"...to the Officer's club for the duration of the whiskey." Margaret finished, to which Peg smiled. "He then said that Hawk, B.J. and Charles were buying."
Peg laughed again and commented, "It sounds like you guys had some good times while you were there."
"You had to have fun from time to time or else you would loose your mind." Hawkeye stated, "We would act crazy just to keep from going crazy."
"And trust me, B.J. and Hawk were the experts on acting crazy." Margaret commented. "They were the most unmilitary officers in the army."
"What kind of things would they do?" Peg asked.
"Oh, things like wandering around camp in their housecoats..."
Hawkeye looked at his wife and chuckled. "Remember how upset you and Frank use to get whenever I'd show up in Henry's office in my robe...or for roll call."
"I remember." Margaret nodded. "You used to aggravate me to no end." She looked at Peg and continued. "Here he was, one of the most skilled and talented surgeons I have ever seen, who was also the most frustrating person I had ever met. The entire time we were in Korea, the only thing he took seriously was helping the wounded. Every other rule and regulation went out the window." She shot B.J. a mock annoyed look. "And this one was almost as bad. They basically egged each other on. Not that either one needed much encouragement. They could both get into enough mischief on their own."
"What other things did they do that made you think that they were unmilitary?" Peg asked curiously.
"Oh, they'd wear civilian shirts with their army fatigues, having the still in their tent was a big sign..."
"Colonel Potter had a still in his tent during World War II." B.J. protested in a mock defensive tone.
"He didn't!" Margaret exclaimed in disbelief.
"He did." Hawkeye nodded in confirmation. "He told us so himself."
Margaret merely rolled her eyes and looked back at Peg. "The two things that got me the most was the was the way they'd start cracking jokes in the O.R. and the complete disarray that they kept their tent in."
"There was nothing wrong with the way our tent was arrayed." Hawkeye protested. "I kept my lice just where I liked them."
"Was it really that bad?" Peg asked Margaret seriously.
"They didn't call their tent the 'Swamp' for nothing." Margaret replied, looking at the two men and laughing.
"If it wasn't for the war it would have been just like when I was in summer camp as a kid." B.J. laughed. "Horrible food, messy tent, crazy roommates."
"What else would these two do?" Peg asked, shooting her husband an amused smile.
"Well their specialty was pulling pranks on the poor and unsuspecting." Margaret replied with a laugh.
Hawkeye turned and looked at his wife. "We weren't the only ones who would scare up some fun. In fact, B.J. and I were discussing earlier the time that you started a string of practical jokes."
"Me?" Margaret gave him a mock innocent look. "Oh, you must be mistaken. It wasn't me."
Hawk looked at Peg and said. "My wife tries to make it sound as if Beej and I were the only pranksters in the unit, but trust me, she can pull off a good joke herself."
"What did she do?" Peg asked.
"Well, to start with, she put about 20 teaspoons of sugar in Hawk's coffee." B.J. laughed.
"Well he was being such a sourpuss." Margaret defended, nuzzling her husband's cheek affectionately. "I just wanted to sweeten him up a bit."
Hawk looked at Peg, his eyes twinkling in fun. "Notice she neglects to tell you 'why' I was being such a sourpuss. I had just been in O.R. for about 70 hours straight."
"Liar." Margaret proclaimed with a hearty laugh. "You hadn't been operating at all. You and B.J. had been to the O-Club the night before celebrating its one year anniversary and had gotten drunk. If anything you were recovering from a 70 drink hangover."
"Ssh, you weren't suppose to tell anyone." Hawkeye scolded, glancing around pretending to make sure no one heard what she said.
"That's the second time I heard a story where you got drunk!" Peg commented, looking at B.J. in surprise. "Was that a common thing?"
Well, it wasn't the first time." B.J. replied honestly. "And it certainly wasn't the last."
"I've never seen you drunk before." Peg remarked, looking at him, a frown on her face. "It just doesn't sound like you."
"I know." B.J. nodded in agreement. "What can I say, the B.J. that lives in Mill Valley is different from the B.J. that lived in Korea."
"What do you mean?" Peg asked, her face registering confusion and a little fear. "I don't understand."
"The most important thing that you have to understand, Peg, is that we were very literally in hell." Hawkeye told her, his tone serious and his expression sad. Even his blue eyes had lost all their sparkle. "We were sitting in the middle of nowhere, three miles from the front lines, surrounded by blood, guts and wounded. Very few days went by that we weren't up to our elbows in the bellies and chests of children sent by heartless draft boards to give arms, legs, or lives for their country. After spending numerous hours piecing these kids back together, sometimes the best way to forget was to drowned our feelings in a drink."
Peg's face clouded. "I know that I can't even begin to comprehend the horrors that you all saw in Korea, I don't think that I really want to." She looked tenderly at her husband. "I guess I have no right to scold you for overindulging when you felt the need, I just didn't think that you drank as much as you did."
"It all had to do with the place and the surrounding circumstances." Margaret said, trying to help the other woman understand. "I mean take Hawk for example. While we were in Korea, he had the reputation of being one of the worst drinkers in camp. He ran up high tabs at the O-Club, at Rosie's, plus whatever rat poison that he got out of the still. But since we've been home, he's never gotten drunk once. He has a drink once in a while, but nothing more than one or two at once."
"I was determined not to let myself become an alcoholic." He commented seriously. "I didn't want to go through the rest of my life dependant on a bottle to make it through the day."
"Remember when you got scared that you were becoming too dependent on alcohol." B.J. commented with a smile. "You decided to see if you could go for a week without anything alcoholic to drink, just to prove to yourself that you could do it."
"I remember." Hawkeye nodded. "And I passed, even after that big episode in the operating room with that North Korean and the grenade."
"Yes, I remember that, in fact I don't think I'll ever forget." B.J. remarked, with a shudder. "And I remember that I was very proud of you when you didn't have that drink."
"Me too." Margaret commented. "It proved to yourself and everyone else that you didn't 'need' alcohol to get through whatever horrors life threw your way." She looked at Peg and added. "And I don't want you to get us wrong. We weren't always drinking. A lot of times simply pulling a joke on someone was enough of an emotional release that we didn't need any alcohol to better it."
Peg smiled and asked, "What kind of jokes did you play?"
"Oh, things like putting oatmeal in Hawkeye's boot." Margaret shot Hawkeye a sly look.
"Putting minnows in Margaret's pocket." Hawk laughed.
"Giving Charles a fake can of Pralines with a snake that jumped out when the lid was opened." B.J. added.
"You also did that with Radar and the sugar container." Margaret remarked giving B.J. a mock angry look. "But I was the one that got it when I tried to help Radar open the lid to find out why he wasn't getting any sugar out."
"My two favorite pranks were when we stole Margaret's tent and when we made the dummy fall out of her closet." Hawkeye laughed, glancing at his wife mischievously.
"My favorite prank is when I stole your clothes while you were in the shower." Margaret added, a sly glance at both men. "And you had to streak across camp to get back to your tent."
"You stole Hawkeye's clothes while he was in the shower?" Peg asked, a shocked look on her face.
B.J. laughed and shot Margaret a mock deadly look. "Not just Hawk's. Like we said before, Hawk and I usually showered at the same time."
Margaret nodded mischievously. "And you should have seen the look on their faces when I walked into the tent and casually took their clothes off the hook. They protested and pleaded and begged. It was absolutely priceless." Then she started laughing as she added. "Though, it was nothing compared to the look they had and the screaming they did when they bolted frantically into their tent and found the entire nursing staff waiting for them."
"You didn't?" Peg exclaimed, her eyes wide in shock.
Margaret nodded mischievously. "I did."
"What did they do?" Peg asked, her eyes still wide.
"They scrambled around, trying to hide behind each other until Hawkeye finally grabbed the mattress off his cot and they wrapped it around themselves." Margaret laughed at the memory. "I've never seen two men scramble so fast in my life."
"What about when Charles and I stuck Beej in the nurses' tent without his clothes and fastened his blanket down so that he couldn't get out of bed with any covering." Hawk laughed, looking at Margaret.
"Oh, yes. Then you had someone announce 'Incoming wounded.'" Margaret laughed harder. She looked at Peg. "And out comes B.J. with nothing but a pillow for covering."
Breathless from laughing, Hawkeye finally manages to gasp out. "He backs out of the nurses' tent, trying to hide his birthday suit from the lovely ladies only to find Charles and I set up outside all ready to take his picture." Hawkeye's laughter increased at the remembrance of B.J.'s expression when he'd exited the nurse's tent. His head feeling light from lack of oxygen he struggled to exclaim. "Beej did some pretty fast scrambling himself then."
"What on earth ever possessed you to do that?" Peg asked, her eyes growing wider in surprise. "I thought you guys were suppose to be best friends."
"It was a little something I like to call 'revenge'." Hawkeye replied with a raspy voice as he glanced slyly at his friend. "And it was the best kind - sweet."
"It's okay, Peg." B.J. laughed good-naturedly, reaching over and squeezing her hand. "I was kind of asking for it."
"Why?" Peg asked, looking at her husband in surprise. "What did you do?"
"I kind of made Hawkeye look foolish in front of the entire camp." B.J. replied, looking at his friend with an amused smile. "Twice."
"Foolish?" Hawkeye coughed as he tried to catch his breath. "You went beyond foolish. How about humiliated, mortified, disgraced, scorned, not to mention ostracized."
"What happened?" Peg asked, looking at Hawkeye, hoping for an explanation.
Hawkeye took a couple of deep breaths before explaining. "Beej and I had set up a practical joke to play on Charles." Hawkeye began once he could finally speak.
"A rather tasteless joke." Margaret added at Peg's expectant look she said. "Hawk pulled Charles' pants down in the O.R."
Peg's face registered shock and disgust as she looked at Hawkeye. "Hey, it was his idea." Hawkeye defended pointing to B.J.
"But, the thing is, B.J. didn't accept any responsibility for the prank." Margaret explained. "He slipped out of O.R. leaving Hawkeye to bear all the blame himself."
"That was the first time I was humiliated." Hawkeye continued, shooting a mock angry look at B.J. "So, to regain favor in camp, I decided to pull a prank on myself. My plan was to glue myself to my chair in the O-club trying to make it look like Charles was getting me back. " He smirking at B.J. he continued. "But the joke backfired thanks to the fact that my ever loving roommate, Dr. B.J. 'rat fink' Hunnicutt set it up so that Charles would get the glue laced chair instead of me, making it look like I was after Charles again. I was even more humiliated the second time. Especially after Beej exclaimed that my pranks were getting rather embarrassing and that if I was going to plan anymore 'stupidity' I'd better plan it alone and then walked out of the O-club with a disgusted look on his face."
"How did you know that it was B.J. that set you up?" Peg asked, looking at Hawkeye curiously.
"Because his accomplice told me." Hawkeye replied. "He'd had Klinger switch the chairs so that Charles got the glue and not me."
"So, that's when you put B.J. in the nurse's tent." Peg finished, nodding her head in understanding.
"You know the old saying 'those who live by the joke, die by the joke'." Hawkeye smiled slyly at his friend. "Once I convinced Charles that I wasn't the real one behind the jokes, but that it was our own clean cut, adorable, soft spoken B.J. who was the perverse genius that had carefully orchestrated things so that Charles would be humiliated, I'd get blamed and he'd get his jollies, we worked out a plan to nail him." His smile widened. "And, boy did we get him good!"
"Well, now that I know the whole story, I agree with B.J." Peg commented, looking at her husband. "You were asking for it!"
The four of them laughed heartily.
"I think the topper is still the one that Colonel Potter got us with." Hawkeye stated, looking from Margaret to B.J. "We were royally had that time."
B.J. and Margaret's laughter increased and tears started running down their faces.
"I have never been as frustrated with anybody in my entire life as I was with that General." Margaret gasped, wiping the tears off her cheeks. "Not even Hawkeye."
"Talk about a good actor though." B.J. exclaimed, his voice breaking due to his lack of air.
Peg looked at the three curiously, a big smile on her face. She was eagerly anticipating the telling of the story. She wished that B.J. had shared some of these memories with her before. He'd told her a few things during the years since he had come home, and his letters from Korea always held various tidbits of events. But she'd never heard any of the stories told with such feeling, such excitement. Listening to the trio talking, she almost felt like she'd been there when these events had taken place. She wished she could have been a part of such a conversation years ago. It would have helped her to better understand the type of relationship that B.J. had had with these people, the reasons why they were so important to him, why he loved to tell Erin about them every chance he had, why he missed them so much since he had come home.
Margaret, realizing that Peg didn't know what they were laughing at began to explain. "B.J., Charles, Hawk and I were in the grip of the spirit of 'April Fools'. We'd been playing some harmless jokes on each other - the Praline can, the minnows in my pocket, the oatmeal in Hawk's boot."
"Father Mulcahy's housecoat." B.J. added.
"Oh, yeah." Hawkeye smiled. "I forgot about that."
"What did you do?" Margaret asked, her brow furrowing. She hadn't heard about that one.
"When he was in the shower we exchanged his housecoat for a lady's robe." B.J. replied, chuckling as he recalled the sight of Father Mulcahy walking across camp in a flimsy, floral robe.
"Anyway, Potter called us into his office and told us that a General Daniel Webster Tucker from the 8th Army, Surgeon General's Office was coming to observe the 4077th's medical staff." Margaret continued. "The General was suppose to be a very strict, 'by-the-book' officer. And Potter made us promise to be on our best behavior."
"So what happened?" Peg asked, her tone serious.
"What happened was these two jokers and their roommate." Margaret shot them both a mock angry glare. "I came out of Post-Op to find that my tent had disappeared, though everything else was still in place. Knowing who the culprit was, I went to find him and his accomplices."