Hawkeye wheeled me into Henry’s office from the Mess Tent for the meeting a few days after the Thanksgiving holiday. However, it was not the day I told Dean was going to be the day of the meeting, but the day afterward (things were postponed, apparently). I mailed my letter to him the day I wrote it, hoping it’ll reach him soon, since he’s in Korea. I was desperate to see him, no matter what condition I was in. And I was in a wheelchair!
I was happy, however, being pushed around the camp, especially after a “good” meal in the Mess Tent (if you want to call it that) and a healing shoulder (finally!). However, my mood changed quickly when reaching Henry’s office (from being happy to being totally hopeless) because I knew what this was: a showdown. And I knew that it was only the beginning.
All present and accounted for when Hawkeye and I entered: Radar, Henry, Simmons, General Clayton, Margaret, Frank and Trapper. The only people who were running late were me and Hawkeye. We were the last people in for the meeting.
“Pierce, you’re late!” Henry mentioned, trying to be the C.O. and impressing the General.
“We had to make a stop in the Mess Tent,” Hawkeye replied, smiling, defiant. “The patient needed her meal. Would you like a full report on her progress?”
“Can it, Pierce,” Frank interjected, addressing Hawkeye’s smartass comment and watching him sit down next to me at a corner of Henry’s desk, Trapper next to him. “We have more important business to conduct.”
“Oh, yes, you do, Major Burns, and I better see some results today because all I see is some questions left unanswered.” The voice was behind me, but I knew it anywhere: it was Dean, my newly-promoted brother, Dean!!
I saw Trapper and Hawkeye smile at each other (I knew they had something to do with this by the looks of it), but I saw that some of the other officers cringe, save for General Clayton (a bit puzzled) and Henry (smiling and happy and beaming with pride). Radar himself, with a clipboard to write the moments of the meeting down, slinked into another corner of the office, overwhelmed by too many officers in the room.
“Who are you?” General Clayton asked. “You’re not of this unit.”
“No, I’m not,” Dean replied, coming up from behind me and saluting Henry and General Clayton and then Majors Simmons, Houlihan and Burns, who were all his superior officers by time alone. “I’m Major Dean Morrison of the 43rd Regiment Company, R.A. 19843072, stationed within the area to protect M*A*S*H 4077th, when commanded to by my superiors.”
Then, Dean came up from behind me and kissed me on the cheek, making me blush as I turned to face him. “Hello, my little sister. How are you feeling?”
Simmons looked at me first and then Dean, his former icy stares dulled down to nothing. He knew that we had the upper hand somehow.
“This is an outrage!” he yelled, not scaring me anymore with his glares. “Your formality with the prisoner is not within regulations, section –”
“Shut up, Major,” General Clayton interrupted. “This is a family matter, of course, and the Major is here to support her sister. There are no regulations against that.”
“Not to mention, Major,” Dean added as Henry greeted him warmly (my brother smiled, about to hug Henry, but remembered the situation at hand). “And I say that with hesitation, considering you are neither an officer nor gentleman. My sister is not a prisoner any longer and neither is Captain Pierce. They’ve been set free.”
“There are no forms signed to say otherwise,” Simmons countered, a grin on his face.
“Oh, shut it, Major!” Margaret yelled, pulling out some papers out of nowhere, it seemed. “I got them readied and Colonel Blake signed them the day the two were released from their tent arrest. Here, General Clayton, you can see for yourself that everything is in order and that Captains Pierce and Morrison are reinstated to their duties, despite physical and mental disabilities to their persons, as you can see in the second page.”
“Hear, hear,” Trapper added, raising his hand in an imaginary toast.
“I can drink to that.” Dean beamed with pleasure, alert, but always there when a drink was to be made. Not that he was an alcoholic like our parents, but in the way that he liked to have a little fun sometimes and to celebrate good times.
“Shut up, all of you,” General Clayton ordered, looking to Margaret and putting out his hand for the paperwork. As Margaret handed over her paperwork, I looked upon it as a statement: Margaret Houlihan was defending me and Hawkeye. It was a miracle, of some variety, and I took it as it went. It might not come again.
As General Clayton looked over the paperwork and kept himself busy, I looked at Hawkeye (he and I developed a bond almost and could read each other’s faces, but not the minds). He then looked at me, knowing what I was doing.
“Physical and mental disabilities”? I mentally asked him with facial expressions. What is Margaret talking about? There’s nothing wrong with my mind unless you’re not ok.
Hawkeye just shrugged his shoulders, telling me silently to be quiet and that it all was nothing to worry about. However, I wasn’t going to let it go. If he wanted to drop it and make it out to be nothing, then fine. But I was anxious. I really was worried about him.
What had happened to him in those days we were in that supply tent under arrest? Is he ok?
“I can see that everything is in order here,” General Clayton declared, passing the paperwork to Henry, who passed it to Dean (he passed it back to Radar, who tucked it under his arm, to file later, as he was writing). “However, the only thing that remains a mystery is how this all played out. I heard that both Pierce and Morrison had unmilitary behavior uncharacteristic in Army officers. Pierce, why don’t you start?”
Hawkeye sighed, sitting up straight and telling everybody in the office, as Radar continued to write in his little corner, about how we came from surgery and there was Major Simmons, giving us some respect and then talking about improving the camp. He did mention that both he and Trapper were out of uniform (still in their white scrubs) and that both were lazily relaxing in the Swamp, me listening to the Majors talk.
“He and Major Insanity talked some more,” Hawkeye added, “and Major Bastard here –”
“I don’t like this name-calling, Pierce!” Frank called out.
Henry and General Clayton even looked at Hawkeye annoyed, but they allowed him to continue, nonetheless, without a word.
“As I was saying, Major Bastard here said it was time to dismantle the Oasis of the Desert. Trapper and I here said not to. And then Captain Morrison defended it and was sent to her tent arrest. I said we had no orders from our lovely Commanding Officer, Henry, and we were told he was transferred to Seoul.”
“He only spent a few days relaxing before I reinstated him here,” General Clayton added. “But, please continue, Pierce.”
Hawkeye sighed again, joking around about how he was sent away to tent arrest with me because they were not enough tents in the camp for two people under arrest. Then, he went into details, more serious once more: how, within hours that he was sentenced, he entered our new quarters and found me, face-down on the ground bleeding; how, for the next day, he tried caring me the best way he could, but could do nothing until Trapper threw him his medical supplies; then, when I woke up, he tried to put lower my fever, but didn’t think of a way how until he thought of blankets and staying close to me until we were discovered two nights later.
Finally, I learned of the conversation with the M.P., Sergeant Grant: how he was just following his orders by shooting me when I was talking trash about Frank; how he dismantled the still, only to put it back together in the Supply Room for Trapper to use because the latter begged it of the M.P.; finally, how he told Hawkeye that his orders were not to leave the tent unless told to, but the times he was supposed to be out working was when the wounded were coming. And Grant told Hawkeye that everybody was in surgery and was ordered to keep the two of us inside the tent, on pain of death.
“And who ordered Sergeant Grant?” General Clayton asked gently.
“General, you’re looking at him next to you,” Hawkeye answered, pointing his chin at Simmons.
Everybody then stared at Simmons, who stood his own ground immediately, especially after Dean gave him a murderous stare (as well as Henry, Trapper and Hawkeye). General Clayton said nothing, but listened patiently enough…for a General.
“I was following Army regulations and rules,” Simmons sneered, defending himself soundly, so it seemed. “Pierce and Morrison were insolent and I punished them by the book. It was not my fault that Captain Morrison was shot. She should not have been drunk to begin with. Regulations say under section –”
“I don’t want to hear it, Major,” Henry said, telling him to shut up for what seemed like the millionth time.
“Henry, Henry, let him finish, if he can’t stop reciting by the book,” General Clayton cautioned, to both Henry and Simmons.
Simmons smiled. “Sergeant Grant acted upon his own accord in all ways, even keeping them in the tent,” he continued, grinning still: a predator’s teeth showing. “He shot Captain Morrison, even though he was within his rights to. She was a wild drunk who was going to hurt him.”
I knew that Simmons was lying within an instant by the grin on his face and the way he said the words. First off, I’m not a “wild drunk” (I may black out, but I’m usually happy or mouthing off about something, depending on my mood before I drank, and then going to sleep shortly afterward) and second thing is, no military personnel in the Army can shoot unless it’s by an officer’s orders, to the enemy or when totally threatened. A drunken woman is NOT grounds to shot. Even I knew that.
Hawkeye and Trapper knew it, too. Hawkeye crossed his arms as Trapper asked, “Who else knows about this, Major?”
Margaret looked like she wanted to say something to answer Trapper’s question (God knows she had no trouble saying things on her mind), but kept quiet for some reason. She must have known something about Sergeant Grant, but could not because of…what? Blackmail?
Why, Margaret, stay quiet? I asked myself as I saw this. Tell us something if you know that this creep is hiding something or lying!
“Do you have anything else to add?” General Clayton asked Majors Burns and Houlihan when the question was left unanswered (and ignored, I thought). When both shook their heads – surely lying to hide something – the General looked pleased. “Fine, then, this investigation is over. Captains Morrison and Pierce are no longer under arrest and only acted the way they always do. Major Simmons, you’re innocent and cleared of all charges. Majors Burns and Houlihan only acted as they should when the Commanding Officer is not around.”
Dean was about to protest, but did not for some reason and kept his silence as well. He, however, glared at Major Simmons with such venom that I thought that my older brother wanted to strangle him, then and there. Hawkeye and Trapper looked like they wanted to do the same. They looked so pissed off about Simmons’ acquittal that they were willing to bet who in the camp will kill him next. And not too many people in the camp were pleased with this transfer.
“I’m heading to the Officers’ Club,” General Clayton announced about a minute later as Radar concluded his notes and handed them to Henry to sign. “Henry, join me after you’re done signing the paperwork. Major Simmons, Houlihan, Burns, Morrison, will you join me? Captains Pierce, McIntyre and Morrison?”
“I think I will decline, General, Sir,” Simmons answered respectfully, the same man I first saw him as. “I have a shift in Post-Op in a few minutes.”
“Very well,” General Clayton replied, smiling when Margaret, Henry and Frank were joining him, accepting the invitation.
“I think I’ll stay out,” Dean said, speaking for me, Hawkeye and Trapper all and we all knew it. “I want to spend some time with my sister and talk with her about some news from home. Is that fine with you, General?”
“Yes, Major Morrison, go ahead.” General Clayton smiled. “I’m sure Pierce and McIntyre will enjoy your company as well.”
And with that, everyone prepared to leave. As the company left for their duties or pleasures elsewhere – leaving the four of us, plus Radar, in the office (and he left a minute later even because of his own duties) – Dean spoke again and this time, he was not happy.
“Oh, Jeanie, that was a close one. You got to play better with others, you know that?”
“That’s what we all say!” Trapper added, laughing with Hawkeye.
“But, Dean,” I protested, “you can’t blame me. I couldn’t help it. He was being the bully, you see, and I had to stand up for myself.”
“And you’ve got a bigger mouth than we realized. Oh, yes, I know.” Dean sighed, wheeling my chair around to face the doors. “Come on, little sister, let’s get you someplace. Now, where are we going? I need to get away from that scumbag and talk to you somewhere.”
“To our quarters, dear Sir,” Hawkeye exclaimed, getting up with Trapper.
“To a tent we have dubbed ‘The Swamp’, appropriately enough,” Trapper added. “Free gin for all and olives enough to share!”
“Ok, then, let’s go to ‘The Swamp’,” Dean replied, knowing from my letters what it meant.
“And hopefully, we can enjoy the still again,” I said, smiling. “I know we got it back today from Henry. So, let’s say, we make a toast to dirty socks, good Commanding Officers and the return of my brother to the next stinkhole he has to be in?”