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Some say the world will end in
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
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Okay, no. Okay?
I absolutely refuse to call Frank Burns my Commanding Officer. Henry, yeah, he was a good guy. No one bosses me around, but if any guy is going to do that it might as well be one like Henry. But Frank…no. I'm above him as a doctor and a person.
And the Red Sox'll win the World Series before I call him 'Sir'.
But that's exactly what he was trying to get me to do the morning I came back from Tokyo. Everyone was lined up at attention, and Henry wouldn't have made us do that ever. But then, Henry was above Frank as a doctor and a person too. A lot of people are, come to think of it.
Hawkeye wasn't around. I glanced through the crowd for him. Frank had stopped addressing the troops to chew me out for something. Sounded like he didn't like me wearing my shorts outside of my pants. Well, I couldn't help it. I had to get dressed in a hurry to catch my plane that morning. The underwear had been an afterthought—I hadn't even remembered them until the geisha in my bed rolled over to reveal them crumpled beneath her.
"It's fine, let him go back to that disgusting hole he calls a tent, Major," I heard Hot Lips scoffing. "He'll probably need some alone time anyway."
I heard Ferret Face giggle, but I didn't want to ask what exactly she meant. Who knew what she ever meant, anyway?
"With Pierce gone, maybe he'll find some time to catch up on his Bible study," Frank added. I knew what that meant. Hawkeye must've spent the night in the nurses' tent again. Last time it had ended with a black eye. Poor Hawk never saw that book coming. Kellye has surprisingly good aim.
And he wasn't in the Swamp. But Radar was. Sitting on my cot, a glass in his hand. When he stood up, the gin sloshed out. He looked nervous, but this is Radar I'm talking about. You couldn't describe Radar without using the word 'nervous'.
"Radar," I said, dropping my bag on the floor. I pulled my jacket off and dropped it on the floor, then took his glass from him. "It isn't nice to be home at all. I'm glad to see you, but if you're going to drink from the still, try to get it in your mouth next time."
"It's for you," he said, sweating. He backed away. "Can I get your bag, sir?"
"Leave it there, Hawkeye'll rip it apart later when I tell him what's in it," I said, finishing what was left in the glass and pouring another. "I got this great bottle of Scotch in Tokyo. It's older than you. Not quite as wet, though, what's going on? You got a fever? You been eating the food?"
"Radar, how long have we known each other and you're still not calling me Trapper?" I asked, reclining on my cot.
"I'm sorry sir, I'm just nervous is—"
"Where's Hawk anyway?" I asked, ignoring him. "I want to say hi before I take a nap. Next time you go to Tokyo, Radar, you should—"
"Sir, I need to tell you something and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop interrupting me maybe," Radar said, his voice stern and brave. He quickly added, "Trapper, sir."
I sat up. "All right, Radar, I'm sorry. What is it?"
"We tried to get to you," Radar said hastilly. "Just remember that, okay? We tried but you didn't…I mean, we wanted to tell you. We thought you could come back early or something and…I don't know, but we tried."
"Okay," I said impatiently. "What is it, Radar?"
"It's Hawkeye, sir…" he said very slowly, and my stomach did a flip flop.
I pictured Henry's face, peaceful, beneath the water. His clothes ballooned up around him. The image was a product of my own imagination, and it had haunted me. Henry's death would haunt me, I suspected, and so when Radar said 'It's Hawkeye' I immediately thought the worst.
"Hawkeye," I repeated slowly, my heart beating a million miles a minute. "He okay…?"
"He's fine, sir," Radar said slowly. "He got home last night."
"Well, where is he then?" I demand impatiently, wondering what the deal is.
"I don't mean here-home, sir, I mean home-home. He's back in Maine, sir."
My heart stopped beating fast. It pretty much stopped beating period, I think. I opened my mouth, closed it again. Opened it. I couldn't find any words. Maybe it's a joke, maybe it's this, maybe it's that. I searched for an excuse but…I knew he was gone. I felt stupid…his stuff was all missing, hadn't I noticed?
"So he's…not in Korea anymore?"
Radar swallowed hard, shook his head.
"He just left without saying goodbye? He's…home? Real home?"
Radar nodded. "Yeah. He should've gotten there last night."
I closed my eyes, trying to fathom…oh God. Hawkeye. Gone.
"He…left you this, though."
When I opened my eyes, Radar was holding out a plain white envelope. It felt thick as he handed it to me, but I didn't much feel like reading it. I dropped it on my bed and laid back. The room was silent for God knows how long, until the kid cleared his throat nervously.
"Sir, I have to go. I'm supposed to be picking up the new guy at 1300 hours."
The new guy? Oh, right. Hawkeye's replacement. My best friend's replacement. 1300 hours.
Radar left, and I was alone. Klinger and various others stopped by to welcome me back but I wasn't interested. I moped, and moped. The thought crossed my mind more than once to open the letter, read what he had to say. But a half an hour passed and I found myself wishing that Hawkeye really would end up with Henry's fate. At least, instead of Henry. Then Henry'd still be here and I'd have someone in this lousy place. Jesus.
I tried to focus on the positive. I had a bottle of ancient Scotch in my bag. I had the whole tent to myself—
Well, for a while. Before The New Guy arrived. Hawkeye's replacement. The letter screamed at me from my cot. I had to get away.
I left the Swamp and found Frank and Margaret in Henry's office. He was behind the desk and she was on the desk. She rolled off when I entered, but I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to laugh at how flushed and ridiculous they both looked.
"Who's the new doctor, Frank?"
"Hah," Margaret said, smirking. "Wouldn't you like to know. You'll meet him soon enough. O'Reilly'll be back with him any minute."
"I'd like to do my homework."
"You're just sore cause you're all alone now. You can't terrorize me without Pierce around. I'll mold you into my friend, McIntyre. The upstanding patriot I know you can be," Frank said. His words made me sick to my stomach. But then, a lot of things Frank did made me sick to my stomach. It wasn't his whole insane nazi talk this time, though.
You're all alone now. It was chilling to hear out loud.
I began sorting through the pages on Henry's desk.
Margaret grabbed onto my arm. "You can't do that! Get off my—I mean, Major Burns's—desk!"
"I'm very cranky," I warned, glancing back at them. "My best friend just left me with nothing—"
"Oh, boo-hoo," Margaret scoffed, folding her arms over her chest.
"—and I'm in the mood to hit something," I finished anyway.
"You can't threaten me!" Frank exclaimed. "I'm your CO now."
But when I took a step toward him he backed off. I found the manila folder almost immediately.
"Hunnicutt, BJ," I read out loud. "Stanford…blah blah blah…so that makes him 28."
"He's on his first assignment," Margaret said dreamily. "Young, impressionable."
I tossed the folder back on the desk. "Some California stuffed shirt, probably didn't get to finish Residency. Probably with about as much surgical talent as a frog. Or worse, Frank."
"You're not funny, McIntyre! Things are going to change!" Frank warned as I stormed away.
I remember when Louise told me she was pregnant with Becky. We sat on a bench in Maverick Square and she crossed her legs, took off her horn-rimmed glasses. She huffed on the lenses without saying a word and wiped them off with the skirt of her yellow dress. I had no clue what she wanted.
She was a waitress at a restaurant in the square, popping her gum as she scribbled down my order. I winked, she giggled, we spent three weeks in bed together and I hadn't spoken to her since. I'd been agitated when she called me, but she told me it was very important that we meet. So we did. And she puffed on her glasses and I noticed her eyes were red and puffy.
"What's going on?" I asked.
She looked at me, took a deep breath, and said, "I'm gonna have your baby."
I knew it drove her wild when I kissed her navel. I knew she had a birthmark beneath her right breast. Sex made her thirsty and she liked it when I brought her a glass of water afterwards. But I didn't even know her middle name. I was 25 and she was 19. I'd just started med school and she'd barely graduated high school.
And she said it—just like that. I'm gonna have your baby. Louise had been raised down by the bay by a fisherman and a secretary and she talked like it. I'm gonna have your baby.
We got married, she 'had my baby', we fell in love—in that order—and blah blah blah. But of all my memories of Louise, that's the one that sticks out the most. And yeah, I think of her face when we first got into my bed and she pulled off her sweater. I see her crying when she was in labor and when I leaned in to kiss her after the priest gave the okay. But looking at her without her glasses in her yellow dress as she said I'm gonna have your baby in her thick brogue…that's the one I remember. Sometimes you just have defining moments, you know?
And the moment I met BJ Hunnicutt…it was one of those.
He had blue eyes and skin tanned from the California sun. He was tall and thin, in that dress uniform with every button in place. He tilted his hat up when he extended his hand.
"Hello," he said, smiling with ridiculously white teeth. He was perfect. Perfect posture, perfect manners, perfect this, perfect that. "I'm BJ Hunnicutt."
Hawkeye would've hated him, I thought, shaking his hand.
"Trapper, right?" Hunnicutt asked.
"Yeah, that's me."
"It's nice to meet you. Corporal O'Reilly—"
"You mean Radar."
"You're a Captain, Captain. You're allowed to call him what you want."
"I feel funny having people salute me," he said with a forced-looking smile.
"They should salute you," I said, testing him as I filled a martini glass. "They're beneath you, right?"
"You don't honestly believe that, do you?"
"No, but I bet you do."
"I'm sensing a little hostility," Hunnicutt said slowly, nervously. "Did I do something wrong?"
"Not yet. Sit down. That's your cot. You want a drink?"
"Not now, thanks."
"You'll be begging for it after your first OR session," I said indifferently. "You're from California?"
"Yeah, how'd you know?"
"I've been doing my homework. Frat boy. Stanford. Trained at Fort Sam. You married?"
"One. She's a baby. At least, she was when I left."
I waited for him to do the inevitable. You ask a guy about his kids, and it's basically an invitation for him to whip out his wallet and show you a zillion pictures of the brats. But he didn't. He just sat still, very rigidly. I wondered if he was anxious or just uptight. I'd almost made up my mind about him, but not quite.
He took off his hat and placed it on his cot behind him.
"Well, I don't see the mark of Satan on your forehead," I said dryly, taking a sip. "You must not have met Frank yet."
"Major Burns?" Hunnicutt asked.
"He prefers Ferret Face."
"He prefers it, or you prefer it?"
"He does. If I had it my way, we'd call him something much worse. What do you think of him?"
"I don't know what you want me to say," Hunnicutt said with a smile. "I have a feeling it's a lose-lose situation."
"You think you need my approval or something?" I asked.
"I'm going to be living with you. It'll be a lot easier if we don't hate each other."
"I don't hate you, California. I don't even know you."
"You seem to know a lot about me, actually."
"I read your file."
"Yeah, I was curious about the guy who was replacing my best friend."
"If you want me to—"
"Just answer me this. You ever heard of Crabapple Cove?"
"Good. Because people from Crabapple Cove are backstabbing, ungrateful pricks."
"I'll remember that…?" California said questioningly.
"You should. Useful advice. Something else you should remember—"
"Attention, all personnel! Incoming wounded! Looks like a big batch, everyone report to triage."
"—is that you need to be prepared for that. I hope you're a better surgeon than you are a conversationalist. You probably want to take that uniform off, California, don't want to get it all dirty."
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Thanks and much love to Kelly, who is not only the angel of Beta, but also has a very sexy name ;) Reading and reviewing earns you a ticket to heaven.