Season 7, Episode 15, "Dear Sis"
"You know, I used to coach boxing at the CYO…I told my boys it built character."
"Father, why don't you stop punching yourself on the chin. Pick on somebody your own size."
"But I'm Christ's representative; "suffer the little children to come unto me", "do unto others"…I'm not just supposed to say that stuff, I'm supposed to do it."
"All you're supposed to do is the best you can."
"Best is best…Look, suppose you were sitting here now and someone who had done his best was feeling lousy about it. You'd let them off the hook, wouldn't you?"
"Sure, I would. And, if the hook didn't work, I'd probably try an uppercut."
"Father, get off your back."
"Ah…it isn't just that. I don't seem to make a difference here. I hang around on the edge of effectiveness. And when I do step in, I really step in…"
"Look, this place had made us all nuts, why should you be any different? We don't sleep, we don't eat, and every day a truck comes in and lays a bunch of bleeding bodies on the ground. Okay, so you hit someone. We have to stand here and watch so much misery we're lucky we all don't join hands and walk into a chopper blade." Pause. "Look, I've gotta go inside and reduce a little suffering."
"Me, too. I'll go sob myself to sleep."
Edge of Effectiveness
Father Mulcahy worried his hat in his hands, bending the brim of it more than he should as he stared off into the distance. After a Mass that morning that had, as always, only had one person in attendance (himself), he had gone for a walk to clear his head and talk to the man upstairs, but felt even more discouraged than normal.
His faith was being tried, and he needed clarity, so, as he usually did, he went to nature to feel closer to Him.
He made his way over to one of the hillsides and sat down beneath a tree, putting his hat on the ground next to him, and propped his arms on his knees.
"Oh, Lord…I feel a bit lost right now. If it isn't too much trouble, do you think you might give me a nudge in the right direction?" he asked out loud, looking up at the surprisingly clear sky.
Of course he heard no booming voice, or, for that matter, no whispering voice, but it still felt good to ask. He cast his gaze back towards the camp and watched everyone going back and forth between the tents of various sizes and shapes and he wondered just where he fit into the cogs of the M.A.S.H 4077 wheel. Everyone seemed to have a place where they fit in and comfortably rested, but he felt like one of those extra gears that was on the edge that wasn't really necessary, but was there for the fact that there was no other place to put it.
It was an unsettling feeling and he tried to shrug it off as best as he could.
He looked back up at the sky.
"And, if not a nudge, then just one parishioner or confession, perhaps? I hope it's not too much to ask."
He absently made the sign of the cross and looked back over the compound.
He had made several friends, but none that he could go to with the problems that he had. He didn't have anything that needed to be set or operated on; a spirit was something that needed an entirely different touch, and the only person that he could go to with his problems was Him, so he did. He'd been doing it more often, recently, and he silently hoped that the Lord wasn't getting tired of hearing his prayers over and over again, mostly for the same thing. Someone else to talk to.
The Father was slightly worried that his prayer might be slightly insulting to the Lord, but at the same time he knew that it wasn't just someone to talk to that he wanted…what he truly was looking for was a friend. And not just someone who liked him, or respected him, as most of the camp did, but someone who had a similar background as him.
He picked up his hat and, once again, worried it in his hands, looking at the area surrounding the compound. In his mind's eye, he imagined what the area must have looked like before it had been shelled and attacked, and he could see something quite beautiful and serene. Almost holy, even, but amidst the scarring of the ground and the barrenness of the hills, it was now a sight that only brought war to mind and it saddened him. What he would give to know all of the answers and to help find an end to this war.
His thoughts were interrupted as he heard a sound of an engine down in the compound, and he looked down and saw a jeep pull up with a young woman inside.
Ah, he thought to himself. That must be the new surgeon…Major Camden.
At seeing that she had arrived, he stood up and brushed the dirt from his pants and then made his way down the hillside.
It didn't do to dawdle.
Major Elizabeth Camden stepped off of the jeep at the M.A.S.H. 4077, dusting off her uniform with one hand as she grabbed her bag with the other. Looking up, she saw a young man with round glasses approach; hand already out to take her bag.
"Corporal O'Reilly, ma'am. Let me show you to your tent, ma'am."
"Thank you, Corporal," she said, her light British accent revealing her Oxford education.
As soon as she was in her tent, she slipped out of the brown monstrosity that the army called a uniform, and into her green and khaki fatigues. It may have been horrible to any other woman to bear, being bereft of fitted clothes and color, but she loved the feel of plain cotton and loose canvas; it reminded her of her days as an army brat traveling the world with her father. She sat down on her cot and pulled on her boots, tying the laces with such adeptness and ease that anyone watching would have known in an instant that she bled army green, and had never known the red blood of a civilian life.
As soon as she had put her other uniform away, and had hastily pulled back her previously perfectly coiffed hair into a messy ponytail, she reached for a thick, brown package that lay snug between her fatigues and her intimates in her bag and put it on the small desk.
Quickly, with a haste that was almost comical, she opened it up and pulled out all of her effects.
A heavy, leather-bound Bible, a beautiful wooden cross, an elegant and obviously antique rosary, and a smaller cross on a plain, surgical steel chain all came out of the package, and she smiled as she saw them.
With reverence, she placed the Bible on the right hand side of her desk, her fingers lingering over the worn leather, a smile appearing on the corner of her mouth as she reluctantly let her hand slip from its' comforting presence. She then reached for her necklace and slipped the chain over her head, letting out a sigh of relief as she felt the warm weight of the cross against her breast. Her fingers moved to it and slipped the small cross under her shirt, not wanting to advertise to the camp her denomination.
The Major then looked around the tent and smiled when she saw one of the wooden posts was directly behind her bed, and she pulled a small tool kit from her bag and lightly hammered in a nail, on which she placed her wooden cross.
She then grabbed her rosary and slipped it into her pocket.
Finally, after days being without them, she felt secure. Feeling the familiar objects back in her grasp made her feel secure once more.
Now, she only had to see the chaplain.
There was suddenly a knock at her door, so she quickly turned and put the last object in the brown paper package back into its hiding place in her luggage and then said, "Enter." The door opened revealing a man in his late sixties, and as soon as she saw the pins on his shoulder she straightened up and saluted.
He nodded at her.
"At ease, Major Camden. Good to see that you've settled in. I've read your file and I suspect you'd like to see Pre Op," he said, clasping his hands behind his back and giving her a steady look. "It seems your specialty is nearly everything. General Clayton says that you're one of the best surgeons that's ever been in the Service."
Elizabeth gave him a faint nod.
"According to my test scores, Colonel, I'm the best one in at least three countries. But, if it's alright with you, I'd rather get some food. I'm famished."
He nodded and gave her a look that wasn't as stern as the one he had given her previously. From the way that he held himself, she knew that he had once been in cavalry.
Then he said, "Then to the Mess tent, it is."
"Yes, please," she said, giving him a faint smile, and he smiled in return.
He then nodded again and she followed him out of the tent, letting out an inaudible sigh as the Korean air hit her skin, a breeze brushing over the compound. No one would ever understand just how beautiful the country really was. She had known it before it was war torn. Elizabeth had spent seven years there, off and on, when she was younger, and had spent countless days exploring the countryside and pretending to be the queen of some faraway land.
She looked up at the hill and saw how barren it had become due to the drought, and she felt a wave of memory rush over her…
"Daddy? Why are all of the hills brown?" He looked down at her and said, "Because there hasn't been rain for a long while, but don't worry, sweet pea. It should rain, soon. See over there?" She could see the sky darkening just over the ridge. She nodded. "That's rain coming from the north. It'll be here in no time." She looked up at her dad and grabbed his large hand with her small seven-year-old-one. "How soon?" He smiled down at her. "Sooner than a sparrow in a spigot," he said nonsensically, and she smiled…
"Sooner than a sparrow in a spigot," she said to herself, turning her eyes away from the ridge and following the Colonel into the Mess tent.
"What's that?" asked the Colonel, and she shook her head and replied, "Nothing. Just…talking to myself…"
He nodded, and as they stepped into the line he asked, "So, what's your poison?"
She looked at the food and smiled. Ah, army food. She was more than familiar with it and, unlike most other people, the taste of it brought back only good memories of tagging along with her father as he inspected M.A.S.H. units
"Some of everything, of course," she said with a smile.
"Brave words for a young woman of your age," said a voice behind her, and she turned to see a man who towered over her petite frame with black hair and a look in his eye that seemed too devious for its own good. "You're too young to die," he added, a lilt in his voice.
"Major," said Colonel Potter, introducing her, "This is Captain Benjamin Pierce, our head surgeon. Captain, this is Major Elizabeth Camden, a surgeon sent from HQ to see how our outfit works."
She nodded and said, "I'd shake your hand, Captain, but both of mine are busy at the moment." She tapped her fingers on her tray, which was still empty, and then abruptly turned and motioned with her tray towards the server, and it was soon was filled with several shades of varying textures of glop.
He followed behind her and muttered, "Suicide by indigestion it is, then."
A small smile appeared on the corner of her mouth, but she didn't let him see it, and instead moved to go sit at a table on her own, but Captain Pierce followed her, as did the Colonel.
Not wanting to appear rude, but also wanting her space, she turned and said, "Thank you for being so hospitable, but when it comes to dining, I do prefer to eat on my own. It's nothing against the two of you," she said, absently placing a hand on the Captain's arm, not seeing his eyes light up at the contact, "It's just…it's just how I am."
She could see Captain Pierce about to protest, but then the Colonel nodded and answered for the both of them.
"Of course, Major. That's fine. If you change your mind, we'll be right over there," he finished, pointing at a table just opposite hers.
"Thank you, Colonel. Captain."
She sat down, alone, and let out a sigh of relief as they walked over to the other table. She looked around and, seeing everyone else focused on their food, she pulled her cross from under her shirt and wrapped her fingers around it, closing her eyes, and saying a small prayer, and then she slipped it back under her shirt and began to eat.