February 1951, the first annual 4077th Mardi Gras dress up party, and the surgeons have banded together to contribute a pantheon of Greek gods to the proceedings. Hawkeye's duties as chief surgeon being minimal at present, it is he who is left in charge of the minor details. Henry is easily settled as Poseidon, a trident and fishing net being slightly more obtainable than an eagle and a thunderbolt. Hawkeye has, in a stroke of his usual brilliance, cast himself as the wine-god Dionysus, thus ensuring that the continuous flow of his favourite elixir is entirely justified. For a mischievous moment, he toys with the idea of Margaret as Aphrodite, emerging pink and seductive from the sea, but is forced to regretfully abandon this concept when her combination of outraged screeches and hurling of slippers threaten to bring down upon his head the greater power of General Clayton. He takes a certain delight in pronouncing to Frank that he is the perfect Haephestos, hurled form Olympus as a baby for his ugliness, but he does not trust Frank with a suture, let alone a heavy smith's mallet, and he tires of Frank's blustering protests, so dismisses the idea.
Trapper, Hawkeye finds, is not so easy to place. He could be Apollo, with his clever surgeon's hands and dusty gold curls, though he admittedly has no lyre, only a beaten-up guitar. He could be Hermes, the fleet-footed thief, but somehow that is not right either. He considers for a moment casting Trapper as one of the warriors, but he is neither a Hercules nor an Achilles. Finally, he has it. Eros. Not the chubby, fluttering cupid of Rome, but the ancient, violent spirit of love. Dangerous... yes... But this is Hawkeye, and there is a strange allure in the danger, a potency that he has always been powerless to resist.
Trapper grumbles and moans about having to wear a loincloth in the middle of a Korean winter, but Hawkeye is insistent. He himself is resplendent in purple toga and sandals, garlanded with the closest Korea can come to vine leaves, bottle in hand, and lecherous grin firmly in place. Henry's borrowed garden fork is a sad excuse for a trident, but the precarious rhinestone in his belly-button more than makes up for it.
Spearchucker declines the chance to, as he puts it, "freeze his buns off," instead opting for a rather unexciting, but undoubtedly warmer striped poncho. Ginger is stunning in flowing black and gold as a courtesan; Zale a somewhat unimaginative football player; Jukebox Spalding a dashing mobster with felt hat and cigar. Klinger is a true confection of white gauze and silk as Marilyn Monroe; Hotlips a revelation as General McArthur; Igor a scrawny, long-legged Superman. Radar, for some reason best known to himself, attempts an imitation of what appears to be a Christmas tree, while Margie, Nancy, and Barbara are Bo Peep, Goldilocks, and Red Riding Hood respectively. Frank, with some slight coercion, is forced to attend dressed in a cardboard box which Captains Pierce and McIntyre take the sensible precaution of lashing to the central pole in the mess tent.
At a quarter past drunken five, there are few survivors. The gods of sex and alcohol weave their staggering way swampwards, bereft now of both bow and bottle, leaning a little too heavily upon each other's shoulders. Blood rises, hot and enticing, alcohol fueling the fire. Propped against his comrade's side, Hawkeye's hand slides clumsily down rib-cage, waist, belly, hip, fingers finding muscle and bone and hard angles. Through a shifting haze, Hawkeye sees Trapper's eyes, glassy and unfocused, feels the stale, gin-sweet breath, staggers beneath the weight as Trapper collapses earthwards. Sprawled upon the dirty floor, he watches, mesmerised, the bare lightbulb swinging on its roped orbit above his head, hears the scratching of the gramophone needle as the table turns, around, and around, and around...
He wakes in a tangle of limbs and discarded beer cans, to find his head resting on the muddy floor, dusty golden curls sharing the same pillow.
Chapter title from a George Gershwin song.