|The Taste Of Stone
Author: Stratocruiser PM
They say April is cruelest month, but March hit Hawkeye Pierce like a lead pipe. HM, minor character death.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy - Hawkeye P. & Margaret H. - Chapters: 11 - Words: 11,344 - Reviews: 25 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 07-08-12 - Published: 06-23-06 - id: 3003289
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"You can never tell someone you love them enough. To make them understand, that is."
Hawkeye had all but forgotten what he was going to say about his father. Instead, the words just leapt from his mouth.
"Son, keep your chin up. Korea sounds like hell. I love you. Come home safe."
"My father told me he loved me a lot, probably because he never heard it from his dad. I didn't believe him, until I went to war. When you stand an inch from life and death…love and gratitude take on a whole new meaning. He showed me that it's okay to love, to say you love someone and KEEP saying it, at least until you think they believe you."
"Do you take Margaret Elaine Houlihan in sickness and in health, until death do you part?"
Margaret wept silently in the front pew. Next to her, Ellie and Ben were busy studying their shoes. Hawkeye could see the snow beginning to fall outside.
"And it is that gratitude that brings us all here. He loved this community. He loved Crabapple Cove enough to stay, even when the job offers came in. He loved every brutal winter and the chaos of fall. He loved me. He loved his grandkids."
"Dad, did you ever kill anyone in Korea?"
"He loved his daughter-in-law enough to just call her his daughter."
"My name is Margaret and I'm an alcoholic."
Hawkeye stopped for a moment, remembering the hurt and pain and blood and dust. The sour martini and the smell of mildew, burning trash, old latrines and cheap Japanese perfume. He remembered missing his father and never being able to convey the emptiness in the letters he sent home. Daniel understood. He always did.
"I miss her too. Your mother was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. She would be so proud of you."
"I don't know what we'll do without him. All of us in here are in debt to him and his memory. That's the thing about small towns, everyone's so inexplicably tied to each other. I'll love him forever and use the things he taught me for the rest of my life. That's about as much as you can honor the man."
Stiff legged and weak, Hawkeye stepped off the altar and into Margaret's arms. "I love you, I love you," he whispered over and over, feeling her wet face against his neck. Ben, who hated seeing anyone get upset, stepped in and grasped both of them. Ellie joined them, trying to comfort her father. He touched her face and felt tears. Eventually they all sat back down, holding hands. They were never the closest family in the world but today was easier to face as a unit.
After the service there was a small reception in the church hall. Charles was a hit with the old ladies. He ooohed and ahhhed over their cooking and talked about his life in Boston. A steady stream of people gave their regards to the Pierce family. Hawkeye and Ben's cheeks were covered in lipstick. Margaret, who always was the epicenter of activity in a crisis, was doling out punch in Dixie cups. She put Ellie in charge of the coffee, so that table was surrounded by a hoard of teenagers talking and laughing.
"Those women are outstanding. Salt of the earth," said Charles, holding a plate with two slices of cake on it. "How are you holding up?"
Hawkeye shrugged. "Best I can. Charles, I appreciate you being here," he said, with a small smile.
"Daniel Pierce was the kind of doctor we should all try to be. His help on our research was invaluable. I know he was proud of you. Look at your family," said Charles. "Not a bad egg among them. And to think…I knew you when."
"Yeah, I guess you did."
When the crowd left the Pierce family drove to the cemetery. There was supposed to be a graveside ceremony but Daniel was already buried. It seemed the sensible thing to do since snow was in the forecast. To Hawkeye, it didn't seem to matter anyway. Margaret, who was supposed to sing, was so emotionally drained she couldn't even attempt anything. Instead, Ben had his guitar and sang a sweet version of "Easy To Be Free", a song Daniel often requested. Ellie sang along out of habit and eventually, Margaret and Hawkeye joined in as the snow covered the dead winter grass and the wind blew across the ocean.