It seemed like I was walking on Cloud Nine for days after that kiss. I worked on my duties, with Henry on my back suddenly (paying oh-so-much attention to me), wondering why I was happy and smiling all the time. However, seeing me with Hawkeye around me pissed Henry off more, but it silenced him. I was happy and he could nothing to change it. He even saw me smile when Hawkeye was in the room – even when we were in the O.R. and trying to save lives – and made no effort to separate us, despite his broad hints that we should.
However, I could see why Henry was angry: betrayal. I’m like a daughter to him and Hawkeye is supposed to be his best friend. I knew that the men of the camp (especially Hawkeye and Trapper and, before they left, Ugly John, Spearchucker Jones and Duke), are mostly younger than Henry by a decade or so and consider the Commanding Officer to be one of them, despite his own efforts to get them to be serious. But now, when Henry sees me with one of the pranksters of the camp, it makes him feel old and bitter sometimes. He couldn’t let me go, couldn’t let me out of his eye, and it was on the person he was supposed to see as a friend that took me away.
On the other hand (on my side), it made me satisfied being at the 4077th, knowing that life seemed complete somehow (even when I wanted to be alone), and went through everything as if through a new pair of eyes. I appreciated it – knowing Hawkeye was helping me all the way – and felt happier than ever before. My “newfound love” (as I tried to deny to myself) introduced me to more people and places, my new sight letting me see them for who they were for the first time. I was amazed, even when most just scoffed and walked away.
As a dismal September turned into a golden October and everybody complained about the cold weather coming already (we had some cold nights already and the stoves were on full blast), I still considered myself lucky to be on such good terms with Hawkeye and did not see him with any nurse but me, despite Trapper trying to get him interest once more in chasing them. He invited me often to his table at the Mess Tent, asked me to come to the Swamp in the evenings and danced with me in the Officers’ Club when we were built one (after Hawkeye’s time with Trapper in Tokyo, of course). It made me feel special, that I was being shown extraordinary favor, but I knew that I was also enraging some of the other nurses who loved Hawkeye. I was sure to be confronted either, but at the time, I did not care. I was happy finally.
All during this, I started to get to know Trapper too. He didn’t talk to me much when Hawkeye and I were in the Swamp together laughing, but I learned that he had not only a wife, but also two daughters in Boston. This, however, did not stop him from eying me after another nurse went her way and he had empty arms again. He always stared at me when Hawkeye was not looking or would try to be more gentlemanlike than his tentmate. I knew, sometime later, that the two were going to fight over me and it would be brief. Don’t ask me how I knew. It was just a feeling. I had a lot of those and knew that they were always true.
That night came soon enough, about in the middle of October. It also became one of the most humiliating moments of my life as well.
At the Mess Tent on that fateful night, while dinner was being served (and I had Post-Op duty within the half hour with Major Houlihan and wanted a quick bite to eat with Hawkeye), I stood at the ancient green Army coffee urn, filling my cup of what was supposed to be coffee (I think). I looked into the cup was it was being filled – the color of the liquid seemed to go from black to grey in moments – and walked away with my tray, intent on sitting with Hawkeye, like I had for the past few weeks.
Events, however, continued to conspire against me.
“So-ho, you’re the little filly that Hawkeye has been talking about these days! I’ve been seeing you ride around the Swamp too.”
Before I even got to my seat on the other side of the tent (I could already see Hawkeye waiting for me, very impatient and obviously seeing my obstacle), I bumped right into Trapper, spilling a little coffee on my tray, over what looked like mashed potatoes. I didn’t care about the mixture, but that I had just bumped into someone.
My face immediately took to a shade akin to brick red and I felt it.
“Why don’t you come and sit with me?” Trapper then took my arm on the right and led to me to the table where he usually sat with Hawkeye (the latter was still waiting there for me, annoyed as he was with the former’s familiar moves on me). However, before I knew it (or could utter a word of protest, I should say), I had Hawkeye on the other side of my, trying to also guide me to the same table.
“I think the Captain is with me, Trap,” Hawkeye said urgently, moving in to the left and pulling me in the same direction, causing me to spill some more of my coffee out and then some food onto the floor. That time, though, it all landed on my boots.
“No, no, good Sir, I think the Captain is with me.” Trapper moved me to the right, causing more of my coffee and food to be spilled onto the floor.
I wanted to say something, to make the two shut up and let me decide where I wanted to sit (Hawkeye knew where I wanted to be and I didn’t mind Trapper sitting with us usually), but I didn’t have the chance, of course. That or I wasn’t being forceful enough. Either way, I, too, was being an idiot.
“Well, well, Trap, I think you did not hear of Captain Morrison here gracing our quarters with me this past month,” Hawkeye replied, knowing very well that Trapper had and even said so to my face.
“Oh, but no, Hawkeye,” Trapper lied, yanking me more to the right. “I saw her first in line here. I heard nothing of an affair of the heart, dear Sir.”
“Hawkeye…Trapper…” I started, but the noise between the two – and in the tent – seemed to have drowned out my voice. I was becoming the rope in a tug-of-war match between the two doctors and I still couldn’t get any control of the situation.
“Jeanie, what’s going on here?”
Ah, a man that could have saved me! Before Hawkeye and Trapper could argue or pull on me anymore, Henry was before us, coming out of the line with his own tray of food and cup of coffee, asking what in hell’s name I was doing, sandwiched between two doctors, who were obviously arguing over who was sitting with me.
“Henry, I – I can explain –”
Before I could say anymore, Trapper pulled me hard to the right again, causing me to lose my grip on dinner entirely. Within a second, I lost my food – and my appetite – right on my boots and pants, causing me to almost trip and fall on the slime (and, naturally, missing Trapper and Hawkeye) on my own food and feet, clumsy me.
I heard a few snickers here and there (nothing more than the usual to me), but the talking in the Mess Tent continued, regardless. Hawkeye, on one hand, continued to hold onto me, before I tripped and fell (and thus, embarrassing myself even more). Trapper, on the other hand, finally gave up, knowing that Henry was giving him an evil eye after I tried explaining myself. Hawkeye ignored it as Henry turned it to him, knowing what it meant, and refused to back down from holding me.
“Pierce…” Henry started, giving me and Hawkeye another warning look.
“It’s not anything you should worry about, Henry,” Hawkeye replied as he let go of me, knowing that I finally had my balance.
“It usually means the opposite, Pierce,” Henry retorted back, putting his trap on a table and his hands on his hips, stubborn and angry-looking to me.
“Ah, Henry, leave him alone,” I added to the defense, ignoring the smell from my pants and boots. “It’s not like Hawkeye is doing anything wrong here. I just –”
“Ha, take that, Pierce!” A random male voice was suddenly heard on the other end of the Mess Tent, silencing the whole company of people there suddenly (it was usually rare, but it happened when something important was going to happen). Finally, something creaked for a few seconds and then…
Something splattered on me instead of Hawkeye (he missed him entirely as he jumped away, hearing, just in time, the drop of something) and I knew it as soon as my thick head of hair felt the first of the creepy graying substance. Dammit! Whoever did this missed Hawkeye and got me instead. Is this bad aiming or what?
I could not see. I could not move. I could not breathe really. I felt like I was put into cement, so immobile I felt in all that…stuff. I even smelled funny, like old food from the garbage in the back of the camp. And come to find out, it was the old food from the garbage in the back of the camp that caked my body.
All I could hear – if I could call it hearing – was total dead silence, without a cricket making a noise even. Then, someone snickered at me again and muffled a laugh behind their hands. Soon enough, though, the whole tent exploded in laughter. I knew that a spark started the fire…and that spark, over in the corner pulling some lever to dump the garbage on me, started the fire called laughter. And he was going to pay for it someday for it.
By then, I had lifted my arms up, with difficulty, and wiped the gunk off of my face, seeing fingers being pointed at me and hearing cat calls being whistled in my honor. Only Trapper, Hawkeye and Henry looked in, shocked and even surprised at what happened.
I felt horrified and embarrassed! The feelings of it were so bad that I went to work my legs pretty fast – to get the hell out of the Mess Tent in utter disgrace – and it took a few minutes, but I finally was able to walk out of the pile of gooey garbage and get out. By the time I reached the doors of the Mess Tent, trailing smelly, old garbage food behind me, I was running at my fastest speed, which was pretty damned quick. After years of running from people, I learned the meaning the fast.
I knew that I had twenty minutes to get to Post-Op (maybe less) and that Major Houlihan was not going to be pleased with me being late, so I hurried to get clean. I ran, as quickly as I could make my legs move, to the nurses’ showers on the other side of the camp and pushed the women out of the line there, trying to get in and wash the smell and grim off of me. It was unsanitary to be in Post-Op with it on, for one thing. Another thing was the embarrassment factor. And I didn’t know which was going to worse for me.
“Get out of my way!” I yelled, trying to ignore the protests of women who just needed to wash their hair, shave themselves and rinse the minor dirt the camp gave them. I thought that I was more important at the moment than they were.
Grabbing a stall as I pushed my way in, I turned the hot water all the way on, not taking my uniform off and ignoring the sting and steam of the heat. But, however much I scrubbed, though, I was not successful in getting the gunk – not to mention, the smell – off of me. All I succeeded in doing making myself a bigger mess than I already was and making more nurses angry and driving those, who were already showering, away, not finishing their nightly routine and complaining about it. I guessed that the smell drove them out.
I sighed. This is going to take a long time to get rid of. And I’m going to kill whoever did this to me.
* * * *
“Major, it couldn’t be helped,” I heard Henry say as I entered Post-Op, ten minutes late for my shift, dressed, malodorous and ready for my shift. “Captain Morrison probably ran off to the showers to clean off. It takes a lot of time to get rid of the garbage and smell. As for Major Burns, I want an apology from him. I’m sure he didn’t mean for it to happen to Captain Morrison and had meant to get Pierce, but at the same time –”
“Captain Morrison!” Major Houlihan exclaimed as she saw me sneaking around behind Henry and sitting on a bed and working on a patient. She wrinkled her nose at the smell I surely made (hell, I was clean enough, but the smell stayed). “Where have you been? You were supposed to be here twelve minute ago. Captain Pierce was supposed to –”
“Now, what was that, Major?” Suddenly, Henry was on top of Major Houlihan, hearing every word and catching onto things quickly again (just as I knew him to do!). “Captain Pierce was supposed to get the old food that Captain Morrison got instead? So, were you and Major Burns plotting your revenge?”
“Colonel, Sir,” Major Houlihan nervously replied as she hung a clipboard on a bed and turned to face him, “with all due respect, I can honestly say that it was Major Burns’ idea and that I only knew of it. I had no part in this little scheme of his.” Turning to me at the bed working (and trying not to eavesdrop), she added, “Captain Morrison, you’re excused from being late to your shift. Next time it happens, you will be severely punished. As for Major Burns…on his behalf, I will apologize to you for him.”
The Major said the last sentence with clenched teeth. And it thrilled me inside to see her stoop down to that level.
Henry only crossed his arms at her apology to me, turning to talk to me. “There, now, Captain, the matter will be fixed by tomorrow morning. Major Burns will be appropriately punished for this and –”
“Colonel, what about Pierce and McIntyre? They are the ones who do it all the damned time and get away with –” Major Houlihan stomped her foot, as if in a temper tantrum, ignoring the fact that patients were around (it was unusually unprofessional of her). “Those two are ruining this war…for every one of us! You can let them get away with this anymore!”
“And you’re right, of course, Major,” Henry replied soothingly as he turned back to her. “Pierce and McIntyre will be lectured u-upon tomorrow, as well. In fact, I think I want a meeting with the usual gang. I want you, Major Burns and all three Captains in my office at oh-nine hundred tomorrow.”
I noticed the light stutter Henry had (scared of Major Houlihan sometimes, I’m sure). Then, I even heard a mumble from the Head Nurse about how ineffective Henry was as a Commanding Officer, but let it go when he asked her if everything was “hunky-dory” and all right.
“Oh, just fine, Colonel,” she replied, giving me a quick stink-eye as I gave my patient a sponge bath with supplies from under the bed. “I’ll tell Major Burns when I see him later this evening. We’ll be there at oh-nine hundred sharp.”
“Or much earlier,” Henry muttered to himself as he left Post-Op.
I sighed again as Henry left, ignoring the Head Nurse as I went back to work. This is going to be one long night, I thought. I hope Hawkeye can stop by. I like it when he does…