Henry Blake yawned and rubbed his eyes, blinking in the late morning sunlight. He stumbled into the mess tent, headed for the coffee maker. Hawkeye appeared at the colonel's elbow. "'Morning, Henry," he said, "Up at the crack of noon?"
"Are you kidding me?" Henry yawned, "After last night, I'm surprised I'm awake at all. How's my little patient?"
"He's fine," said Hawkeye, "I stopped by post-op on my way here."
"He's all right?" Henry repeated.
Hawkeye laughed. "He was sound asleep with his teddy bear under his chin. That good enough for you?"
Henry smiled. "I'll go and see him once I've had my wake-up call," he said, sipping his coffee. Hawkeye clapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, you did good work last night, Henry," he said, with a serious look seldom seen in his blue eyes, "You saved that kid's life."
Several cups of coffee later, Henry walked down the row of beds in the post-op ward. "Hello Radar," he said softly. The young corporal was sitting up in bed with his glasses on. "Hello sir!" he said, smiling weakly. Henry sat down on the edge of the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked, reaching out to feel Radar's forehead.
"Good, good," said Henry with an approving nod and smile. "I almost forgot," he added, pulling a small envelope from his shirt pocket, "This came for you this morning. It's a letter from your mother."
"From Ma?" Radar grabbed the envelope and tore it open. He leaned back against the pillows and slowly unfolded the letter. "What does she say?" asked Henry.
"Same things she always writes," said Radar, " 'After I finished milking Edna this morning'––Edna's our cow––'I washed the white clothes and hung them out to dry. Today is sunny and not too cold; the weatherman said we will have fair weather all this week…' There's not a whole lot that goes on back home, but I like to hear about it anyway. Kinda makes it seem like we're not so far apart, you know?" He finished reading the letter and was starting to put it back into the envelope when a small white card tumbled out onto his lap. Radar picked it up; a look of nostalgia crossed his face. Henry thought he saw tears beginning to form in the corporal's eyes.
"Radar, what's the matter?" he asked. "Are you all right?" Radar nodded, wiping the sleeve of his pajamas across his eyes. "I'm okay," he whispered, "It's just…" He held out the card to Henry. Two dried flowers were glued to the card––pansies; one golden yellow and the other a pale periwinkle blue. Underneath the flowers a neat and graceful hand had written: My pansies came up so nice this year I decided to press a few. I don't know if there are any flowers where you are, so I sent you some of mine to keep you company. Get well soon.
"That's real sweet of her, Radar," Henry began, not really seeing why a couple of dried flowers were something to get choked up over. "There's more to it than that, sir," said Radar––managing to read Henry's mind, as usual. "Yeah?" Henry cocked his head to one side, "What's the story?"
"Well…" Radar began, "It happened when I was eight years old––it's kind of embarrassing. One day I got sick at school––it was really awful, because I knew it was gonna happen, but we were in the middle of a spelling test and I couldn't leave until it was done, so as soon as I finished I got up to go to the bathroom, but by then it was too late, and I threw up all over the floor of the classroom in front of everybody. We didn't have a school nurse or anything, so I just had to sit in the corner of the room until it was time for lunch, and then this guy, Timothy, who was fourteen and lived on our street, walked me home.
"Ma was working in her garden when I got home, and I just ran to her, crying, and she kept telling me it was okay, I was gonna be fine. She got me cleaned up and put me to bed, and then she had to go fix Uncle Ed's lunch. So I was laying there in my bed sort of half-asleep––I don't know how much time had gone by––and I heard the door open. Ma came in, and she put this little blue bottle that she had, with two flowers in it––two pansies from her garden––on the dresser. 'I brought you these to keep you company,' she said, and then she kissed me and went back downstairs. But I could see the flowers, and it sort of felt like she was still there with me, watching over me.
"I never thought then I'd ever be this far away from her," he sighed. He looked at the card and gingerly ran his finger over the paper-thin petals, so lovingly preserved and carefully pasted there. "This just reminds me that no matter how far apart we are, she'll always be thinking of me."
"You got that right," said Henry, brushing a tear from his own eye. "You get some rest, now," he said, giving Radar a pat on the knee, "We've gotta get you well soon, before this whole outfit falls apart." With a smile, he left.
Radar took the card with the pair of pressed flowers and propped it on the chair next to his bed, where it was easily within sight. He lay back against the pillows and was just about to close his eyes when…
Startled, Radar looked up to find Colonel Blake standing over him. "Yes sir?" he said tentatively.
"Radar, there's something I don't understand. That letter must have been sent weeks ago, and yet your mother wrote 'Get well soon.' How did she know you'd get it–"
"The day after I had my appendix out?" said Radar, finishing for him. He shrugged, though there was a slight hint of mischief in his eye. "Well, sir," he replied, "I guess it just runs in the family."