Note and Disclaimer: Yeah, I still don't own M*A*S*H and neither should you. I just like writing this series a little too much. Enjoy!
Having to leave Korea had been the best day of his life. However, having to remain in the Army to support his son and ex-wife (not to mention his mistress) was another story. The assistant had no qualms about it though. It meant some free time away from the kitchens and the complaints about the food and also the constant nagging from his women. That was what mattered the most to him.
The assistant was actually regretful about the man buried underneath his dirty boots and clenched flowers, the man who was Henry Blake. He had not known the colonel for too long. Indeed, he was just a lonely private then and beginning his ordinary Army career when he met Henry Blake. It was a long road even from basic training to that moment, but it was worth it.
And, well, assistant was one of those who didn't run when his draft notice came and told him to pack up. He had a wife (soon to be ex, as he saw it) and a son to support. There weren't too many options left for an unemployed man with no education and prospects. Indeed, that alone seemed a lifetime ago compared to his life in the Army.
The funny part about all of it was that he didn't mind the doing menial labor and was able to cope with being away from his family. Simple cleaning was the best therapy. The worst of it were the labor-intensive chores given to him. Sure, enlisted personnel were the backbone of the Army (or so the others said) and they did all the dirty work. Few things were certain to the assistant though. Being in the Army was an example of who you knew and how you can suck up to the officers in charge of the promotion board.
What was strange too was that the assistant couldn't remember how and why he was sent to Korea and Colonel Blake. He hadn't really thought of it. All he recalled was being stuck on some plane and being shipped to a country he didn't know existed, to some war he had yet to witness. Sure, his wife thought it was some joke and his son declared it an exciting adventure. He didn't think it was either. It was just another assignment and he the cook's helper.
This time, the Army declared it the best joke of the war to make the assistant a part of yet another Mess Tent. This meant that he was helping in the kitchens, packing up and cleaning the equipment and serving the slop in the hall. The first few tasks weren't too hard since shooting was a good motivator. The last of those tasks was something the assistant dreaded the most. He had to hear every jab and complaint about the horrible food the Army deemed edible. It was unbearable!
What made it tolerable for the assistant was Henry Blake. While he sighed and promised to make it better for the assistant, there was nothing he could do to stop the madness. The assistant was grateful for its lessening in either case. Even though Captain Pierce's dance on the tables about the dreaded liver and fish was about the best excitement, the assistant did not need to deal with the rough crowds anymore. He was painted as a person with a common cause.
And that was the best Colonel Blake did. While the assistant still heard this or that about the food, it wasn't as bad as it used to be. Plus, with the new nose plug that the colonel got him, serving the mush was better (until Major Burns took it away for it being non-regulation gear). Life was perfect for a while…until Colonel Blake went home and was killed before he did.
Igor Straminsky remembered that day well. He had been carrying another wounded man in the OR when Radar came in with the news. He almost dropped his load and ran to cry. God knew that the officers were in tears. Igor didn't think them human enough to mourn for a man they belittled and used. And God knows how badly Colonel Blake was treated, even by his so-called friends. Captains Pierce and McIntyre were pretty bad influences.
That was what Igor felt sorry for the most. It wasn't just the reality of a family who lost a loved one. It was the last days of his life. Colonel Blake was plagued by one problem or another and wanted it all to stop. And he wasn't like Colonel Potter, all Army guts and strength. He was an actually human, a man who did not like being an officer. He was one of them and that was what Igor would miss the most.
Igor laid his wilting blooms down on the ground. While it wasn't as pretty as the rest of the decorations, it still added some color to a black and white world. Many people will come here and see the negativity in this senseless death. As Igor saw it, he attempted to make an awful world prettier by seeing a new light. He will always remember a good life lived and not how it was cut short.
At least these flowers will smell nicer than the Mess Tent.