What Radar Knows
Author's Note: Thank you very much for the awesome reviews! I really appreciate the advice and decided to revise the ending in order to clarify and hopefully avoid the confusion.
I know I have a job to do. This is different. This isn’t a job. This isn’t what I signed up to do. No one back in Iowa told me that I would ever get a message like this one. I’m the one who took the call so I know there was no mistake. Colonel Blake was killed today, and I have to tell everyone.
All I want to do is start the day all over again. I think I’m paralyzed. My feet aren’t working. My hand can barely hold this piece of paper. Nothing wants to move. My eyes even hurt. I miss him so much. But, like Colonel Blake says..said…it’s no time to get gushy-it wasn’t his style. I have to tell the team what has happened. That’s all there is to it. Just grab a mask and read what I’ve written. No more, no less. In and out. I’m going to do what Colonel Blake would want me to do. Go in and tell everyone and then get out of their way. They have jobs to do, just like I do. God, I hate my job. I feel like a robot or some machine running on autopilot as I walk in the operating room. Did I grab a mask? I think someone yelled at me to get one but who it was, I couldn’t tell you.
“I have a message…” I think that was my voice. Now I don’t even remember what I said.
“Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake’s plane was shot down over the sea of Japan.” I prayed that I wouldn’t lose it.
“It spun in.” All eyes, some already watering, were on me, praying for a happy ending that I could not deliver.
“There were no survivors.” I left , trying my best to avoid seeing anyone else’s reactions. I was also afraid of everyone seeing my own reaction. They didn’t need to deal with some young boy who was quite likely to break down into tears at any second. I wish I could be brave like Captains Pierce and McIntire. I even want to be strong as Major Burns…but I do believe I saw him shed a tear. Once I saw him cry I knew I had to turn away. He wasn’t even close to Colonel Blake the way Hawkeye and Trapper were. I turned away before I could see Major Houlihan cry, although I heard her gasp. I certainly could not handle watching Hawkeye’s and Trapper’s reactions.
My friend will be missed by everyone here. I feel guilty. I don’t own the right to grieve over him. Colonel Blake had many friends and really, I’m just the company clerk. A company clerk who loved Henry Blake like a father, that’s all.
I went back to my bunk and grabbed my teddy bear. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I wanted to be brave and strong like all the doctors in that room. But I couldn’t help myself. You see, Colonel Blake was more than my superior. He was my friend, almost like a father to me. My dad died when I was young and I didn’t really know him. So I tried to be tough like my Uncle Ed taught me to be. I know I can’t talk to him or Ma about this. They wouldn’t understand .They would worry themselves sick about me. Ma has enough to worry about with the farm. No, I have to try to be tough now. Tough like Colonel Blake.
I hugged my teddy bear, grateful he would understand. I know that after surgery Captains Pierce and McIntire and Father Mulcahy will probably check on me. But right now I’m glad I’m alone.I can cry and not worry about what anyone else thinks of me. I can pray without worrying if Father Mulchay thinks I’m doing it wrong. I can just lay here…I have to take of my jacket first.
What’s this? A photo from when Colonel Blake saved my life
The thermometer that had once belonged to Colonel Blake’s own father
I placed them on the bed, beside my teddy bear. I stared at them for quite a long time.
“You saved my life” I whispered to the photo, as I had said to the person within the past 24 hours.
Then I ran my fingers along the thermometer. I couldn’t believe that he would give up such a beautiful family heirloom for a company clerk! Especially since he didn’t really want me to talk about any kind of father-son feelings…
I assumed he’d cut me off because he didn’t feel that way about me. I changed the subject because I didn’t want to embarrass Colonel Blake. But I have to admit I had felt a bit disappointed that I never got to actually say that I looked up to him the way a guy looks up to his dad. That’s not something I would say to just anyone. But that’s exactly how I feel about him. But I gave him the keychain instead! I couldn’t say the words I wanted to say to a dad but I could give him a gift suited for one. . He really thought that was terrific! I felt good about that. And then he gave me his father’s thermometer. If he carries it around in his pocket it must mean an awful lot to him. So it looks like he did the same thing as I did. He gave me a gift a dad would give to his son but just couldn’t use certain words. Wow. My hands are shaking so I’d better put the thermometer and the photo down. But I think he knew how I felt about him. And now I know how he felt about me. It’s not going to make everything better but it helps, just a little, to know that.
Finally a good cry took over, and I fell asleep sitting up.
The next thing I knew Hawkeye and Trapper were yelling at me to wake up.
“Come on, you’re going to miss the big day! What’s wrong with you! Late night at Rosie’s? And you didn’t even invite us!” Hawk pulled the covers down from the bed and grabbed my teddy bear.
“You’ve been holding out. How many girls did you sneak back here last night? I think the Colonel needs to know about this.” Trapper joked.
“Please don’t tell him.” I panicked.
Frank Burns would believe any hint of gossip even if they weren’t true at all. I did not want him on my bad side. I had enough to today without crossing Frank Burns. I just assumed that Frank was already promoted to Colonel. Little did I know that I was wrong.
“Hurry up. We can still catch him. He’s gonna love this one.” Hawkeye teased.
“Okay. Let me put my things away. I need a few minutes to get decent…”.
“Grab your jacket and get going. Have we not taught you anything?” Trapper laughed.
“Okay sir but sir…” I was completely confused as to why the two men were in such a good mood.
“Okay now then let’s go before we miss him.” Trapper pulled me by my arm.
“Miss who, sir?”
“Henry. His chopper’s about ten miles out. You should know that, kiddo. Now get in gear and lets see if he’s wearing that snazzy suit we got him. “
It took me a minute to process what had happened. As I grabbed my jacket, I checked my pocket. Sure enough, Colonel Blake’s picture and thermometer were still in there. I would have time to process the dream later. It was time to say goodbye…good luck…to my friend. Then Colonel Blake hadn’t died! It was just a horrible dream! The worst dream of my life. But what happened in the operating room was just part of a horrible nightmare. I had never been so relieved in my life!
I ran out just in time to see Colonel Blake kissing Major Houlihan. He nodded at me as he walked away.
Finally he was off to board the chopper. I gave him one final salute. He came back and looked me in the eyes.
“Behave yourself. I don’t want to have to come over here and kick your butt.”
And then he hugged me. Fathers often hug their children. We’ve made our peace with each other.
Everyone’s spirits were high that day, except for mine. Even though I knew that my he was alive, my dream had shaken me to the core. I refused to leave that clerk’s desk. I flew out of my chair every time that telephone rang. I was quite cross with Klinger when he wanted to use the phone and I told him no. I wasn’t laughing at any of Hawkeye or Trapper’s jokes. And I had only had one second helping of dinner tonight. I was just waiting for a call that I prayed would never come.
It was bedtime. I had no messages to deliver to anyone. Colonel Henry Blake was safe at home with his family..
My nightmare about the operating room was horrible. But the second part, where I was looking at the picture and thermometer wasn’t so bad. I had been feeling a little lost ever since I found out Colonel Blake was leaving. And I know that I’m going to miss him. I sure am thankful for our relationship. But I figured out that just because he didn’t say he thought of me like a son didn’t mean he didn’t feel that way. Sometimes you just gotta go by how people treat you. And he treated me awfully swell. So now I feel better about how things are between us. Maybe someday I can visit him. I bet he’d like that too. I’m tired and could use a good night’s sleep (without any dreams!).
All I know is that Henry Blake is alive and in Bloomington Illinois. And that’s all I need to know.