Note and Disclaimer: We all know we don't own M*A*S*H and we all write about our favorite characters. Presenting story nine of "By the Graveside"…
Guilt always wrecked him apart, especially after Korea had liberated him. Even standing by this graveside more than three years later was enough to make him cry all over again. It was partially his fault that this man, his friend named Henry Blake, was buried six feet deep. Why, that old colonel could have swum away from the wreckage of his plane. He could have helped others in their fight for their lives.
Instead, they were all dead. Every single soul had perished on that fateful day, either immediately or shortly afterward. There was no way old Henry could have lifted a finger.
The enabler was told that there was no way that anybody could have survived anyway, even if the Army had a way to get help in time. That did not matter to this man, the one animal that pushed Henry deeper into his bottle. The enabler was as dirty as sin, dressed down in black and never allowed redemption.
It was all so innocent, as he recalled. The enabler was an anesthesiologist, pulled from his native Australia and sent to that hellhole. Originally stationed at the 21st Evac Hospital, he was soon on loan with the 4077th and playing more than gas passer. He was also a nurse chaser, poker player and occasional prankster (a more than willing accomplice is the best description). He wasn't too imaginative, but he brought out the best fun for people and all of it with alcohol.
The enabler helped the doctors in the Swamp build the still and instructed them on making the best booze in Korea. From there, he allowed his new friends to use their creative juices to host the best parties with it…and all of them the enabler was invited to. Since most of the guys only used him for the spirits, his favorite person to push around was Henry Blake. The enabler found in him a kindred soul, but one that was bossed around too many times by his old lady and children and the camp.
While Henry Blake was always making a million indecisions a day, the enabler coaxed him into another solid commitment and without the excuses. Henry needed some dependence on something other than his family back home and had to stand on his own two feet. Without that boost, the enabler saw him falling apart at the seams. The colonel would not have been able to handle the major affairs of the camps.
And down the hatch Henry went, his tongue licking every drop until all was empty. Hell, it was easy to get him bottle after bottle, glass after glass. It was harder to get him addicted to loosening up. But Henry soon caught onto this new act, using every chance he got to stop his initialing and signing and to pretend he was fifteen years younger and without responsibilities. It was fun for a while, but then things suddenly changed a few months later.
But then, the enabler saw the steady reliance on alcohol and how it was making the colonel worse. In order to function for almost anything (including Majors Burns and Houlihan), Henry had his mouth on anything that would make him forget and all of it stocked in his office cabinet. It wasn't so disturbing at first, but it soon grew so large of a guide that even the enabler was frightened. Before he could lift a finger though, he was transferred, this time to jolly old England.
He lost contact with everyone in Korea because of the new assignment. It wasn't until he returned to Australia that he received word about his former comrades. By then, it was too late. A letter waited for him with the unfortunate news…and the ultimate mark on his soul. The enabler could not believe the black and white regrets written so eloquently and with stains caused by tears. There was no way it could be true. Henry Blake could not have died in such a manner…
For the former Captain "Ugly" John Black, it was the final straw. Standing straighter before the silent tomb, he still recalled that horrible day. He sat on his porch, the setting sunshine dimming his light, and smoked and read through his missive many times over until it was memorized. Trapper had written about Henry's last days. Sober as he was in the seconds leading to eternity, Trapper wrote about Henry's final night…drinking. Other than finding the third tree, that was all Henry did.
Ugly John chided himself as he squeezed away some tears. He could kick himself, but that supposedly was not the road to healing. Henry had tried and failed because he was not given the opportunity. The Grim Reaper had other ideas. Him…well, he was alive and granted many more chances. It did him no good here to continue it. He had to break the vicious cycle somehow.
He placed his hand on the cold marble, trembling. 'ello and goodbye, mate…