Disclaimer: MASH ain't mine. Not making money out of this. yada yada copyright schmopyright.
Margaret Houlihan looked at herself in the mirror, standing straight and to attention. She adjusted the hem of her skirt. It was so damned short. But that's how cheerleaders are supposed to look, she thought to herself.
She still wasn't sure how she had ended up in this position. Actually, she was. She was trying to get the attention of Mr McKenzie, the tall, dark and handsome Sports Teacher at her school. With the end of year football game coming up, she thought that the ideal way of catching his eye would be to join the cheerleading team. Well, her first thought was to join the football team, but she quickly realised that wasn't an option. She might be an independent woman in the making, but even she wasn't audacious enough to even think of trying that trick.
So she became a cheerleader. She would spend the hours after school standing with the other blonde bombshells while they compared lipsticks and talked about which of the team was cutest. While they compared - she was seldom part of proceedings. She didn't go in for all the beauty therapy and boy talk like they did. Margaret was far above all that. She wasn't going to end up being just a wife and mother. She was going to have a career in the Army, just like her Dad. She would make up for the disappointment of her being a girl by proving to him that she could do anything a son could. And she could do it even better. Although, thinking about it, she realised that a son would never be standing trackside in a skirt which barely covered his bum waving some pom-poms in the air. A son would be on the field, running for the touchline, arcing gracefully though the air before sliding across the grass to a magnificent touchdown. A son would be carried shoulder-high amongst his classmates, praised by Mr McKenzie… Margaret sighed. Sometimes her best just wasn't good enough.
A piercing wolf whistle made her wheel round. She saw, to her horror, the leering face of her next door neighbour as he leaded from his bedroom window and peered into hers.
"Hey Maggie, I'm not going to embarrass you by saying anything. I promise. But I just wanted to let you know that I'll be on the touchline cheering your and your magnificent tush to victory on Saturday!"
That was Danny Delaney. The scourge of her life since they'd moved to this house a little over 8 months ago. He was a similar age to herself, but that was where the similarity ended. He was everything she hated in a man. He would leer at women in the street, whistle and shout with his reprobate friends. He didn't play football, or baseball. Instead, they would hang around in the back yard shooting basketball hoops and drinking beer from cans which his father had conveniently mislaid. He was uncouth and uncontrollable. He made her life hell.
"Can it, Delaney!" she yelled back at him through her open window. "Don't make me come over there or I'll slam your tongue in the sash!"
"Maggie," he replied, with mock astonishment, "Is that a threat or a promise? Either way, I'm gonna hold you to it!"
She screamed in exasperation and slammed her window down in disgust. The sooner she could get out of this house and into the Army the better. Then she wouldn't have to deal with cretins like him.
Margaret's school lost the football match on Saturday. They were soundly beaten by the other team. Margaret thought they played like a team of girls, and she made up her mind to tell her father than when she saw him. He wasn't there, of course. She wasn't too disappointed as he'd warned her that he could only try and attend, he could make her no promises. She didn't mind that either, because he only broke promises that he did make. It was better that he didn't make them, she decided.
Mr McKenzie was not pleased. He yelled at the team, and at the cheerleaders. Margaret bit her tongue, although she wanted to tell him that they had fulfilled their end of the bargain perfectly. They had danced beautifully and done exactly what was asked of them. It was his stupid boys who couldn't do what they were asked to do. But she didn't say this to him because he was a teacher, and she had to respect him. Even when she saw him kissing Lindy Morris later on in the back seat of his Buick with all his kiddies toys in the trunk, she still had to respect him, because that's the way life is.
Later on that night, as she was pressing her uniform and hanging it neatly in the wardrobe, she heard a low whistle from outside. When she opened her window, she saw Danny down in his yard with a can of beer and a basketball. He was alone.
"Hey Maggie. Wanna shoot some hoops?"
"No thank you, I have to be up early tomorrow. I'm going hunting with my father."
"Hunting? Wow, you sure know how to have a good time. Where you gonna be so I know where to avoid, otherwise I might end up with a slug in my ass!"
She ignored him and went to duck back inside.
"Hey, Maggie. You were terrific today you know. I saw you at the game. You did really well."
She looked at him, waiting for the payoff. But it never came.
"Thanks," she said.
"S'OK," he said. "Have a nice time tomorrow."
"I will. G'night."
Margaret pulled in and closed her window. She didn't like that boy, she never knew how to take him. One minute he was making fun of her, the next he was asking her for a game of basketball. She couldn't cope with people like that. She liked to know where she stood in life. With her men, with her future. Everything. She heard the front door closing, and smelt cigar smoke wafting up the stairs. A throaty chuckle and a yell told her that her Dad was home and he'd had a few too many at the Officers Club with his friends. She ran downstairs to greet him and listen to his stories. And if she was really lucky, he might just listen to hers tonight. Just this once, because this time she really did do her best.