Note and Disclaimer: Nope, I still don't own M*A*S*H. But I hope you will enjoy the return of this familiar character in part nineteen of "By the Graveside".
God, how long had it been since he had seen Henry Blake? The schemer could not remember. It was an eternity in Korea, as he saw it. One day blended into another. If he was not planning his escape out of the camp, he was peeling potatoes, on guard duty, serving the food or digging a hole for a latrine. It was unbearable!
Indeed, that was what made Korea so memorable than it should be. It wasn't just those duties that every enlisted man was forced to do (that made the job more boring). No, the schemer was stuck with a bunch of people, crazier than he was, and forced to work in those awful conditions. One of those was Henry Blake, the man who tolerated the schemer every time he decided to pull a stunt.
The schemer hardly recalled meeting this colonel. He did remember clearly that he had tried escaping on his way to Pusan though. The perimeter had been broken through and everyone was on the move. So was this schemer, who plotted all the way from Toledo onward to get the hell out of the Army. He had packed as many dresses as he could, pretending that it was all equipment he needed for his new assignment, and waited for the most favorable moment to change and run.
It didn't take long for the MPs to catch him after he made his grand disappearance. They ensured that the schemer was secured once more before picking off where they left off. It had taken more time to find him than getting to the camp, something they cursed loudly. Even after arrival at the 4077th, they warned Colonel Blake about this behavior. This put the CO on a higher alert than normal, especially since the enemy was so close by.
Ever since then, the schemer had tried his damnest to get out of the Army, either by a Section Eight or by running away. Each time, he always wore women's clothing. He had to prove to somebody that he was insane. It didn't matter who. He was desperate. The walls were closing in on him and he longed for home. He had to get back to his beloved Toledo or else. He couldn't stand it in Korea!
He had to admit that Colonel Blake was a tough cookie. He wasn't Colonel Potter, but he still was on the ball. While he tolerated most of the schemer's wildest antics, he still managed to keep a tight leash on him too. After each offense, there was a new rule or somebody who kept him tethered to his posts, be it the kitchens, the outdoors or in holes and vehicles.
The schemer wiped away some stray tears from his face. Yes, Colonel Blake was a kind and generous man despite all. He included the schemer in much more than just punishments. There were poker games, pranks and more. The schemer wore his dresses and shoes the whole time too, sporting them like he was in a catalogue of Sears & Roebuck. Yes, that Colonel Blake was above the rest. He at least understood the need to dress nicely.
What hurt Maxwell Q. Klinger the most was when Colonel Blake left. No, he should correct himself. Klinger was elated to hear that he was going home. It was the hole in his heart when the colonel departed that was painful. Klinger wasn't too glad to see Major Burns in the commander's seat and blowing one too many whistles. He was going to miss the wonderful times he had. Korea was going to be different without Henry Blake.
But then the news came some hours later. Klinger had taken a nurse's place for Captain McIntyre and almost fainted in grief when Radar read the message. Henry Blake was dead. His plane was shot over the Sea of Japan – no survivors to the crash.
It was a tragic waste. As Klinger saw it, there was no point in staying in Korea anymore. Colonel Blake had made the place somewhat magical and more appealing as time passed and Klinger grew more comfortable in his role. Even as a new CO made things better, the longing for the old days made it worse. Henry Blake was sorely missed.
Klinger continued to scheme until the war's end. Even after the armistice was announced, he remained behind with his wife, to help find her parents. All the while, he thought back to the beginning, when everything was not so complicated and all he cared about was getting out of KP. That was what kept him going, giving him strength and hope to locate his new in-laws. That was what also held his head up when he went home to Toledo and times got tough.
The former cross-dresser sat next to the grave and put his hand on the stone. Yes, it was one hell of a time in Korea. The experience forever changed him. But this one man made it better. Klinger will always feel gratitude for Colonel Blake. His sort will never come by again.
Here's to you, Henry. Rest in peace.