I soon was disturbed from my memories by an announcement from over the P.A., the usual (and of course, something I had not heard in some hours), but the most stressed-filled one of all. “Attention, attention, all personnel: attention, it’s oh-seven hundred hours and we’ve got a large load from the Front. Incoming wounded!”
Immediately – as it was before many times, dedicated as we all are – the nurses and others in the tent, who had stopped their giggling and fooling around by the time the announcement came on, dropped everything to tend to business. I got up as quickly as the others (the last one out, as usual) and ran right out the door along with them, ignoring it as it slammed right into my face, knocking me backwards and leaving yet another few hundred marks on my nose and forehead.
What difference did that make? It’s not like I’ve had worse.
I usually had the door in my face, stupid me, and I should have anticipated it, even if the nurses were polite enough to leave it open for me. I mean, at first, I had not taken it into account because we’re all in a hurry to help the wounded, but as the time went on and the wounded kept pouring in, I swear I could almost taste the door to my mouth each and every time. Sometimes it was at random times, especially when I was doing nothing or even standing for hours at the O.R. or in Post-Op (once, I even tasted it in the Mess Tent, which seemed better than the food itself). It was a strange sensation, this taste of a tent door. It made me laugh every time, too, but I tried to be serious when I was working on the compound.
As I ran out the door, to help Henry (the nearest doctor to me, ironically enough), I thought about that irritation, something always in the back of my mind. Then, after being called to help Major Frank Burns (Henry pushed me in that direction and then went into another), the local camp Army brat as Major Houlihan was, and assisted him with a wounded corporal (Is he nineteen years old? I would usually think as I ordered another child wheeled into another table), I remembered that nagging feeling, trying to balance it with my sense of duty and obligation.
Was it because of being new here? Or, am I somehow different?
That was everyone was telling me: Henry, Major Houlihan and even Radar, when once I asked him, sitting across from me in the Mess Tent (the only person who would sit with me half the time), why everyone was giving me a cold shoulder. Well, I think Radar is the only person in the camp who would talk to me anyhow (it was appreciated because I could not confine myself to loneliness). He told me the truth in everything and knew all of the gossip and what-not around the camp in his backhanded sort of way. He also invited me to eavesdrop on Henry in his office once in a while.
This thought process got me through the initial look-over of wounded soldiers and carried me to Pre-Op and the O.R. as well. Washing and then dressing in my best white gown for surgery (and sometimes feeling like a horrible K.K.K. member, all in white, and making me shudder), I nipped at my lip, which had suddenly become a new activity for me. True, I had always been a shy, quiet creature. My thin figure had given others thinking that I was a shadow. Even when I tried to speak, I was often drowned out in a sea of noise, usually in the form of our obnoxious and best doctors, Hawkeye and Trapper.
It had been the same way since I was small and jumping at dust bunnies at my father’s home, when I had to spent time with him; since I was in different grade schools, moving five times or more a year until I was ten years old; since I was in nursing school, away from Bloomington and bouncing around in Boston; since I accepted the notice to go to Germany, a mere few years ago, before the war here in Korea even started. It had indeed seemed that the world, even Henry Blake (who hasn’t really seen me since, I don’t know, 1941 or so, except finding me flopped on his couch or in a bedroom with one of his daughters), didn’t wish to hear about little old me, Jeanie Morrison.
“Move it, Captain! We have wounded in there!” Major Houlihan had caught me again, merely thinking and staring out in space again as I was dressed and staring at the door of the O.R., not noticing Hawkeye and Trapper rudely imitating Frank Burns behind his back.
I didn’t mean it. It had been the second time in a week (well, this week) since I was caught in such a state and it gave me a start. Hell, I didn’t mean the response, either. I think I just wanted to make up for anything, but couldn’t really think of anything because I was very startled by being caught acting stupid…again.
What the hell is wrong with me anyhow?
“I-I-I’m s-s-so s-s-s-sorry, Major,” I said with a salute (I made sure not to make contact with anything because I was gloved) although the latter was ignored. The apology, however, was accepted and that was all that mattered to me, I guess. The Major’s nod of approval to this was proof enough, but she had turned away as soon as she was saluted.
Damn the ranking officers, I thought, not for the first time. Who actually cares about them anyway? I may have been promoted to Captain, but I didn’t earn the respect from others or for myself. Well, I never command it nor get it, anyhow. It’s a joke. Even in West Germany, I thought it was a joke. I had superior officers, but I was in command of many little minions. And the minions, while listening to me…well, laughed and talked because of what I did.
Trying not to laugh upon hearing Trapper and Hawkeye trying to insult Frank Burns (they always banter back and forth before Henry tells them to shut it), I went into the O.R., more thoughts coming forward fast. I was then helping Hawkeye this time and not Frank Burns (an ass, as always) or Henry (who was pretty easy to deal with under the tension, believe it or not), who commented on something I didn’t catch before Major Houlihan told him to start respecting her nurses.
No, I am noticed here; it is just that nobody wishes to know about me. Yes, that’s it! I thought the possible real reason about my anomalous figure here. It seemed to be an obsession with me: to figure out why I’m not well-liked here, or even welcomed.
I struggled not to sit and ponder why I was nothing here. Or anywhere else in this world, I thought bitterly as another shout for another instrument passed in my ears. I moved quickly and passed on whatever Hawkeye wanted.
Finally, after what seemed like days – months, sometimes, time was so slow – one child was finished and another came in, younger-looking than the last. I then went into another table, this time with Trapper, who just waved me over immediately giving me orders as the soldier was stripped and checked for booby-traps and other dangerous objects before being put under.
I even passed a busy Henry Blake before helping Trapper. He gave me the perfect fatherly eye when nobody was watching – irritated, of course, but always worrying about me, for some odd reason – reminding me, in so many words and motions, that later, he wanted to talk to me about something (I knew that look from anywhere, as I had known him for so long). It was, as time demanded, after such obligations to the war had been fulfilled. He knew that.
I didn’t mind it as such except when Henry was being a jerk and being over-protective or telling me what to do, like I was still a teenager. Indeed, I miss those real conversations with Henry. He used to sit me down and discuss everything with me, even argued with me (still!) about the Army’s “notice”, wondering why I took it up earlier than most people or went in instead of watching for some draft notice. But, since he is busier than ever before (even with Radar handing him papers to sign without him noticing a thing about what they’re all about), I cherish those moments and try to remember them without wanting to kill him the other times. They are rare indeed.
“Sponge!” And there was Trapper, yelling me to help save another life as we got to work, spaceless moments later. I handed him what he needed, always on the alert to do something, and pondering, once more.
Well, I always used to think that, after I was reunited with my longtime “father figure” (Henry, I mean), that everything might be fine and that Henry would at least talk to me more, seeing as how he was pissed about me heading off to Europe after the last war (West Germany in the springtime is nice, by the way, and the flower smelled wonderful, especially with…oh, God, no, I can’t think about him while working). But, as always, there was the command post to exercise, especially with a bunch of rowdy, if not dedicated staff here. And, with Majors Houlihan and Burns always going over his head, Henry has a lot more to deal with than just a bunch of adults, acting as children, trying to keep sane in this insane war.
Radar, the Company Clerk, has been the friendliest face for the first weeks I’ve been at the 4077th and he’s been the only one who talks to me, like I mentioned. It was a miracle, indeed, that I found Radar to talk to. And, with him around, I can easily talk with the other doctors with more confidence, if they noticed me at all (rarely), because the Company Clerk warns me about their moods and such and what to expect. I take them in stride and talk about patients to them at the most appropriate time, and then walk away. It’s as simple as that. Socializing isn’t really a thing with me, especially seeing as how it seems almost pushy for me to make the first move.
It is funny, too, as Radar has no confidence himself too. He’s so much younger than we all are mentally and physically – eighteen going on ten, sometimes, I think – and he seems older than his years, especially when he has responsibility on his shoulders. His teddy bear, kept at his cot, is adorable, and I always giggled at it every time I went through his space, bouncing on his cot and playing with his bear. Even once, when I watched him sleep after my night shift, I smiled. I would always wonder how it was that someone could keep their inner child and be safe with such an object.
The casualties outside gave me an idea of how hectic it was going to be in O.R. as my daydreams ended and Trapper demanded more out of me…and somebody else with more experienced hands than mine.
“Dammit, Henry, give me some help here!” Trapper yelled as blood came forth suddenly. “Nurse, move out of there! Get on the other side!” Trapper then shoved me aside with his elbows and Henry took my place and told me to help Hawkeye (who went missing for a moment).
Stumbling to the other side of the table, I asked Henry, “Where is he?”
Major Houlihan sighed at me as she came over. “He’s over there, Captain,” she said, pointing at the door. “He’s been waiting for you.”
Oh, really? I thought, tempted to reply back to her as such (in my sarcastic tone, no doubt about it), but decided not to. It’s enough that she hates me already and, being an Army brat, she’ll try to go over Henry’s head and get me on bed arrest (she tried that with Nurse Baker already, failing miserably in the process). Worse is tent arrest, which means I’ll have to be isolated alone, without the nurses, and never come out for anything except emergencies. Well, I might welcome that, depending on my mood.
What will these doctors have up their sleeves today? I thought and not for the first time, as Hawkeye claimed me once more and motioned me to the next table with the next solider, telling me to get new gloves before beginning. What sort of miracles are they to perform today? There is so much to consider and so little time to save these lives.