp again.
I gave up trying to wake up Hawkeye and went to Trapper at his cot with the same results (the Majors gave me no trouble, but continued to talk about the changes about to come in the camp hopefully…for them). So, I sat by Hawkeye again, massaging him once more and listening to the two idiots talk about improving the camp.
This guy is more Regular Army than Frank and Margaret, I thought as I heard them talk about court-martialing Klinger (for wearing dresses and refusing to be in uniform), Henry (for being an ineffective Commanding Officer) and even some of the nurses, who Frank and Margaret think are useless as hell. Then, the two talked about Major Houlihan (apparently, this Major Simmons was observing us in surgery before we saw him in the Swamp) and of how effective of a nurse she is and how nobody follows her orders, especially her own nurses.
I wanted to protest that last comment, but I didn’t. I remained quiet in the corner with an unconscious Hawkeye until Frank looked at me, his own beady eyes boring into my head as he twitched his mouth, seeing me massage Hawkeye’s forehead.
“Captain, aren’t you on duty today?” he asked me, wrinkling his forehead.
“No, Frank, I’m not,” I replied, defiance in my voice. “I actually have the day off. But, I’m expecting more wounded tonight, so I might as well scrub up for the next shift in the O.R. I am sit perfectly still until then.”
“You should address a superior officer by proper rank,” Major Simmons corrected as he looked at me again with that blue stare. “You, as a Captain of the United States Army, should know that, Captain…?”
“Morrison,” I said with clenches teeth. “I’m Captain Jeanette Morrison.”
“And a damned good one, at that,” Trapper moaned loudly from his cot.
Major Simmons turned from one Captain to another – from me to Trapper and then Hawkeye numerous times – and sighed, finally pointing in Trapper’s direction. “I see we have a lot of work to do here, as we’ve mentioned already,” he snarled, trying not to get himself dirty as he took a step away from me. “First off, we’re taking that…machine…out of here.”
That “machine” happened to be Hawkeye and Trapper’s gin still!
Trapper and Hawkeye knew it, too, and were up immediately, at the same time in fact (I backed off immediately, knowing how dangerous the two could be when they teamed up). They had been paying some attention, after all.
“You don’t touch that ‘machine’ of ours,” Trapper yelled, pointing his finger at Major Simmons. A second later, he had a flyswatter out, ready to hit said Major.
Hawkeye got out some old magazine of his (I think it was an old issue of women playing volleyball naked, something to offend the Major more) and rolled it up, adding “That ‘machine’ is our sanity, Major. Don’t be dismantling that and making us go crazier than we already are.”
“Oh, but I can, Captains McIntyre and Pierce,” Simmons replied, somehow knowing their names. “After reciting the rules and regulations of a hospital in a war zone, Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, to Colonel Blake, former Commanding Officer, he ordered that this ‘machine’ be dismantled. An M.P. will be here shortly to take it away.”
I stood up, outraged and ready to fight again. I was charged and ready to go.
“Major, we’re crazy people here,” I started. “We’re three miles from the Front Lines –”
“I’m aware of that, Captain,” Simmons interrupted, yawning.
“Don’t interrupt me!” I thundered, stomping my foot like Margaret Houlihan. “Major, just don’t start with me. I stood there for seventy-four hours, thank you very much, hopping from table to table, playing doctor for the first time in my life. We may be short of a doctor, but us nurses are tough as hell and are worthy of Major Houlihan’s praises. Our only ways to relax are to drink and joke around. Well, Sir, if that isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you should search for another M*A*S*H unit to go gun-ho about, because you can’t put Army regulations on this camp totally without mutiny. We’ll all be against you within a minute.”
“Insolence in an inferior officer, I see.” Simmons shook his head. “Major Burns, ask Major Houlihan to put Captain Morrison on tent arrest with an M.P. on duty at all hours, watching her every move. She is to be isolated from the rest of the camp and not allowed out without anybody’s permission – yours, mine and Major Houlihan’s – unless her duties tell her to. Even then, she is to be watched by an M.P.”
Hawkeye and Trapper stood up, outraged. But even then, I knew that they couldn’t do anything for me.
“Not unless Henry has something to say about this,” Trapper said to Simmons, still shaking his flyswatter as Simmons told Frank to get an M.P. “He’s still Commanding Officer here, you know. Last I knew in the Army, eagles were higher up the pyramid than golden stars.”
“It seems that ‘Henry’ has been transferred to Seoul this afternoon, if you didn’t hear me earlier saying that he was the former Commanding Officer.” Simmons yawned again. “General Clayton recalled him to the capital this morning, after he called the good Colonel, to transfer him to another unit, where he’s needed most.”
“As Chief Surgeon, I order you to get him back,” Hawkeye retorted, finally using some rank, which wasn’t usually typical of him. “We need the extra hands here. Unless you want to work overtime here, Major, I suggest you bring our Commanding Officer back here or get another doctor. We can’t afford to get rid of another doctor.”
“I don’t that that’ll be necessary, Captain Pierce. And your position as ‘Chief Surgeon’ seems to be a joke. Indeed, when does a Chief Surgeon play poker for two hours before operating on a patient the night this camp partied? Or, when does he become appointed over an officer as fine as Major Burns? I will never understand.”
Simmons then eyed Hawkeye with another icy stare, getting tired of the backtalk (for sure), and it backed the Captain up, but not entirely. His magazine was about to strike, making Simmons back up, but seeing the M.P. come in made him smile again. “Ah, Sergeant, take Captain Morrison to the nurses’ tent to retrieve her things and bring her to the extra tent for isolation. She has two minutes to get her things. Major Burns probably told you what to do otherwise.”
“Yes, Sir!” The M.P. saluted and grabbed me roughly from my place next to Hawkeye’s cot, twisting my left shoulder in the wrong direction. I felt the socket pop out of place, making me press my lips together, trying not give the Major Asshole (Simmons) a reason to smile anymore. Screaming in pain seemed to be a bad idea and something that would give him more satisfaction.
Hawkeye saw this, even heard the snap, and moved forward, saying quickly to save me some time, “Major, it’s obviously the M.P. assaulted Captain Morrison. She needs some medical assistance –”
“You’re over the line, Pierce!” Frank yelled finally. “Sergeant, after you take Captain Morrison to her tent arrest, inform Major Houlihan of the changes she now faces and have her sign the paperwork from Corporal O’Reilly. Then, come back here and take Captain Pierce to his tent arrest. After that, dismantle and destroy that still!”
Trapper was about to say something, but Simmons got to him first, staring at him with his blue eyes. I don’t know how he does it, but it scared everybody.
“Do you have something else to add, Captain McIntyre?” he asked Trapper as the blue stare shook the surgeon to the core.
“None at all, Major Simmons,” Trapper answered fairly politely, putting down his flyswatter when the M.P. pulled up a gun in his other hand (his other was preoccupied holding me, for once without struggling), knowing Trapper used the plastic object as a “weapon”. He then sat back down on his cot, staring at me and Hawkeye, asking, “I suppose that I am on Post-Op duty now?”
“Yes, it seems so, McIntyre, now that Colonel Blake is gone and not on duty here,” Frank sneered, smiling. “Nurse Baker will be waiting for you. Major Houlihan will join you tonight, when she is through with the paperwork needed to change Commanding Officers. Today, though, you’ll remember this as the day Majors Burns, Houlihan and Simmons took over M*A*S*H 4077th and made it Regular Army.”
“November 4, 1950 at, hopefully, fifteen hundred hours,” Simmons added, looking at his watch.
I wanted to say something, but the M.P. was dragging me by my bad arm, hurting my shoulder even more. And before I knew it, I was outside of the Swamp, looking at my last scenes of freedom. Henry was at the jeep taking him to Seoul, Radar helping him pack (the latter looked more miserable than the former); Kellye saw me as she came out of Post-Op, frowning and about to ask about what was going on before being told she was not allowed to talk to “prisoners”; Father Mulcahy was told by some M.P. that, by order of the new Commanding Officer, Major Simmons, he was to preach nothing but obedience on his next Sunday sermon; and I even saw Klinger, being told by another M.P. to get into uniform because his dress, heels and tights were not being in uniform.
I didn’t even have five minutes to pack (I had two, as ordered), the customary amount of time given to “prisoners”, even to those in Nazi Germany, as Dean told me when he visited me in West Germany after the war (it made to sad to think that this was more inhumane than the Nazis a bit). I had a minute to grab my footlocker and run out with it, not having help from the M.P. He was only following orders, I guessed.
Damn U.S. Army, I thought, and it wasn’t for the first time. Frank Burns and that damned Major are going to pay for this. If not now, it’ll be soon. Soon enough, we’ll get them back for this.