For hours and well into the evening (without any shifts for any of us or any wounded coming in), the four of us talked. Kellye joined us before she had a shift with Major Bastard (as Hawkeye still calls Simmons) and drank a quick glass from the newly-rebuilt version of the still (improved materials from the Storage Room). Gagging and laughing about joining us, she put her empty glass down and asked to be excused; she had a shift to go to and not be drunk for.
In the evening, when a lull seemed to have occurred in the fighting (even Dean said there was, for some reason, even though it’s been heard that MacArthur had been pushing for his “Home by Christmas” attacks, but failing miserably), we four relaxed, smiling and downing our last glasses of swill. After commenting upon the taste of the gin (terrific, of course), Dean looked down at his feet. He was sitting on Hawkeye’s cot (Hawkeye himself was sitting in the chair next to it, I was next to him in the wheelchair and Trapper was at his cot), mumbling about something under his breath. Nobody heard him and all of us were asking him to speak up, but it was me that got me to talk normally.
“What is it, Dean?” I asked, curious that his jolly mood turned sour in two seconds flat. “What’s got your Army shorts into a twisted wedgie?”
“Oh, Jeanie, did you hear anything about our…umm…father lately?” Dean asked me in return after a moment of silence, holding up his glass to his lips for another few gulps, as if to dispel the things on his mind.
While Trapper got up and took his glass (seeing it empty when he gulped the last of it), I shook my head. “No. Is there anything I should be aware of now?” I sipped from my own glass, trying to think about why Dean was asking me.
“Other than he’s coming to Korea to visit us…” Dean took his glass from Trapper and downed it in one large gulp. He looked tense and stressed out because of what was going to happen.
“WHAT?!” I almost choked on my swill, coughing. Hawkeye immediately patted my back (Dean gave him a warning look, telling him to stop, but his brotherly concern was ignored) and I breathed again, making a face at my brother to explain himself and how he got the news.
“Henry called me up last night, while you were sleeping in Post-Op,” Dean started to explain when he saw my face. “How he got through to me, I don’t know. My unit was pretty damned busy at the borders, on orders to keep your unit secure and in place. I know you guys can go mobile, but we’re trying not to make you move. It’ll confuse everyone and more wounded can die as a result if the choppers can’t find you.”
“Radar probably came through with the call,” Trapper suggested.
“Regardless,” Dean waved his hand in indifference. “Henry and I talked about this and that, like what news we had from home and such. Apparently, Lorraine is having another child, but don’t tell everybody about it. Keep it quiet. She just found out herself and, naturally, was oblivious to it until recently.”
“Sure…” I trailed, trying to see the point in all of this while feeling sorry for Lorraine at the same time, being so alone and with two other children to take care of.
“Jeanie, I mean it.” Dean played the part of older brother too well, crossing his arms even and looking at Trapper and Hawkeye. “You two better keep your mouths shut, too. Now, anyway, after we chitchatted, Henry mentioned that our father called him while he was in Seoul for those days he wasn’t here and Major What’s-His-Face was. Apparently, the Colonel has been searching for Henry Blake and asking him about us. He has his connections, you know, even if he was staying in San Francisco, trying to quit booze.”
“Cheers to that,” Hawkeye announced, getting us all the toast our father for quitting drinking, and drank deeply himself. We all did the same (refills were there for all), but it left me with an empty feeling. I didn’t know why, for God knows how much I disliked my father for what he did. Even if he was trying to quit drinking, why should I care? The man hated me, anyhow, because I was a girl: a mutual feeling.
“So, how did he get to Korea if he’s supposed to be confined in a hospital?” I inquired gently, draining my last glass for the night.
“I can’t say,” Dean replied carefully as he put his own glass down. “There are rumors of him threatening the doctors to let him go so that he could be with his company, the 68th Regiment, and to lead them in Korea. They’re stationed up in Munsan while he’s been in the background.”
“That’s dead in the middle of the fighting!” I exclaimed. “That’s enemy territory! Dean, does he know what he’s doing?!”
“If someone is ‘Heartless’ enough to push the enemy back for the U.S. and defend the country, they’ll go.” Dean got quiet for a minute. “He’s crazy, all right. He wants to get himself killed and I can see it.”
“He’s always wanted to get himself killed, Dean,” I pointed out. “Our father has already been in two wars and is going into his third. In the First World War, he jumped out of his plane with a parachute allowing him to land, let his plane crash despite the cost, and tackled a bunch of German soldiers before running back to his lines. I heard that, while he was in Asia in the second war, he had two attack dogs with him, to kill any Japanese who came to him while he was sleeping. Then, if the dogs didn’t finish the job, he would kill the men himself, bashing their skulls in until their brains oozed out.” I paused, to take a breath. “Dean, this is a dangerous man who shouldn’t be our enemy. Or, haven’t you noticed over the years?”
“I have to be missing something here,” Trapper mused.
“It’s not anything, really,” Hawkeye commented. “We just have one Colonel Morrison, who likes to drop in on the enemy, attack and kill, and then think everybody close to him is his greatest one other than the country’s, but not having the guts to kill them.”
“I guess you’re all correct,” Dean said, resigned with the inevitable. “Trapper, you’re not missing much, but the story of a madman. Sadly, Hawkeye is right. He hasn’t been promoted since 1919, but I think he likes it, which is why I never hear him complain.”
“You talk with him?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Sometimes, it’s necessary.” Dean went quiet again. “He likes to hear from me. He doesn’t ask about you often, maybe once or twice in the past decade or so.”
“Like I cared in the first place,” I pointed out bitterly.
“Again, he asks about you, Jeanie.” I heard a sigh escape him. “I think the last time he did was a few years ago, because he hadn’t heard about you in almost a decade. The last he heard was that you escaped Mom and Clarence and you went into a military nursing school. I only told him what I knew at the time – that you were in West Germany – and he cursed you, drank something it sounded like over the telephone, and changed the topic.”
“What dedication,” Hawkeye added, toasting our father again. He and Trapper then drank deeply and threw their glasses at Frank’s corner of the tent, hearing them crash and shatter.
“Gee, thanks,” I said, rolling my eyes and rubbing my arms.
“Just be prepared, Jeanie.” Dean looked at me seriously. “He’ll be here next week, so be recovered enough so he doesn’t cause a scene. Remember the last time he saw you?”
“Yeah, I do, thank you for reminding me, Dean.” I became angry, but calmed enough to reply nicely – albeit sarcastically – to my older brother. “I was thirteen years old and he dragged me out of Mom’s house to ask me if I was on his side. I told him I didn’t know, because I really had no idea what was going on, and he slapped me and left in a hurry. And that was about the time we stopped seeing him at his house in Bloomington.”
“Damn, we’ve got a drunk Dan Simmons with an ego,” Hawkeye said.
“Yeah, and we’re going to hear an earful and more if we’re not careful,” Dean cautioned. “Henry knows about the visit next week…sadly. And he’s nervous as hell. He doesn’t like ‘Heartless’ as much as we do.”
“But, he’ll put out his heart for a visitor of the 4007th,” Trapper laughed.
“Uh-huh, very funny,” I only said to end the conversation, annoyed about my father and trying to change the topic. “Now, aren’t you two going to get new glasses and drink here or am I going to have to wheel myself to the Officers’ Club to get more again?”