“Yes, General Clayton, it’s not as serious as you were told it was by majors Burns and Houlihan. No, Sir, they’re dedicated doctors and nurses and – no, Sir, I am not contradicting you, I was just saying that we’re all a bunch of rowdy people and –”
Radar and I were waiting outside of Henry’s office space, listening to yet another conversation he was having with General Clayton. Apparently, Majors Burns and Houlihan went to him after complaining to Henry about the antics of the camp. They found no solution from the Colonel, so they typed out a letter to said General and shipped it off secretly. After destroying the typewriter in a fit of passion (so says Radar, spying in the hole in Major Houlihan’s tent, but he worded it differently), they stole the one from Radar’s space (as he was pretending to sleep, listening to every word they said about the people in camp) and finished it quickly, trying to get Henry into trouble…yet again.
“I don’t think this is going to be done anytime soon, Radar,” I complained, tired of listening in to the double-talk (Henry and military, which makes me a bigger circle than ever before) and moving away from the doors. “Why don’t you get me when Henry’s done with General Clayton?” I looked at the watch on my wrist. “I have a shift with Nurse Baker in about twenty minutes in Post-Op. I don’t want to be late again and have Major Houlihan kick me in the –”
“Radar, you can bring Captain Morrison in to the office now,” Henry called as Radar stood by me, about to leave along with me, and said (at the same time as Henry, as always), “I’ll bring Captain Morrison into the office now!”, or something to that effect. I could not tell what is said when the two simultaneously talk.
I sighed, opening the doors to the office by myself and leaving Radar behind to spy, letting the swinging, light door hit me from behind. I then looked at Henry ahead of me, tired from talking to General Clayton, I know, and saw his goofy grin, always there when he saw me. I mean, the man practically raised me, along with his wife. He’s been the father I never had when he had the chance to see me…except, of course, the last ten years away from Bloomington, seeing me when I chose to conveniently see him.
Henry copied my motion and sighed himself, giving me a good up-and-down look. “Sit, Jeanie,” he ordered (well, it was close to an order, anyway). “I’m not upset with you or this motley crew here, as you’ve probably heard or something, but –”
“I know, Henry,” I interrupted, sitting in the chair in front of his desk (and knowing he knew we spied on him). “It’s not easy being here and being a commanding officer to a bunch of misfits and idiots. And I can’t believe that we’re stuck here together. I didn’t expect it.”
“Better than handing you over someplace else and having some nitwit watch you,” Henry replied, not caring about me interrupting him, as I sometimes did (other times, he hated it, especially when he was angry with me). “I’d rather keep my eye on you here than watching you parade in another country or someplace else in Korea.”
I think Henry was still upset over me going to West Germany after the last war, but I could not tell because his face looked droopy, as if he had a hangover earlier and was recovering from it still (or, he had a long night with some nurse, which pisses me off to no end). I knew he missed me, though. I haven’t seen him much in five years. Two years went to West Germany and the three before that, I was hopping around the States, doing what the military wanted me to do…or, so said the official records. The real truth is too far-fetched to even think about at the moment.
“I couldn’t help it,” I complained feebly, knowing that the excuse was lame. “I go where I’m ordered to go. You know that.”
“Good,” Henry smiled, ready to tell me something he’s been waiting to say. “Then I order you to stay away from Pierce and McIntyre, socially.”
My jaw dropped.
“Those two are in bigger trouble than I realized,” the commanding officer in Henry explained to me, slowly and carefully, just as a father should. “It’s more complicated than you think it is. Other than the usual complaints, Houlihan and Burns have gone over my head and are trying to put me on trial. They want to court martial me…again.”
“You got away with it again, as far as I’m concerned.” I paused. “Henry, you’ll get through it. You always did. I mean, this is an M*A*S*H unit. It’s not as ‘complicated’ as you think it is. I mean, you’re commanding doctors, nurses, orderlies and some random odds and ends and not a bunch of minions.”
I remembered my time in West Germany upon saying “minions” and shut my mouth…almost. I wasn’t ready to tell Henry about the time there. It was dangerous enough without even thinking about the Soviets over the border in the East and how, if they found me, would kill me. Either way…
However, I don’t think Henry noticed anything about my comments, but just lazily nodded his head, admitting, “I’m more concerned about the swell guys and gals here. Radar practically runs this camp, Burns and Houlihan complain, Pierce and McIntyre fool around, but are ok and everybody functions fine. We have the finest care anywhere in this country and have a survival rate of over ninety percent. Is that enough for those two Majors?”
“Not really,” I was about to say when Major Houlihan burst into the office, the smell of Army spam about her. And she retched of it…badly.
“Colonel Blake,” she began frantically, ignoring the fact that Henry put his head down on his desk (ignoring her and trying to get rid of the hangover I thought he had), “come quickly! Major Burns has slipped at the Mess Tent! Oh, he might be hurt! His back might have given out again!”
I suppressed a giggle, knowing what it was: Hawkeye and Trapper taking the Mess Hall food and pouring it on Frank Burns via a bucket rigged to pour on his head, but I didn’t want to tell Major Houlihan that. I mean, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on the two doctors in the Swamp as I walked around the camp in search of one of them, but I really couldn’t help it. I needed Hawkeye in Post-Op (wasn’t quite an emergency), noticed him talking to Trapper, and shut up for a few minutes, waiting patiently for the two to stop their scheming.
“Is there something funny, Captain?” Major Houlihan asked me as she noticed my snickering, her face turning towards a more sinister side than the pathetic, desperate whimper of hers.
“Oh, no, Major,” I replied somberly as I cleared my throat. “But I was wondering…what had happened? Is Major Burns ok?”
Major Houlihan didn’t sense my false sincerity (which was a good thing, seeing as how I only used it on my mother and I wasn’t sure if it worked or not on other people), but Henry still didn’t pay attention to her as she exclaimed, “Well, if Colonel Blake can hurry, we can see if Frank is ok!” She ignored by first question, possibly embarrassed by what happened.
I almost giggled again, noticing the Head Nurse’s faux pas mentioning her significant other’s first name and not by proper rank, but suppressed it again.
“Ummm, Major, I don’t think –” I began, trying to pay attention to the time and get to my shift in time before I got yelled at again.
“Come on, Colonel,” Major Houlihan urged Henry as I tried to sneak out to Post-Op for my shift. “Major Burns could be dying as we speak!”
Henry looked up. “Major, I could seriously give a patoot’s behind about Major Burns, but you still haven’t answered the Captain’s question. What happened?”
“Well, Sir,” Major Houlihan began hesitantly, “Major Burns and I were having our morning breakfast in the Mess Tent when, oh, those two idiots –”
“Choppers!” Radar yelled over Major Houlihan as he popped his head into the office and then ran off again. I didn’t hear anything, but before long (seconds really), the noise was there and it echoed in my ears.
Henry rose from his seat. “There, you see, Major,” he said as he heard them too. “We’ll help Major Burns as soon as we can. I guess now is the best time.”
“It had better be now, Colonel!”
The two rushed out after Major Houlihan’s somewhat urgent shout – pushing me aside, as per usual – to get to Major Burns and then meet the next batch of wounded.
I ran out with them again, swinging Henry’s office doors open, and was about to exit the last door when they hit me in the face again as I ran out, making me stop, thinking about tasting doors again. I rubbed my forehead and nose, but it was no use anymore. This door-in-my-face thing was going to be normal from the moment onward, seeing as how Henry just did it to me. And that guy never does a thing like that to me, intentional or otherwise. And he usually apologized when he realized something like that happened to someone via his hands.
Defeated, in Radar’s space, empty except for noise outside, I stood there. I knew I had to hurry up and get to the chopper pad, but I couldn’t quite make myself move. I had to, though. They need me. They need me. They –
“Next time, let’s make it garbage,” I heard Trapper say outside the doors as I heard feet running.
“No, no, think better, better than poisoning and stabbing and shooting him,” Hawkeye replied in an even tone. “I heard of something done to people sleeping –”
“Attention, attention all personnel: breakfast in bed has been cancelled. We have wounded!” The usual announcement was yelled over the running, ordering and yelling.
I have to move. They need me. They need me. I have to move. I –
Radar stopped by me – he came out of nowhere, I swear! – and I didn’t notice his presence until he asked behind me, “Ma’am, are you all right?”
I must have jumped a mile in the air because I made some incomprehensible noise at him until heard myself make a complete sentence. And that took a few seconds to do.
“Oh, no, oh, damn, I’m ok, Radar,” I said, all in one sentence, running out the door again to meet the wounded.
I didn’t mean to be that rude to Radar, but my fright was getting to me badly and I didn’t know why. Something was bothering me and it was more than people slamming the doors in my face every time we have work to do.
But when will I actually get to talk to Henry again? How will I get his attention when everybody else had it? What was wrong with me? I didn’t know, but had other things to concentrate on other than those questions. And by the amount of wounded we had (with the buses coming in, as well, with ambulances and choppers too), I knew we had a long day ahead of us.