Early the next morning Charles stumbled out to the latrine, holding his head carefully in one hand. He squinted blearily in the predawn light as he came slowly back, hoping for another few hours sleep, when he saw a stealthy shape slipping through the door of the Swamp ahead of him. Creeping a little closer, he heard quiet voices coming through the canvas walls, and waited outside a little longer.
"Huh? What is it? Oh, my head..."
"Sssh! Please, Hawkeye, you have to come quickly. Donít wake the others, but Iím worried..."
"Iím coming. Donít worry, Margaret, just give me a second."
Inside he heard someone moving around and decided to stumble in loudly before they wondered where he was and whether he had been listening. The major nearly ran into Hawkeye on the other side of the door, who was pulling his arm into the sleeve of his robe. The captain stepped hurriedly back.
"Hey Charles, going back to bed arenít you?"
"I believe so, early riser. Where are you off to?"
"Oh, nowhere. Iíll be back in a minute, sleep well." Hawkeye leant against the doorframe until Charles had collapsed back into his cot. Margaret was sitting quietly on Hawkeyeís bunk, her face pale. She slipped out after the captain, who shook his hair out of his eyes and tried to forget his pounding headache. He had been worried by Margaretís tone of voice, and had known the head nurse long enough to know when she was being serious. Standing in the middle of the dusty compound, he turned to face her.
"Alright Margaret, whatís up? Better be good, I have a headache bigger than North Korea."
Margaret looked around warily. "Iíd woken up and couldnít sleep again because of this enormous hangover. So I went to Post Op for some morphine Ė"
"Margaret! You shouldnít do that!" He took hold of her shoulders and looked at her. "Youíre a fine one to talk of army rules when you Ė " he suddenly stopped, a disconcerted look in his blue eyes. Margaret felt a shiver run through her as she looked at him, her feelings for the man in front of her tumbling unwelcomingly to the front of her mind. She shook them back as Hawkeye looked back with a slightly sick expression.
"I didnít talk to you last night about Ė Tuttle, did I?"
"Shot your mouth off, buster. But thatís not important right now, Hawkeye, you have to come to the Post-Op."
She stepped backwards from his hands, with a fleeting reluctance, and turned to the long room where the three remaining patients were after the last batch. Hawkeye followed her, his head too blurry to work out why she had woken him instead of the Colonel or BJ.
Stepping softly to the end of one of the beds, Margaret pointed to the soldier there. He was one of the younger ones, barely 19, kept in for a fever. He was turning in his bunk restlessly, one arm bound tightly and the other flung out holding a book with a metal edged binding. Hawkeye looked confused.
"Whatís wrong, Margaret? Itís just a book..."
"A book heís holding so tight as to cut his palm?" And indeed, faint bloodstains were coursing down the leather cover of the book. "And earlier he shouted out something in Korean. Heís American, dammit! Why call out in Korean?"
Taking one long stride Hawkeye reached for the book. However the boy was holding on tightly, almost a death grip. He nodded swiftly to the head nurse.
"Hold him still a minute. I want this book removed before he hurts himself more." Margaret responded silently. As Hawkeye finally removed the book, the soldierís eyes snapped open.
"Hoi dan tai! Sao Yung!"
Hawkeye sat back in surprise.
"You were right there, Major! Hey, Parker, calm down there," he said, leaning over the disorientated soldier. The boyís brown eyes suddenly focused.
"Good morning, Doc. Whereís my book?"
Hawkeye blinked. "Are you all right, Parker? Had a nightmare or something?"
The soldier shook his head, puzzled, before holding out his hand. "Nope. My book?"
Hawkeye grabbed his wrist. "Look, man, your whole palm is bleeding because of that book. What is it anyway?"
"A present. Itís locked, and I canít read it, but itís all I got to remember my girl by! Give it back!"
Margaret spoke hurriedly.
"Parker, yesterday you told me you had no girl back home, or in Korea. And do you know any Korean?"
"The language? No maíam. And of course I have a girl. Her name is... is..." he suddenly stopped and stared at the book, puzzlement spreading over his face. He opened his mouth, then shut it again. Hawkeye exchanged a silent glance with Margaret. Parker suddenly blinked.
"Thatís the book I picked up off the front line. In the bottom of our foxhole. Thereíd been Koreans there earlier! But weíd taken it. The sarge had been told that whole area was clear, all resistance terminated... did I say that was mine?"
Parker suddenly looked up at the two, blinked twice, and fell asleep, his arm tucked tightly against himself and a peaceful expression on his face.
Hawkeye silently rose to his feet and beckoned to Margaret. They crept out of the Post Op, back into the crepuscular light of the compound.
"Thatís scaring. Whatís the book say, Hawkeye?" said
Margaret, visibly shaken. The dark haired surgeon looked at the front of the
"Itís Korean, I canít read it. Iím going to open it though. This is altogether unreal for words." He padded off towards the motor pool. After a slight hesitation, Margaret followed.
Hawkeye sat down in the mess tent, and pulled the appropriated screwdriver from his pocket. Margaret sat down beside him, curious now and most of her hangover gone. His hair hanging slightly in his face, Hawkeye had an intense look of concentration and was fiddling the screwdriver on the hinges of the book.. Margaret stopped herself staring and looked back at the book.
"Ah hah!" said Hawkeye, a look of satisfaction on his face as the metal bindings fell off and he pocketed the screwdriver. He looked at the book on the table in front of him.
"Well go on! Open it!" said Margaret impatiently.
It turned out to be some kind of diary. Margaret managed to work out what the symbols sounded like, but not what they meant. Hawkeye tugged at the back page, and a photograph fell out. A beautiful Korean girl smiled out at them, and Margaret carefully read the simple syllables beneath it.
The two looked at each other, and then glanced over in the direction of the Post Op.
The book sat innocently on Margaretís bedside table. She lay on her bed looking at the canvas ceiling, thoughts rolling round in her head. Something had taught Parker those words, and how did he know Sao Yung was the name of the girl in the book if he had never opened it? Sleepless she turned over, watching the golden bars of sunrise creep through her door pane.
Hawkeye put his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling. He hadnít wanted to admit it, but that book scared him. He forced his thoughts back to the hazy recollections of the previous evening. Oh God, he had told Margaret about Tuttle. And BJ, and Charles. Damn and double damn. And that phone call...He was suddenly aware of Charles sitting up and looking interestedly at him.
"What is it, Chuck?" he said tiredly. Charles narrowed his eyes but ignored it.
"Where were you off so early this morning, Pierce? With our beloved head nurse following your footsteps?"
"Wouldnít you like to know, Charles?" retorted Hawkeye, not really in the mood for once. "Okay, there was a little trouble in Post-Op. If you want a witness, ask Parker. He was the one with the problems. I was thinking about calling in Sidney..."
Charles settled back disappointed. He was certain he had caught some juicy gossip. Unknown to his tent mates, he had once retrieved a letter from the stove where it hadnít quite burnt. It was in Hawkeyeís handwriting, and it was various scrubbed out statements and sentiments concerning the blonde nurse. He was sure Hawkeye had a thing for her, and what an opportunity that had been this morning! But no, it was boring Post-Op duties. Damn war. Charles sniffed and turned over again as the faint streamers of dawn sunlight filtered through the door.