Just What the Doctor Ordered
"You look really beautiful today," Hawkeye says with a smile, giving her the once-over, putting on a show of admiring her dress. "That color's stunning on you. Of course, I've always loved how you look in that shade of blue."
"You are such a smooth-talker, Hawkeye Pierce!" she says. "You get that from your father."
"So you've always said."
"He taught you well, that man. You're sweet and well-mannered. Everyone likes to hear compliments, as long as you mean them."
"Well of course I mean it, Mom. You look gorgeous."
She does a curtsy and then changes the subject, asking him, "How are you doing today, Hawkeye? All right?"
He nods and sits down on his cot, swirling the drink in his hand. "Yeah, Mom, I'm all right, considering I'm still here in hell. We had some casualties this morning but we saved all of them."
"Good for you, son. I worry about you, but you seem to be doing OK."
He shrugs, sips his drink. "Can't complain," he says, but then he starts to anyway. "Except for the awful food I have to eat, and the mice that live in my bed, and the snooty tentmate who seizes every opportunity to knock me down a peg…"
"That's enough, young man. Things could certainly be a lot worse. Why, what if you were at the front? That would be worse, wouldn't it?"
He sips his drink again, but he's properly chastised. He nods.
"Your father and I didn't raise you to be a complainer."
"Speaking of the ol' devil, have you heard from him lately?" she asks.
"Got a letter from him a few days ago. He's heading on up to the cabin for the long Thanksgiving weekend. He's hoping to do some fishing and, as he put it, 'lots of lounging around in my boxers.'"
She laughs long and hard at that, and Hawkeye's delighted to hear the sweet sound of her laughter.
"And what about here? What does Thanksgiving bring here at the 4077th?"
"Oh, we'll have turkey and stuffing—or something resembling it—in the mess tent. If there are no casualties, we'll probably have a party of some sort. Everyone will get drunk, we'll sing some inappropriate songs out of tune… all the usual nonsense."
She's watching him closely. "Oh, Hawkeye," she sighs. "You seem… melancholy."
He looks into his drink. "Ah, you know. The approach of any holiday tends to do that. Makes me feel… lonely, I guess. Makes me long for the carefree days of childhood, when Thanksgiving meant a huge, delicious turkey meal with you and Dad, and then going to visit Gramps afterward, and taking hikes through the woods out the back of his house."
She's nodding as he speaks, and she says gently, "Is that why I'm here? Because of the holiday blues?"
Hawkeye shrugs. He notices he's finished his drink, so he pours himself another from the still. "I guess so, Mom. The folks here at the 4077th have become almost like family, but they're not actually family. Nobody's my family, except for Dad, and he's… thousands of miles away, halfway across the world."
She smiles and pats his hand, "Then I'm glad I could be here for you, Hawkeye."
There's a sound outside, and he whirls around, thinking somebody might be coming into the Swamp, but no one's there. Whatever it was… it's gone now.
He looks back at his mom and he laughs self-consciously. "Am I crazy? To be talking to my dead mother like this?"
She slowly shakes her head. "I don't think so. Your friend, that Dr. Freedman, he might have a different opinion, but as for me… I don't think there's anything wrong with talking to your mother. Does it help you? My being here?"
He nods. "It… calms me," he admits. "It seems to center me."
"Well then." She spreads her hands as if to say: how can that be a bad thing?
He leans over and kisses her cheek. "I love you, Mom. And I miss you like hell."
"I miss you too, Hawkeye." She blinks back a few tears and then waves her hand, indicating that's enough of the maudlin stuff. "Now, tell me what Klinger has been up to lately! I always get such a kick out of his antics…"
Hawkeye grins. "Well then you're gonna love this one. Last week he decided he was going to eat an entire jeep."
She gasps. "Did you say a jeep?"
She throws her head back, bursting into raucous laughter, and he just watches her, feeling lighter with her here, and somehow, paradoxically, saner.