The next morning – after all of those nightmarish, surreal events and yet another sleepless night watching out for myself – I was called into Henry’s office. It was eleven hundred hours when I was summoned by Radar (who was doing his daily runarounds, calling all of the major officers and handing out mail at the same time) as I laid on my cot, shocked and without feeling. Bubbling underneath was…nothing. There was barely anything left of me.
Dear God, I knew that it was about an hour before an afternoon of blood, more blood on my hands and not on my legs. There was to be more redness on my hands, on those white, gloved hands that skillfully reached over to help save yet another person’s live. Yet, I could not stop it. It was to keep coming and coming until…until…until I am dead and gone.
Does it matter how anymore? Simmons will be coming for more and more and will never stop it until I am gone forever. Next, after me, it’ll be Hawkeye and then Henry, for sure, because they are close and dear to me. Then, who knows who is next on his hit list? It could be Trapper and then Margaret and Frank, or even Radar and Klinger. I don’t want anybody to get hurt, no matter how much I hate them…not even the nurses in this tent or the next one. I’d rather it be just me than anyone else.
Sighing and barely registering being asked to go to Henry’s office, my mind thinking about the coming wounded. I knew that we had a short time before they came, for I-Corp phoned the hour before (again, news from Radar), to warn of an upcoming offensive (Seoul had been overrun by the North Koreans and we were pushing them back and forth), the last before the tradition holiday armistice, which might never come. Hell, the capital of the Republic of Korea was occupied and we were still fighting. I didn’t think even the most joyous of holidays would stop the war, even for a while.
There were two days left before Christmas with our orphans, another celebration with them for total cheer, and yet, there I was, being summoned to Henry’s office. To what end? He always called me and nothing much is accomplished, so it seemed. Sure, we talk and have meetings and things are accomplished, albeit comically. But when have they been good, save for me telling Henry the truth?
Sitting up – staring at the door of the new nurses’ tent while the others chattered and gossiped about their mail – I sighed again.
“What’s going on, Radar?” I asked with indifference, not wanting to hear any bad news, but bracing for it anyhow. “Why am I being called to Colonel Blake’s office again?”
“There’s, umm, good news,” Radar answered carefully. He was not good about keeping secrets, but a smile seemed to have betrayed his feelings that whatever he wanted to tell me was good news, indeed.
“Unless there’s peace to the war, Radar, I don’t really wanna hear it…”
I trialed in my sentence on purpose and then, seeing the company clerk’s confused, youthful face, continued. “Radar, just tell me. It’s not like I’m going to be enthused about going ‘home’ because the Army will probably sent me elsewhere and not Stateside. Even if I went ‘home’, I’d move out as quickly as I could. So, just tell me.”
“Geez, umm, Captain, the Colonel told me not to tell you what I know and what he knows because he’ll know what I told you already and it’ll be known across the camp…Sir.”
Radar then smiled again, his talk spinning my head already. His confusing words whirled, though, and did not make much sense other than Henry was talking nervously again.
“All right, all right…I’m up, I’m up. You don’t need to persuade me further.”
God, it still hurt down there, the blood trickling down my legs again as I got up from my cot, to remind me of the night before, after Hawkeye had left me and expected me to come back. Hell, even my shoulder was hurting and it hadn’t been bothering me since it came out of the sling the month before. After trying to fight back, I didn’t think that weak spots would be used against me.
The old hurts were coming back quickly and were reminding me, somehow, that my time was slowly running out.
Grabbing another layer, to put underneath my coat quickly (it had gotten colder outside, worse than ever before: ten degrees), I followed Radar outside into the cold and wind and to Henry’s office. The both of us walked quickly, but also kept sliding and falling, knowing that hell had truly frozen over. Indeed, the cloudy skies above us were sleeting and not snowing: a hard, cold rain that made the ground more slippery.
It’s bound to make tending to the wounded harder…dammit.
Finally, Radar and I entered the office, closing the door quickly when the wind picked up (it took the both of us to close the door and it took some effort, trust me). Turning around when we were finished, I saw Margaret, Frank, Hawkeye, Trapper and Klinger, waiting outside of Henry’s office. Trapper and Hawkeye were huddled together snickering, as were Margaret and Frank (except they were cuddling, not snickering), and Klinger stood alone, wearing a pair of broken high heels (if I can call them that) and a female Army dress uniform and thick brown coat (his slip was sliding down his legs) and holding his rifle in one hand, a parasol in the other.
Twirling the parasol inanely as he put down the rifle in a corner, Klinger came over to me, walking awkwardly in the broken pair of shoes.
“Captain, do you know what’s going on?” he asked me, his tone excited. “Did you hear what happened this morning?”
“Radar said some mumble-jumble about not telling me something that he and Colonel Blake know, but nothing else,” I answered feebly, shrugging my shoulders and still hoping that the blood would not show on my pants. I was worried, because it was coming down into my boots and I could feel it.
“Seems like we’re just having an office party, then,” Trapper said from his corner.
“If it is, then we need some wine,” Hawkeye added with a smile. “This place is an ice box needing some of it. It could also hold it for a few more years.”
“I’ve heard nothing,” Frank chimed in afterward, ignoring the Captains and still holding onto Margaret. “Have you heard anything, Margaret?”
The Head Nurse, shivering even in Frank’s arms, sighed. “Well, Corporal Klinger here said that there was some excitement last night…”
“And I hope he keeps his fly shut.”
The doors to Post-Op opened and in came Henry, who looked tired out from finishing up a shift. “Oh, and Klinger, your slip is showing.”
Klinger saluted, pulling the offending fabric up under his skirt as he took the parasol and lowered it, tucking it under his arms. “Thank you, Sir. Would you need me to stay here, Sir?”
“No, that would be all. You did a good job last night.”
Klinger took the hint and left with his rifle and parasol, back into the cold (he, too, had a hard time closing the door and Radar had to help him). Then, with the Corporal gone, we all turned to Henry for the news we’ve been waiting for.
Henry sighed. “Come on everybody, let’s head inside and talk. I have some good news.”
“Has MacArthur surrendered?” Hawkeye asked, his eyes twinkling as we officers, plus Radar (after he was finished helping Klinger) went inside his office.
“Have the North Koreans sent us back our latrines?” Trapper questioned immediately afterward.
Henry sighed again as he went to sit by his desk. “After this morning’s ‘disgraceful’ behavior and Major Burns’ complaint about it, you two had better shut up.”
I walked right next to Hawkeye and pulled up a seat between him and Trapper as we came before Henry’s desk. Giving Hawkeye a questioning stare (and STILL hoping that my legs were not showing red), I received a smile as a reply, Hawkeye giving me a face that said, I’ll tell you later. You’re sure to laugh!
When everybody was seated and settled, Henry started. “All right, everybody, like I’ve told Radar to tell you, but not tell you specifically what it is, I have good news. I know that he knew and knew not to tell you, unless I knew about it and told him to tell you, so here you are.”
“Good speech, Henry,” I shot out, clapping.
“Shut up, Captain!” Frank yelled at me.
Henry shot me a vicious look, telling me, too, to shut up and to keep my sarcastic comments to myself, and then continued. “So, everybody, to make this meeting short, this morning, after Corporal Klinger sacrificed his life – not to mention, his other pair of high heel shoes and Scarlett O’Hara dress – Major Daniel Simmons, also known as Jacob Zimmerman, was captured and manacled. He was handed to the M.P.’s at oh-six hundred hours this morning and now is on his way to Leavenworth.”
“That’s good news, Colonel!”Margaret exclaimed, her eyes glowing with a light that I had never seen before. “My nurses are safe at last!”
Oh, if only you knew, Margaret. If only you knew about last night, then you wouldn’t be rejoicing this early. Or would you? Would you think I deserved such a fate, trice in a row? How would you feel, if one of your nurses was hiding such a disgraceful secret that might be the ruin of her once more?
“Yes, indeed,” Frank added, smiling. “Colonel, I told you that the extra M.P.’s around the camp would help. And what happened? See? We’re now safe from our domestic enemies. Now, if you could please put this much effort into the camp, then we’d be safer.”
“You mean, you and Hot Lips here will be safer,” Hawkeye commented with another snicker.
“Considering you and McIntyre tarred and feathered the Holy Bible and pasted my mother’s picture with mayonnaise and spam on the tent’s ceiling, you would ask for more security on yourself and your belongings,” Frank whined hotly. “You both not only wasted Army supplies, but also destroyed others’ belongings. According to the regulations –”
“Psst, Frank,” Trapper interrupted, “it wasn’t us. It was the butler. He told us the mayonnaise and spam just made the picture stick better.”
Despite my dark mood and worry about the blood, I laughed (I couldn’t help it either). Nor did I try to stifle it, for I wanted to show the Majors another side to me, something they hoped the squash out of every nurse (or, I should say, personnel) around: a sense of humor.
Margaret gasped at the actions, stomping her foot as she sat, another temper tantrum coming up.
“Colonel, do you hear this disrespect?” she screeched.
“I do, Major, I do.” Henry rubbed his forehead. “I’ll process your complaints later with Major Burns. Radar, get the forms for that. Also, get the forms to request supplies, those that would ask for replacements for Klinger’s dress and heels.”
Radar was already gone, repeating everything that Henry ordered the moment before.
Frank then looked after Radar as he left, quickly forgetting what Hawkeye and Trapper had done earlier. He even ignored Margaret for a moment.
“That little weasel knows too much,” he said in a low voice.
“Well, that ‘little weasel’ also helps to run the camp,” Henry commented, continuing to rub his forehead. “You’re all dismissed except for Pierce, McIntyre and Morrison. Frank, see me later about your complaints.”
“Yes, Sir, I will. You can count on that.”
Frank and Margaret then got up from their seats and saluted Henry (he barely acknowledged them, as per usual). Both walked out together, entwining their arms together when they thought they were out of sight. But it was obvious they did as we looked through the windows on the office doors, watching them passionately kiss before finally separating, Margaret going into Post-Op and Frank going outdoors.
Henry sighed again and got up, going to his cabinet and taking out four glasses and a bottle of liquor. Sitting down again and pouring the alcohol into each glass, he handed them out, asking Hawkeye and Trapper, “Ok, you two…why did you do it?”
Giggling again as I picked up my glass and drank deeply (to forget my troubles once more, to forget that I had a puddle of blood in my boots), I listened to Hawkeye answer.
“Frank didn’t follow the new commandment,” he said, laughing.
“What new commandment?” Henry sipped from his own glass.
“Thou shall not complaineth to the commanding officer,” Trapper added, laughing too.