PEN PALS- CHAPTER 13
Disclaimer- I dearly love M*A*S*H, but Radar, Klinger and other characters from the show do not belong to me. Nancy, her dad and Dr. Richardson are my creations.
Nancy received the letter Radar wrote on February 15th right before Easter. She read and re-read every word of the letter. She wondered if he was a shy as he seemed in his letters. Poor Radar! He was worried about what she would think of him being short. Nancy had to admit that 5 feet 4 inches was short for a guy, but it didn't matter to her. Besides she was an inch shorter than he was and bet he would be glad to know it.
She decided to write an answer to his letter on her lunch break. The weather was nice so she sat on the front porch of the veterinary clinic with Brutus and Buster at her feet. After eating a few bites of her sandwich, Nancy started her letter to Radar.
I just received your latest letter. To answer your question, I'm 5 foot 3 inches tall. If I ever get to meet you I promise I won't wear high heels. It would be nice to be able to look a fella in the eye instead of having to stand on tip toes to do it!
The sound of a cat growling and hissing took Nancy's attention away from her letter writing. She saw that Buster had left the porch and cornered the feline in the shrubbery. She ran and grabbed the dog away and fussed, "Buster, what's the matter with you? That cat could scratch your eyes out! Now leave it alone!"
Nancy sat back down and held Buster in her lap while she tried to finish the letter to Radar. Every time she tried to put pen to paper, he squirmed and whined. After a few minutes of this, she got frustrated and put him down. He trotted off and went back to look for the cat.
Unfortunately, the cat found Buster first and swiped a paw across his face. He yelped in pain and took off across the street in the path of an oncoming car. Nancy yelled, "Buster, come back here!" and then watched in horror as the driver of the car tried to avoid hitting the dog but was unsuccessful.
The driver, an elderly man, got out of the car and told Nancy as she approached him,"Oh I'm so sorry. I tried to stop before I hit him, but he was too quick for me." She knelt down beside her dog. He whined in pain and she began to cry. "Oh Buster, why couldn't you leave that old cat alone?" She looked up at the man and asked him to go inside the vet's office and get Dr. Richardson.
The vet came out of his office in less than a minute. He examined Buster and shook his head. "Nancy, I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do. It would be best to put him to sleep so he won't suffer anymore."
She knew he was right and sobbed, "Yes sir, I understand." Dr. Richardson picked up Buster and Nancy followed him into the office.
Dr. Richardson put his hand on her shoulder and said, "Nancy, I want you to say good-bye to Buster and take off the rest of the day."
Nancy bent down and kissed her dog. "Bye Buster, I love you. Tell Mama I said you're coming to keep her company in Heaven." She walked out of the vet's office and headed home with Brutus on a leash.
"Whatsa matter Radar? You seem on edge about something," Klinger observed while they were eating supper in the mess tent.
Radar shrugged and answered, "I don't know. Something's bothering me and I can't put my finger on what it is."
"Maybe you're coming down with something," the Lebanese corporal told him.
"Nah, I don't think so. I don't have a fever."
Klinger felt of Radar's forehead. "No you don't."
"Told you I'm not sick. Something just doesn't feel right, I can't explain it."
"Maybe it will pass."
"I don't know Klinger. I sure hope so." Radar looked down at his tray and pushed it away.
"Something's definitely wrong somewhere," thought Klinger. "The kid usually eats like a horse no matter what is served in the mess tent. If he doesn't eat breakfast, then I'm gonna tell Colonel Blake that he's sick and that one of the doctors should take a look at him."
When she got home, Nancy ran straight upstairs to her bedroom with Brutus right on her heels. She fell across her bed and buried her head in a pillow to cry. He lay beside her, whining. She reached out and put her hand on his head. He was as grief stricken as she was and he didn't understand why his companion was suddenly gone.
When Mr. Greene came home from work that evening, the house was dark and silent except for Nancy's three cats swishing around his legs, meowing pitifully and begging for food. By the time he came home she would normally be in the kitchen making supper. After he fed the cats to get them to quiet down, he ran upstairs. He wondered if she was sick and didn't hear him come in the house.
He found her asleep on her bed along with Brutus lying beside her. Where was Buster? That little dog was Brutus' shadow and went everywhere the big dog went. Mr. Greene gently sat down on the edge of the bed and said, "Nancy, I'm home. Honey, are you sick? It's unusual for you not to be making supper when I get home from work."
When she rolled over, he saw her tear stained face and realized something bad had happened that day. Nancy sat up and put her head on her dad's shoulder. "Dad, Buster got hit by a car today. Dr. Richardson had to…" She started sobbing and was unable to finish the sentence.
"The vet had to put Buster to sleep, didn't he?"
"Yes sir, he did. Buster got up too close to a cat that wanted to be left alone and it swatted him in the face. He must have been hurt and scared because he took off running across the street. The driver of the car that hit him couldn't stop in time. I feel so bad. If I had been watching him closer, he wouldn't have run into the street. I was on my lunch break sitting on the front porch of Dr. Richardson's office writing a letter to Radar. I should have waited to write that letter."
He kissed her forehead and then told her, "Look Nancy, what happened can't be undone. Besides he might have run out in the street even when you were keeping a close eye on him. I know you loved him. Sometimes we have no control over when a loved one passes away. For a long time after your mother died, I felt like it was my fault. But she got sick. No one could control that. I understand that now, but it took me a long time before I accepted it."
"Would it be alright if I called Radar and tell him what happened? I'll pay the phone bill. I know it will be expensive."
"Alright, I'm not worried about the expense as much as the time difference. Think about that. You don't want to wake him up when it's the middle of the night there. But go ahead. I hope you'll be able to talk to him."
"Thanks for understanding," Nancy hugged him tightly and then got up to make the phone call.
The morning dragged into the afternoon. Radar had hardly slept at all the night before and he was having a difficult time staying awake during the day. He could hardly keep up with his work. His stomach growled. It was empty because he hadn't eaten anything since lunch the day before. He just couldn't face food until he figured out what was troubling him so.
Around 4 that afternoon the phone rang. As always he was quick to answer it. Because he was upset and hungry his greeting sounded very gruff. "MASH 4077th!"
The voice on the other end of the line sounded hesitant after receiving such a greeting. "Uh hello… Radar?"
Once the corporal realized who it was, his attitude changed. "Nancy? Is that you?"
The only answered he got was a sniffle. This worried him a lot. Maybe the something that had been bothering him was something that was bothering her as well. "Nancy, is something wrong?"
"Yes," she sobbed.
She sounded very upset. This was one time he wished the camp chaplain, Father Mulcahy, was nearby. The priest would have the right words to say to her. Radar decided he would just have to do the best he could to help her. "Nancy, please tell me what's the matter. I know you wouldn't have called me if it weren't important."
"O.K., I'll tell you. I hope you won't think I'm being childish after you hear what it is." She paused for a moment and then continued, "You remember my dog, Buster?"
"Yeah, he's a Pug and he pesters your big dog, Brutus."
"Well, uh…Buster got hit by a car and he didn't make it. The vet had to put him to sleep." Nancy burst into tears.
Radar felt so helpless. He was thousands of miles away from her. He couldn't even put his arm around her and give her a hug. "Gee Nancy, I'm so sorry. I wish I was there with you. Something's been bothering me since yesterday and I couldn't figure out what it was. Now I know."
Nancy stopped crying immediately. "Really?" she hiccupped. "No wonder people call you Radar. I hope you didn't mind that I called. I just had to tell my…uh…best friend."
Radar was surprised to hear her call him her best friend. They had never met and only knew each other through letters. Somehow, it felt right. They were friends.
"I'm glad you called me. Nancy, sometimes you need to talk to someone when something bad happens. Remember if you ever need me, just call. I may not be able to do anything but listen, but I'm your friend and I care about you."
"Thanks Radar. I really appreciate it. I'd better go now. Take care of yourself."
"I will. Bye, Nancy."
He hung up the phone. He knew things were going to happen before they did. Now he knew when a friend was having trouble before they told him and that scared him a little bit. He hoped it was a long time before he had that feeling again.
Now there's another reason for Corporal O'Reilly's nickname, Radar. He can sense when something is bothering a friend.
My apologies for taking so long to update this story. I'll try to post new chapters more regularly. Thanks for your support!