Following Civilian Pierce's visit, Lieutenant Davis noticed a vast improvement in Captain Hunnicutt's physical and mental well being.
Major Winchester noticed it, too.
Now, instead of complaining, their patient kept demanding to be moved out of his solitary confinement in Pre-Op and into one of the more inhabited wards.
And, after viewing the results of B.J.'s latest labs, Charles reluctantly gave in to his demands.
The next morning found B.J. propped up in bed in his new quarters in their old Post-Op.
He stared around the room at the eleven other beds in the ward. The beds were all empty. Their occupants were all ambulatory patients. Which meant their wounds were not severe enough to keep them from roaming the compound. Which meant his roommates got to stroll, hobble, or be wheeled over to the Mess for their breakfast.
While he, on the other hand, was too weak to walk. Heck, he couldn't even sit up without the support of pillows! But, even if he could've made it over to the Mess, he wouldn't've been able to feed himself. His left wrist and hand were still entombed in plaster…his right shoulder was still immobilized. He was totally dependent on others to feed him. He was glad the others were his friends. Friends had a way of taking some of the humiliation out of it.
Speaking of humiliation…
B.J. gave the unoccupied beds one last envious glance and turned back to the 30 year old woman who was currently playing 'choo choo' with him.
As her patient opened his mouth to speak, Margaret quickly shoved another forkful of scrambled eggs into it.
B.J. gave the smug-looking nurse an irritated glare but then was forced to smile. He chewed and winced and swallowed. It seemed his teeth were tightening up a bit. "Wanna hear something ironic?" he inquired, before she could reload. "Ten days ago, I'd a' given anything to be able to just lie here, like this. And now, I'd give just about anything to be able to stand up!" He smiled sadly and shook his head at the irony of it all.
Margaret's 'choo choo' halted in mid-air, derailed by the Captain's bitter statement. She found the situation more infuriating than ironic. Even the man's two-week's growth of beard and bandages couldn't hide the evidence of the abusive treatment he'd received at the hands of his cruel captors. Her eyes blazed with hatred and anger. But then they quickly softened again, as Winchester's words suddenly came back to her. 'Charles is right,' she thought. 'You have suffered enough…' "You just keep eating your eggies, like a good little boy, and someday you'll stand up straight and tall…like your Uncle Hawkeye," she teasingly tacked on.
B.J. gave her another irritated glare.
Which she pretended not to notice. "Speaking of eating… Isn't Corporal Walton a wonderful cook?"
When Doctor Winchester had informed him that his ileus had resolved itself, and that he had heard bowel sounds, Doctor Hunnicutt was delighted! Because he sure had an appetite. "I guess I must be too starved to notice. I'm so hungry, even Sergeant Krause's meatballs would've made it down!"
"Yes. But would they have stayed down?" the pretty woman teased, with a grin.
B.J. was forced to chuckle.
"Good morning, Major," an unfamiliar voice formally spoke up, dispelling the levity of the moment.
The two officers turned to the source of the greeting—a rather formal looking fellow in newly issued and freshly pressed Army olive drabs. There was certainly nothing drab about his attire, however. Why, it was perfectly spit and polished! Right down to the shiny brass bugles on the starched collar of his shirt. He looked completely out of place.
"Good morning, Captain," Margaret politely replied. "B.J., this is Captain McHennick…Hawkeye's replacement. Doctor McHennick, this is—"
"—Hi there, soldier!" McHennick interrupted and snatched the patient's medical chart up from the foot of his bed. "Say, I don't remember ever seeing you before. You been around long?"
B.J. saw that the man was waiting for an answer. "Nearly a year," he obligingly informed the ill-mannered chap.
"I know what you mean, soldier. It seems like I've been here a year already, too." McHennick glanced over the medical chart in his hands. "My, my…you've taken quite a beating, haven't you soldier!"
The soldier and his nurse turned to one another, astounded by the unwitting accuracy of the new arrival's preliminary diagnosis.
McHennick gave the soldier a sympathetic glance and then perused the patient's chart again, this time, looking a bit confused and more than a little suspicious. "Not exactly the type of injuries one would expect to find in combat," he smugly hinted.
The soldier's expression turned appropriately solemn. Except for his eyes, which took on a mischievous gleam. "I was drinking and driving," he confessed, "and took a shortcut through a mine field."
The officer's smug look transformed into one of shock…then skepticism. He turned to the Major for verification.
Margaret's eyes sparkled with a bit of mischief themselves. "If you think he's in bad shape, you should see the jeep!"
McHennick was doubly stunned. He gave the soldier a disapproving glare. Then he replaced the chart and hurried off, looking too disgusted for words.
B.J. and Margaret cracked up.
"Is that guy for real?" Hunnicutt inquired when he regained his composure enough to speak.
"What guy?" Hawkeye wondered, as he came stepping up to his chuckling chums.
B.J. gazed suspiciously up at his buddy. "Did you put him up to that?"
Pierce looked a little bewildered…and then thoughtful. "Ohhh-ohhh…I get it. I take it you've met Captain Conceit?" he reasoned lightly and looked curious. "So-o…what did yah think of 'im, Beej?"
B.J. stared off in the direction 'Captain Conceit' had vanished into. "I kept getting the feeling that we'd met somewhere before…"
"Maybe you did," Hawkeye reasoned further.
"Nah! I think it's probably because he does one of the best Frank Burns impersonations I've ever seen."
The three friends exchanged grins.
"He kind a' reminds me of Charles…you know, when he first got here. You remember how humble and modest Charles was," Hawkeye sarcastically summed up.
They swapped grins again.
"What about you, Margaret?" Hawkeye invited. "Who does he remind you of?"
"You two aren't being very fair," she chastised. "I mean, the man's barely been here for 48 hours, and you expect me to pass judgement on him?"
"Ah, c'mon, Margaret," B.J. urged. "I've barely known him five minutes. That didn't stop me…"
Margaret saw that the two men were waiting for her to comment. "Well…there is someone that he sort a' reminds me of…" she was forced to admit.
"Who?" Hawkeye demanded, as she hesitated.
"Little Max," she replied and then grinned, seeing her companions were convulsed in laughter.
'Little Max' was the counter-balance dummy on Captain Hill's EVAC chopper.
When Pierce announced that he and Hunnicutt's discharges had been set aside while they both finished unpacking, Colonel Potter assumed plans for the celebration to end all celebrations would be 'set aside', too. But he was mistaken.
If anything, Hawkeye seemed more determined than ever and he enthusiastically pointed out to his completely confused C.O. that there were still plenty of reasons for holding such a hullabaloo.
Why, there was the success of B.J.'s surgery, the 4077th's new Field Hospital status, Sergeant Krause's transfer back to the States, Corporal Walton's transfer to their kitchen, the Chinese retreat, the resumption of the Peace Talks, the overall winding down of the war…the fact that it was Saturday and the sun was shining.
Of all these perfectly good excuses for celebrating, Potter liked the last one best. It was a glorious day! And, his hard-working troops were past due for a break. So, he readily consented to Pierce's rather eccentric Wingding.
Sherman left Captain McHennick in charge of the camp. A fitting choice, since the man already acted like he ran the place, anyway.
The Mess Tent's benches and tables were carted out into the compound and the celebration to end all celebrations began that afternoon with the entire camp enjoying a picnic lunch.
The hungry picnickers made Corporal Walton's potato salad, baked beans and barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers disappear in short order.
And, following a best two out of three volleyball tournament, the celebrators moved indoors for a little relaxation, dancing and refreshment.
Since B.J. couldn't join the party, the party joined him. Half of the beds in his ward were removed to accommodate the dancers, and the celebrating continued.
B.J.'s recovering kidney couldn't tolerate a drastic change in his medication, either. So Corporal Walton prepared about twenty gallons of zero proof punch.
Well, the punch started out zero proof. But then, he accidentally spilt six bottles of his best cooking Sherry into it…and Colonel Potter very discreetly poured in three bottles of his best Scotch. Finally, Pierce spiked their spikings with a couple a' quarts of his vintage eight-day-old gin.
The end result was a rather tasty concoction that everyone found most refreshing.
The celebration was still going strong that evening, when an ambulance bus pulled into the compound with more ambulatory M.A.S.H. transfer patients for their Field Hospital.
Captain McHennick placed a cot down in the middle of the celebrators' dance floor.
"What is the meaning of this?" Master of Ceremonies Pierce inquired over the orchestral accompaniment of a blaring phonograph.
The Captain gave the slightly inebriated M.C. a disgusted, disapproving glare. "We're turning your nightclub back into a hospital, Pierce! There are six new patients waiting outside, to make better use of this space!"
'Pierce' was obviously satisfied with the officer's explanation, for he went waltzing up the center aisle with his IV stand.
McHennick gave the drunken doctor's back one last disgusted sneer and went off to fetch more beds…and more beds…and more beds.
Soon, the ward was once again filled with beds and the beds were soon filled with patients. Those capable of doing so, sat on the edges of their cots, staring at the rowdy, raucous group of partyers—in amazement.
"What's goin' on around here, Captain?" one of them inquired of McHennick.
"Yeah," another joined in, "who are these drunks?"
McHennick appeared more disgusted than ever. "These 'drunks' are your doctors…and nurses."
The new arrivals were even more amazed.
"What's the occasion, sir?" someone curiously inquired.
"I believe they are celebrating Captain Pierce's discharge," McHennick explained. "But I have no idea why they chose to do their celebrating in here!" He watched the new arrivals as they watched Pierce go waltzing by with his IV stand. "That is the guest of honor," he informed them, disgustedly.
"How'd he get out, sir?" another wondered. "On a Section Eight?"
McHennick chuckled delightedly. "I wouldn't be a bit surprised, soldier!" he admitted and then headed off to attend to his other duties, as Officer of The Day.
Hawkeye saw the new arrivals staring at him and his dance partner. He waltzed to a stop. "Welcome to the celebration to end all celebrations, gentlemen! There is a minimum one-wound cover charge to get in. But, once you're in, the drinks and the entertainment are free!"
The young soldiers glanced uncertainly at one another.
Winchester let out a rather jovial snort and turned to Pierce, as he collapsed exhaustedly into the empty chair beside him. "Indeed!" he agreed. "And Benjamin, here, is the floor show!"
Everyone cracked a grin but Hawkeye, who had to really struggle to keep a straight face. "Benjamin?" he repeated and slowly straightened in his seat. "Whatever happened to Pierce?"
"Why, haven't you heard?" Charles queried. "He's been discharged!"
Everybody cracked up.
Benjamin was laughing so hard he fell off his chair.
Winchester saw the young soldiers staring down at Hawkeye in astonishment. "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen a floor show before?"
The celebrators were in tears now.
Hawkeye clutched his mirth-sore ribs and stomped his feet on the floor.
Charles seemed oblivious to the hilarity his comments had caused and he stared at his convulsed companions in confusion. "My 'funny bone' must be on the fritz," he calmly confessed and continued to casually sip his punch.
B.J. turned to the person who had been carefully administering his 'medication'. "Nurse, schedule this bombed Bostonian for immediate corrective surgery!" he ordered, lightly.
"Right away, Doctor!" Lieutenant Davis acknowledged, equally lightly and the two of them exchanged grins.
The new arrivals glanced at one another again—astounded by this latest development. Not only were the drunks doctors, but their fellow patient appeared to be one, as well!
One of the stunned young soldiers turned to the bed-ridden heavily bandaged lavender and green guy. "Are you a real doctor?"
"He likes to pretend he is," Margaret quipped and got several amused snorts and a grin and respectful nod from the real pretend doctor. She knew B.J. would appreciate the play on words.
B.J. turned back to his young questioner. "Well, these jokers apparently feel that's debatable. But I do have a diploma from medical school."
His fellow patients look even more astounded and more than a little curious. "What the hell happened to you?" the private closest to him pondered. "Sir."
The mood suddenly switched from merry…to morbid.
"I tripped on an Oriental rug in a Tokyo hotel," B.J. answered, in a valiant attempt to recapture the light mood before it was lost forever. "I fell down three flights of stairs…and landed smack dab in the middle of a water fountain…then this great big heavy statue of Venus De Marlowe toppled right down on me…and I nearly drowned!"
B.J.'s companions gritted their teeth and avoided each other's eyes, but to no avail. The sound of their muffled snickering caused his fellow patients' looks to turn from sympathy to skepticism.
"If you got hurt in Tokyo, how'd you ever end up in Korea?"
"I have no idea," B.J. replied, sounding as confused as the kid who had posed the question. "But I remember…just before I passed out…I remember demanding to be given the best medical care possible! And, the next thing I knew…I woke up and found myself here."
"That's ri-ight!" Klinger quickly concurred and turned to lead his fellow M.A.S.H.ers in a group recital of their camp's motto.
"Best care anywhere!" the troops all chorused together and exchanged high-fives and grins.
"What really happened to him, sir?" another private impatiently demanded, as Captain Pierce pulled himself back up onto his chair.
Once again a gloom threatened to descend on their little celebration.
And, just for a fraction of a second, Hawkeye's face filled with sadness. But then his eyes locked on B.J.'s and he forced himself to brighten again. "The truth is…he got deliriously drunk over at Rosie's Bar the other night…and stumbled out into the path of a runaway rickshaw…the driver of which was also deliriously drunk…and who is at this very moment sitting behind a different kind of bars…for peddling while under the influence!"
The new arrivals were amused but unconvinced by his account.
One of the young privates turned to Potter. "How 'bout it, Colonel? Did he really get hurt at Rosie's Bar?"
"Well, yes!" Potter replied without a moment's hesitation. His steely-blues locked on B.J.'s own blue eyes. "But it didn't happen quite that way. You see, these ten marines came in and started bothering the nurses. And, well…he'd had a few too many…and so he took all ten of them on…single-handedly!"
The patients thought that over for awhile and then turned to Winchester. "Is that true, Major?"
"Certainly not!" Charles scoffed. He locked gazes with B.J., as well. "There were only five Marines…I know…I was there…and I counted!"
B.J. flashed him a grateful grin.
Charles returned the grin and continued. "But then, the Captain has always been prone to exaggeration."
"It's true," B.J. admitted. "For instance, I once said that the Major here was the finest surgeon I'd ever seen. But he's just one of the finest…" he concluded, giving Pierce and Potter grateful grins, as well.
They returned his grins and everybody raised their punch glasses to toast the fine surgeons.
McHennick stepped back into the ward. "All right, it's twenty-two hundred hours! Time to go and let these patients get some rest!" he strongly urged and raised the needle from the record on their phonograph.
"Captain, do you know what happened to him?" a private pondered and pointed to B.J..
McHennick nodded. "While driving with impaired judgement, his jeep hit a landmi—" The rest of his remark was drowned out by laughter.
The celebrators all bid B.J. 'goodnight' and began filing, and chuckling, out of the ward.
"I was at the 8063rd when they brought him in," one of the older arrivals whispered. "I overheard some of the nurses talking. They said that he'd been captured by the North Koreans and tortured."
The new arrivals looked thoughtful and then glum.
"We may as well forget it," one of them sadly surmised. "We ain't never gonna get a straight answer!"
The celebration to end all celebrations staggered over to Rosie's Bar, to allow B.J. and the others to rest.
Then, at about midnight, Charles and the Master of Ceremonies dragged their company clerk over to his office to help them send a telegram.
"Okay. What do you want this critical message of yours to read?" Klinger asked the two sloshed surgeons as they leaned against each other and he leaned over his desk for support.
The pair looked about as thoughtful as two men who are three sheets in the wind could look.
"How 'bout this?" Pierce prompted. "Dear Dartanien STOP The King's bodyguards are all alive and well STOP."
Charles readily endorsed their message's content. "Oh! Tres apropos!"
Klinger stared at them in disbelief. "That's it?"
"And who am I supposed to send it to?"
"To whoomm," Winchester corrected, with a slur.
Max gave the Major an annoyed glare. "To whoomm am I supposed ta send it?" he smartly repeated.
"Send it to Army Intelligence," Hawkeye suggested.
The Major grinned and nodded his approval of the chosen recipient.
"Okay," Klinger reluctantly acknowledged. "But don't blame me if it's intercepted."
"Why, Sergeant…do you not seeeee? That is the whole idea!" Charles finished, with a flourish.
"No. I do not seeeee," Max muttered, as the two tipsy doctors staggered out the door. "And I hope I never do!"
Hawkeye and Charles heard his comment and went chuckling off across the compound.
End Of Chapter Nineteen