Perils of a Priest
Note and Disclaimer: Haha, yeah, I still don't own M*A*S*H. I hope this makes up for the lack of Father Mulcahy stories lately though.
It was a difficult drive to Seoul and one I did not relish. Klinger and I were dodging bombs and bullets left and right in our jeep, hoping to get there in time for our meeting. After the last sacrament administered the week before to that baby, he had been serious about joining the priesthood and applied, catching many people's attention. I thought it an attempt to escape the perils of life in Korea and to go home to Toledo. This did not seem like one of his many schemes though.
Regardless of what my inner voice was telling me (which was that this was all a ruse), my concentration had been on the road and its many trials. As the driver, my eyes roamed from the explosions to the dirt pathways to where bullets flew and back to Klinger, all in an attempt to keep us all safe (and with a little prayer to God of course!). Klinger was no better than I was. Dressed in his best uniform, he yelled at me countless times to watch for this and that. God give me strength, but I always screamed at him about my abilities as a driver. I was no Hawkeye Pierce or Trapper McIntyre, drunk on gin and driving!
"Father, watch out for that tree!" Klinger screeched in my ear, pretending that he alone saw the obstacle in our way.
I skillfully twisted the wheel to one side and narrowly missed it. "I can see everything, my – well, my son."
"Father, do you think we'll get there on time?"
"Patience is a virtue, Klinger. I'm sure they'll understand if we're late."
"Yeah, well, the North Koreans don't know that. They're impatient to get us off of the road and dead!"
He had a point. Ever the pessimistic, Klinger continued his ranting until we came upon a section where some soldiers from our side had dug trenches. At this point, I concluded that it was time for a stop anyway, since it was far too dangerous to continue. There was no possible way that we were going to be enduring our journey to Seoul much longer without getting ourselves killed. A battle was already beginning and we were right in the middle of it.
As soon as I could, I stopped the vehicle. Klinger and I jumped out of the jeep without another word and dove right into the trenches without hesitation. Over our heads, we heard the familiar machine fire and covered our heads with our helmets and arms. It was a futile gesture as I saw it, but one that calmed Klinger at least. While he did not lower his cover, he still glanced to me for strength. I saw this as a chink in his armor.
This will prevent our trip to Seoul. Now, how can I use this against Klinger?
Right then and there, I decided that I was going to con Klinger right out of his scheme. God forgive me for it, but I believe that He did not need a man like Klinger to join any priestly order, especially under a lie (and to get out of Korea!). Now was the best time, when all was in disarray and the corporal more receptive to any advice to keep him alive. I was lucky when he spoke first.
"Father, how do you do it?" Klinger asked me. "How can you stay so calm at a time like this?"
"Oh, it's pretty easy." It wasn't, but God could forgive me this fib too. It was difficult to control my trembling. "You must have faith, my son. God gives us the strength to succeed, no matter if we are back at the camp or not. You just need to grasp it."
"Father, I don't want to die!"
"None of us do, Klinger. But we have a greater reward up above than we do here in Korea. Being that pillar of strength is knowing that the pain will gain relief in another life."
This made Klinger think for a moment. "I don't want to be here either."
"None of us I do," I confirmed. "We all have our assigned duties, Klinger. Sadly, we have been sent here as a test. This war will push us to our limits because God sees that we can handle it."
"What kind of test?" Klinger grabbed me by my collar and shook me. "I cannot take something I can't bear. Father, I failed at school! I cannot take these sorts of tests! What does God need of me as a priest if I cannot pass?"
"Oh, there are many of them," I explained slowly. I tried to keep my voice steady, but it was becoming harder as the fighting intensified. Something behind us also exploded. "There is no rest for those who follow God's pathway, Klinger. Everyday, there might not be a need for spiritual help, but there are those who wish to have a wise ear or who might need to have some comfort in the face of danger such as this. You help when there's need and nothing more. Physical labor is always few and far between except for running."
"I'm just as scared as the next person," Klinger protested.
"And rightfully so," I confirmed. "Who wouldn't be?"
"Are you scared out of your wits too?"
"Not with God on my side," I said proudly. That was the truth at least. "That is part of being a priest, Klinger. You need to hold onto that and become the light for all to see. You would be the shining star in the darkness."
"So, there's more than just no sex and busy Sundays?"
"Of course, Klinger. Being a priest isn't just behaving yourself and making others do it when you're around. It is to set more than an example. You'll be on call twenty-four/seven, the healer of all mental and religious wounds. Everyone will see you as a secret keeper, the man to absolve all sins in the name of the Almighty. Gossip is not a priest's way. Commandments must be followed. Guidelines must be kept. Why, your very reputation hangs in the balance!"
"That means no dresses? No lying or cheating? Giving away everything I have?"
"Of course! Dresses are for nuns. You cannot pass as one. And we live a simple life, my son. All goes to those in need. We must give up on our earthy desires."
"Those are the perils of a priest?" Klinger laid back down into the trench. "No rest, no sex and no fun? Having to be good all the time? Boy, I sure hate being you, Father."
I curled right next to him, just to keep the illusion of safety alive. "Me too, Klinger. Me too."
We kept silent until the area had been cleared and all was quiet. I peeked out and stood before the aftermath, awed by its terror. By then, whoever remained had been evacuated to a hospital or had marches on. The North Koreans shifted their lines and had backed away for now. I can thank God for that, but not for much else. While I was grateful for our lives being spared, our jeep was something I could have used. It had been bombed. It was rendered useless by the numerous pieces shattered about us.
Klinger joined me. "How are we going to get home now?" he asked me.
"What? You don't want to go to Seoul?" I feigned surprise and tried to keep the elation from my voice.
"And do all those things you do? And pretend to be calm when I want to scream? No way!" Klinger patted my back in encouragement. "Well, I guess that means we're walking back, Father. Think we can hitchhike our way to the camp? My feet aren't used to walking without heels."
"I'm sure we can, Klinger," I replied. This was a mission accomplished and one I did not mind. I was happy to hear our destination was the 4077th. "I am sure we can. We just need to have some faith. God will hear this prayer gladly."
Well, this is my 101st story posted to this website and I consider this to be my luckiest 1 yet. But this is dedicated to all of you readers and reviewers. Without all of you, this would not be worth half of the late nights and bored days at work. Thank you so much for your dedication and encouragement. There are too many of you to name, but you know who you are. MUAH! XXXOOO