“Jeanie, wake up! Wake up, honey! Oh, damn, I wish I was here when I could have been. Jeanie, wake up, honey, please!”
There it was…again. Henry was telling me to wake up. First, it had been Lorraine when I was sick. Now, it was Henry telling me to wake up and possibly get ready for school.
It was usually serious when Henry did bother to wake me up. On a daily basis (and mostly nights as well), he’s at the hospital working or busy trying to make decisions in his own household. I mean, the other week, Molly wanted a swing set and a pony in the backyard and it didn’t help that Janie was adding that we needed a slide and another pony, just for her. With Lorraine shopping and Henry babysitting them alone, disaster loomed.
So, while I sat back that afternoon – enjoying doing my homework for Lorraine on the back porch and basking in the sunshine – I watched Henry stutter about, trying to explain that they could not do what Molly and Janie wanted. Then, he finally let down and said he might get the swing set and slide and not the ponies…if Mommy said it was ok. But they had to wait until Mommy got back from the supermarket before a decision was made.
I was being shaken. “Jeanie, wake up, dammit! Are you ok?!”
“She’ll more be ok if we moved her,” a worried voice added, a voice I have not heard before.
Or have I? It does sound familiar, I guess…
“Henry, it’s not your fault,” that same worried voice continued. “Stop worrying. We all should have been with her. Instead, we teased her about it.”
“What are you two talking about?” I opened my eyes, realizing, once more, that my dreams were not reality (and how quickly that came!). “Henry, seriously – owww…”
I clenched my abdomen and curled into a ball, wondering why I was in pain…and naked under a blanket on a cot in Simmons’ tent in the middle of that idiotic war in the middle of Korea.
Hawkeye, when I saw him, looked at me and then to Henry, worried.
“I can’t believe the man escaped, Henry!” he yelled. “We should have had those M.P.’s watching him closer!”
“If we had them, Pierce…if we had them around.” Henry sighed, looking just as worried as Hawkeye did. “Jeanie, get dressed, if you can. Your clothes are under the cot, I think. Radar has some paperwork for you to sign. We’ll talk when you’re done.”
I was instantly annoyed with Henry’s almost callous voice as I laid there, balling into a tighter fetal position. It sounded so indifferent, even if the situation was serious and he couldn’t afford to break down in front of everyone (I knew it somehow, not knowing what happened after Simmons knocked me out).
“What are you talking about, Henry?” I then yelled, wondering why I was still in pain and in a nice, naked ball in the corner of a COT…under a BLANKET…and in the middle of a damned TENT, in the middle of a damned WAR in Korea. “Simmons was just here. I don’t remember what had happened next, but –”
“That’s the point, Jeanie!” Hawkeye interrupted as Trapper came into the tent, briefly letting in some cold air.
“Simmons has been spotted in the village,” Trapper said with clenched teeth. “Frank let the M.P.’s loose to go get him. And for once, I’d let him.”
“Makes you want to get a gun and hunt him, doesn’t it?” Henry asked him.
I knew, by the tone of Henry’s voice, that he wanted to do the same (I knew him too well). He was trying to remain as calm as he could before Simmons was brought back, trying hard not to run back to his tent, grab the gun from under his pillow and run off to the next village to find Simmons.
“Why use a gun when I have my bare hands?!” Hawkeye exclaimed, reminding all that he hated guns (just as much as I do).
“It’s not going to help any,” I added, finally feeling some relief from the pain for the moment. I uncurled from my ball and sat up straight, holding the blanket up to my chest, shivering from the cold. “For once, I vote that the M.P.’s do their job and we leave them alone for the time being.”
“Oh, dammit, Henry, get her some clothes on!” Hawkeye’s fist was balling up, ignoring my logical proposition. “Let’s get her to Pre-Op, Trap. She’s going to get hyperthermia just laying there.”
“I’m f-f-fine,” I stuttered, from sheer shame and embarrassment (and from the cold, for sure, even though I felt nothing), as Hawkeye took off his coat (a large feat for him, for sure) and wrapped it around me, the blanket on top, covering everything but my face.
When Hawkeye put his arms around me, to stand me up and steer me away from the scene of the crime, I felt his own shiver. His wasn’t just from the cold, though. It was a mix of feelings: fear and white-hot anger. And I knew it.
“Sure, you are,” Trapper replied as he and Hawkeye helped me keep standing , moving me from the cot and to the door, Henry silently behind them, carefully watching them. “Hawkeye, Henry, she’s turning blue. We better get her inside before she does freeze.”
* * * *
So, Simmons flew the chicken coup and is somewhere in war-stricken Korea, watching and waiting for another time to strike us. That’s lovely…just lovely. Now, what am I going to do while he’s on the loose and possibly causing more harm to everybody else? I swear…the man could stop the war and overrun us with the North Koreans and Chinese if he could! If he had the power to destroy us all, he’d do it.
I was lying on my cot in my quarters with the other nurses, musing about the day’s events and still feeling red-faced shame at what happened…once more. And I still couldn’t believe myself, couldn’t comprehend why I did it again.
It was nighttime, a darkness that came early enough in the season, and sleep was escaping me again. I didn’t have Post-Op duty the next day, so was allowed sleep, considering, also, what I just went through earlier in the day with Simmons and the great impact it had on not just myself, but everyone around me. However, if wounded came, I was bound to have another shift and work around the clock.
I didn’t mind it, but would embrace it and the numbness of feeling, the fleeting thoughts to the wounded and sick that come in. Hell, I was tired of the paperwork I signed all day, tired of explaining to everybody that I had no idea that Simmons raped me or anything else that happened after he knocked me out, the bruise on my face telling them all.
I needed something to keep my mind occupied…
Oh, my God, though. It’s a repeat of history and I knew it from the start. Clarence had taught this clown well, I guess…if what he says is true, which looks to be the case, if he had not looked into personnel files or something. Jesus, the two are perfect for each other, for all I care.
I feel ashamed, of course. I mean, I let another man rape me and I didn’t stop him. What’s WRONG with me?! I let it happen again and didn’t fight back.
Look what I did to Hawkeye, worst of all! I betrayed his trust, ruined our relationship for all I know. I was raped by another man!
I know that Hawkeye knows. The face he made to Trapper and Henry in Pre-Op said it all when I was under examination by the three, with Frank also looking in…as if I need three more men looking into my female parts and poking at them, Hawkeye the least of the problem.
It was embarrassing enough that Henry explained the birds and bees when I was in puberty…and that was funny really, especially seeing the repeat episode in the Mess Tent a few times at his lectures…but, having him having a look at my plumbing again makes my face red, even now. Trapper was fine, I guess, because Hawkeye trusts him, but Frank’s cold fish hands drive me insane, even if he was gloved and announcing that he agreed with everybody else’s conclusions and that I should be filing charges against Simmons and how he’ll get the M.P.’s on his ass as soon as possible, P.D.Q.
Hawkeye can’t look at me in the face…still!…after everybody agreed with him announcing a rape. What does this tell me? He’s worried, angry and full of shame too, knowing that another man touched his woman, his “Love”, as he likes to call me all the time.
And I can TELL that he wants to kill Simmons, like everyone else. What’s new? He’s gonna have to wait too.
Maybe my mother is right after all: I am a whore and a shameless one, at that. Margaret probably thought the same when she heard all about it in a meeting in Henry’s office, with everybody present but the kitchen sink, Radar at the door most likely.
Well, then again, Margaret was very sympathetic for once while Frank was thinking about how I deserved it for being careless and not following regulations again, as he told Henry. Oh, the lecture that came from that useless, idiotic mouth!
Henry wanted to slap Frank (I knew it) and it showed. He eventually apologized for his words in front of me…when Trapper and Hawkeye were behind him, tapping him on the shoulder and reminding him about what Simmons did with him, when Henry was sent to Seoul, and what he’s charged with. THAT shut our Major Burns up pretty quickly!
Margaret’s eyes, though, looked at me with first anger and then sadness, always knowing and reminding me of what a world this was: ruled by men usually. I know that she thought of it.
And, for the first time ever, I thought she had my interests in mind. She cared about her nurses and their welfare, despite her obviously selfishness and vanity and snobbish conceitedness. Then, in a flash, her eyes turned hard again, turning back to Henry and reminding him that we need M.P.’s here on the double to search for Simmons, more than what we already have. He was a dangerous man, she said, and he could strike away, and this time, it could be a different nurse. Or, worse, he could kill someone.
Simmons hasn’t hesitated before and I know it. He almost killed me, for God’s sake, and he could do the same to anybody in this camp, Hawkeye most of all! I’m worried. I mean, Hawkeye was emotionally hurt by the last ordeal. How can he handle another? Can he handle watching me or anybody else being on the table, being killed even? Or, can I handle him being dead?
I sat up in my cot, wondering morbidly as I put my hands in my face, trying to hide my tears, sliding down my face slowly. My face slowly turned hot, red for sure, the humiliation still there, the confusion constant on my mind.
What can I do next? Surely, Simmons is all for Leavenworth. It’s written all over his face, written in the stars of fate, if there is such thing. That man is up for some hard labor, like Sergeant Grant. But, the problem of finding him still remains. He’s gotta be around here somewhere, hiding near this unit or in the village down the road. Either way, he’ll be back here: to torment, to torture and to kill…if he could.
Suddenly, I coughed, trying to gasp for some air. I wiped my tears away (they can come later, when in a more private spot, without camp speculation and rumor whirling around) and looked around. Something around the tent was making it harder to breathe. I couldn’t tell what it was, but something was making the nurses’ tent super hot and making it super hard to actually get some sleep and breathe properly.
Then, as I turned my head, I saw thick smoke coming from another corner of the nurses’ tent.
Wait, I know this from anywhere. Could this be…?
“Fire! Everybody, wake up! There’s a fire in the tent!” Nurse Baker, waking up from her sound sleep (not out and about with somebody, for once), yelled at the other nurses. “There’s fire in the tent! Get out!”
“Oh, God, get out of here! There’s a fire in the tent! Where’s Major Houlihan?!” I heard someone else scream.
Then, there were those thick noises around me – padding feet, cots overturning and nurses yelling for help – and it rolled into one sound: chaos. It stuck to me, made us fear; we were its slaves, made us shudder under its weight, under its whip.
We could not escape it within the panic.
I got up quickly, waiting for the others to leave, and went around the tent, making sure that nobody was sleeping and left behind. Of course, with Nurse Baker’s loud and obnoxious voice, we could all wake up and hear her announcement, coughing up the smoke instead of choking in it. It was thanks to her that we were all out on time in an orderly fashion.
Margaret will be pleased to see all of us out of the tent in time, especially with someone on the ball about getting everybody awake in time. And no one was hurt or killed.
I was about to exit myself (no nurse was left behind me, I had checked), running for the door with nothing on but a nightgown and uniform coat on top. As I opened the door, though, a hand went over my mouth, another hand pulling me back into the fire…and to the danger once more.
“It’s your time again,” was all I heard before I turned around and tried to fight back.