Period of Adjustment

 

By Big Daddy O’Reilly

With Apologies to Jim Mulligan & John Rappaport

 

Potter was on the phone with I-Corps, and it was clear that the conversation was anything but a pleasant one; the Colonel’s office was an absolute mess, with papers, files, records, reports, among other things piled high on any kind of table surface there was in the office.

 

POTTER: (On the phone) Just hang on to your long-johns Lieutenant, we people in combat appreciate how rough it is back there at headquarters company… bulletins flying in every direction, officers blowing up in your face… problem here is we’re breaking in a new man, and he’s not quite up to snuff yet! Now you’ll start getting your morning reports, pronto!

 

Potter slammed down this phone, and in a fit of pique, tossed a pile of papers in the air, as he stormed in what used to be Radar’s office, but was now Klinger’s; Klinger’s office was in no better shape than the Colonel’s, as he emptied a huge sack of mail onto his desk.

 

POTTER: Klinger! We gotta talk!

 

KLINGER: Oh, not now sir, very busy sir.

 

POTTER: Now!

 

KLINGER: Mail call sir, neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night shall stay this courier from his appointed rounds.

 

POTTER: How would you like to be making your rounds with a potato peeler for the rest of this war?!

 

KLINGER: Threats are another story, sir.

 

POTTER: I just got off the horn with I-Corps; you know how fussy they are?! They actually expect to see to morning reports every morning! They say it would be a real boost for their morale if they got one from us ONCE IN A WHILE!

 

KLINGER: Just tell ‘em unless they hear any different to assume everything is okay! You know what they say, no news is good news!

 

POTTER: Do ‘em Klinger! On time! Every day! That’s an order!

 

KLINGER: Sir, am I to take from your tone that you’re dissatisfied with the way I’m performing my duties?

 

POTTER: I can’t tell you that until I see you perform one. You’ve been company clerk for three weeks now, and so far you’ve handled the job with all the efficiency of a one-legged man at a butt-kicking contest!

 

KLINGER: I’m doing the best I can, sir.

 

POTTER: I was afraid of that… maybe this responsibility’s too much for you, no sin in owning up to that, we can’t all be Radars.

 

KLINGER: And obviously, we can’t all be sensitive to the underling’s eithers. Now if you’ll excuse me sir, I still have mail to sort.

 

POTTER: And as soon as you find anything addressed to me, from Mildred, let me know, I’m expecting something very important!

 

KLINGER: Yes, sir…

 

Klinger began to rummage through the pile of mail on his desk, while Potter stormed back into his office, the breeze from the swinging door causing other papers to fly off their piles, while other piles simply fell over onto the floor.

 

POTTER: DAMMIT!

 

Reaching his breaking point, Potter turned to another pile of junk, and smacked it off its perch, later regretting the action as it twisted his back; he grabbed his lower back, and moaned as he hobbled to his desk. Back in the company clerk office, the now-bummed Klinger was looking through the pile of mail on his desk, sorting it into different slots in the wooden mailboxes next to him; at that moment, the phone starting ringing, so Klinger began digging through the pile of envelopes to find it. Envelopes and letters scattered everywhere, a large number spilling on the floor to his annoyance, until he finally found the phone and answered.

 

KLINGER: (On the phone) Yeah, yeah, hello, 40-whatever-whatever, what do you want? I-Corps? You want to talk to Colonel Potter again? I don’t think he’s in any mood for another chat with you boys, we got the message, and you’ll get your morning reports… what? Very well, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…

 

Klinger covered the mouthpiece of the receiver, and called out to Potter.

 

KLINGER: Oh Colonel, I-Corps on the phone again, they say they’ve got something important to tell you!

 

Potter picked up his own phone.

 

POTTER: (On the phone) Potter here, what is it this time? What was that Lieutenant? Is that so? Is he good? Well Lieutenant, this may just be the answer we all need, when can you send him? We’ll be lookin’ forward to him, thanks a lot. You too Lieutenant.

 

Potter dropped the phone back into the bag, sighed in relief, and went back into Klinger’s office to relay to him what is going on.

 

POTTER: Alright Klinger, in another four or five hours, our troubles will finally be over.

 

KLINGER: Are you shipping me back to Toledo, sir?

 

POTTER: Not quite. I-Corps senses our how our works has slowed down around here like a clock with stripped gears, which is why they’ve figured out a solution to our problem.

 

KLINGER: They’re going to transfer Radar back here?

 

POTTER: No, but they ARE sending someone over who has a little more experience, and is more accustomed to this kind of work.

 

KLINGER: I could kiss them all!

 

Klinger joyfully tossed the letters he had in his head into the air, as he grabbed the phone, and began kissing it profusely, before returning his attention to Potter.

 

KLINGER: Well, if you’ll excuse me Colonel, I’m going to go slip into something more comfortable, and…

 

POTTER: Whoa there Klinger, you’re not out of the woods yet.

 

KLINGER: How’s that sir?

 

POTTER: Our new man isn’t due here for another four hours, so until he gets here, you’ve still got a job to do, and I still expect to see that mail from Mildred!

 

Klinger sadly sighed.

 

KLINGER: Right sir, but could I still slip into something a little more comfortable? I’d breathe a lot better, which would probably help me get this work done quicker.

 

POTTER: Whatever, just get workin’ on that mail, and as soon as our new man arrives, I’ll relieve you of your duty!

 

KLINGER: And I thank you in advance, oh compassionate kingpin!

 

Potter went back into his office, while Klinger went out the front doors of the hospital to head over to his tent to slip into a more comfortable ensemble to help him get through what work he still had to get through. Later that afternoon, a jeep pulled into the Compound of the 4077th; the long drive from headquarters had long sent the passenger into dreamland, as he dozed with his net-covered helmet down over his eyes.

 

DRIVER: Well, here we are, mac!

 

The passenger awoke from his little nap, and surveyed his surroundings; one look at the 4077th and this fellow knew he was in for a loooong stay.

 

SHADRACH: Where are we, Lower Slobbovia?

 

DRIVER: Nope, this is your new home!

 

SHADRACH: (Sarcastically) Terrific…

 

The stranger dismounted the jeep, and grabbed his suitcase and duffle bag from the backseat, before the driver sped away, leaving behind a trail of dust in the process. The fellow coughed from the dust finding its way up his nose, and afterwards, took a big stretch before he made his way toward what he assumed to be the main hospital building in camp. The burly, barrel-chested man entered the hospital, and found to be what looked like a nurse sorting through mail at the main desk; he walked over, setting down his baggage by the incoming/outgoing mail depository.

 

SHADRACH: Nurse?

 

The figure turned around to reveal it was really Klinger, in his nurse’s uniform. The man paused for a moment, before he removed his glasses, and began to wipe them off with his sweater, before putting them back on his face for another look.

 

SHADRACH: Um, no offense nurse, but it… it almost looks like you need to shave…

 

Klinger smirked.

 

KLINGER: Since you’re a stranger here, I’ll ignore that.

 

SHADRACH: (Pause) Hey… you’re a guy!

 

KLINGER: I’m all man, Clyde! Corporal Klinger, Section 8 all the way!

 

SHADRACH: (Nods) Oh yeah, I’ve heard about you weirdoes…

 

KLINGER: Watch it, kid… what’s your business?

 

SHADRACH: Oh, I’m Shadrach from I-Corps… I was told to report to a Colonel Potter? I’m his new company clerk.

 

KLINGER: Ah, well where you been Shadrach? The Colonel’s been screamin’ his head off.

 

Shadrach took a seat in the chair in front of the desk, removing the heavy netted helmet from his head, and resting it in his lap.

 

SHADRACH: It was a long ride up here, apparently I even fell asleep along the way.

 

KLINGER: (Nods) Well, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you, and I’m sure the Colonel will be just as happy to…

 

POTTER: (Calling out) KLINGER!

 

The sudden yell coming from the other office caused Shadrach to jump to his feet at attention, when Potter came storming out of his office to confront Klinger.

 

POTTER: What in Hell’s Bells are you doing out here Klinger? I’ve been waiting for Mildred’s letter for over two hours now!

 

KLINGER: I’m still working on it, Colonel! I’ve got three weeks’ worth of mail to sort here, I’ve only got two hands, and all this sorting’s been ruining my nails!

 

POTTER: Never mind your nails just get me my wife’s letters, I’m expecting more snapshots of my grandson Cory, and I want to see if Mildred finally learned how to use the camera!

 

KLINGER: (Nods) yes sir.

 

Potter started to head back into his office, but glanced out of the corner of his eyes, and saw Shadrach standing on the opposite side of the desk; Shadrach smiled nervously, as Potter turned to face the two men.

 

POTTER: Who’s the stranger, Klinger?

 

KLINGER: That is the answer to our prayers, sir, our new company clerk.

 

POTTER: Got a name, son?

 

SHADRACH: (Nervous) Yes sir Shad, uh soldier Shad, uh sir, I mean, sir, Shadrach, sir.

 

POTTER: “Sir Shadrach”? Are you a knight, son?

 

SHADRACH: (Shakes head) No sir, sorry sir, Sergeant Jason Shadrach, I’m just a Sergeant.

 

Potter looked the man over, and pointed out his choice of garment.

 

POTTER: What have you got on your chest?

 

Shadrach looked down at his chest for a moment, before returning his attention to his commanding officer.

 

SHADRACH: That’s a sweater, sir. Highneck.

 

Potter leaned forward.

 

POTTER: Trying to cover a hickey?

 

Shadrach didn’t respond, unsure as to whether or not the Colonel was joking or not.

 

POTTER: Well, come on son, let’s get right down to business…

 

Potter motioned for Shadrach to join him in his office; nervously, Shadrach made his way around the desk to follow Potter, but Klinger grabbed ahold of his arm for a moment.

 

KLINGER: Don’t pay him no mind, he’s just a little cranky right now, you’ll soon realize just how lovable he really is…

 

POTTER: (Calling out) and find that letter from Mildred, Corporal!

 

KLINGER: Yes sir!

 

Klinger released Shadrach, and with a sad sigh, continued sorting through the mountain of mail on the desk, while Shadrach shook his head in disbelief, and entered Potter’s office; the Colonel was already sitting at his desk, looking over Shadrach’s record.

 

POTTER: (Reading) Staff Sergeant Shadrach, Jason… US84754918… I see you were a rifleman with the 86th Company Platoon…

 

SHADRACH: Yes sir.

 

POTTER: What happened?

 

SHADRACH: Well… I was never really good with guns, Colonel… I mean even before the war, I spent more time dodging bullets than I did shooting them.

 

POTTER: Is that so?

 

SHADRACH: Yes sir… before the war, I was a disc jockey, so when I told the personnel people I was a radioman, they made me a rifleman instead.

 

Potter revealed a half smile.

 

POTTER: Well, that’s the army for you.

 

Shadrach began to feel a little more relaxed, and he too, revealed a half smile.

 

SHADRACH: Yes sir.

 

POTTER: (Reading) so I see afterwards, you were with an aid station close to Hill 403…

 

SHADRACH: Yes sir, you see, once they saw that I was pretty useless as a rifleman, believe me, everybody in my outfit wanted to get rid of me… once they realized what I’m really good at, they assigned me to the aid station, when they needed someone on standby in case shelling knocked out their communication system.

 

Potter nodded, and continued looking over the records.

 

POTTER: (Reading) and after that, you were with I-Corps?

 

SHADRACH: Yeah, I was basically filling in for Sparky whenever he was on R&R, then when they heard your company clerk… O’Reilly was it?

 

Potter nodded.

 

SHADRACH: When they heard your Corporal O’Reilly was given a discharge, they figured you could use a new company clerk to ensure things continue to run smoothly. Everybody talks about the 4077th being the best MASH unit in all of Korea.

 

POTTER: Yes, and it certainly would be nice to keep things running smoothly around here… Klinger tries his best, I’ll give him credit for that, but he just can’t get the hang of it… he’s a fine medic, and a snappy dresser, but as a company clerk, he does leave a little to be desired.

 

KLINGER: (Calling in) I heard that, sir!

 

POTTER: (Looks up) Klinger?

 

Klinger poked his head through the day.

 

KLINGER: I think some of Radar’s characteristics have rubbed off on me.

 

POTTER: At least I said it with affection, Klinger.

 

KLINGER: (Sighs) I know sir.

 

Klinger resumed sorting the mail, while Potter finished reading over Shadrach’s record, and shortly, his face started turning sour.

 

POTTER: (Reading) According to I-Corps, it says here you have a tendency to be something of a slacker and a goldbrick…

 

SHADRACH: (Unsure) Well, I do the best I can, sir.

 

Potter simply glanced up at Shadrach with a neutral face; Shadrach then slightly brought up his hand in a very weak salute.

 

SHADRACH: Sorry, sir.

 

POTTER: Well, I certainly hope this won’t be an issue with us, Sergeant, we need someone competent enough to keep this circus up and running, not another clown.

 

SHADRACH: Well, I never was that fond of the circus anyway, sir.

 

Potter stifled a smile. Out in the company clerk office, Klinger was still furiously trying to finish sorting the mail, when Hawkeye, B.J., Margaret, and Charles all stormed in, up in arms about their mail.

 

HAWKEYE: Klinger, when the hell are we gonna get some mail around here?!

 

B.J.: I took a number, and other numbers after me have been called ahead of me!

 

KLINGER: People, please, I’m already workin’ over time here.

 

CHARLES: And you better not receive one cent in overages, Klinger!

 

Potter came into the office to see what the commotion was.

 

POTTER: Alright people, what’s all the ruckus, as if I didn’t know…

 

MARGARET: Colonel, we have been waiting all afternoon for our mail!

 

Potter tried to lighten the mood.

 

POTTER: Well Major, you’ve waited three weeks, what’s another three hours going to hurt?

 

The others were not amused.

 

POTTER: Don’t worry about a thing… Klinger, you’re relieved of your duty.

 

KLINGER: A thousand thank yous, my Colonel!

 

Klinger made his way past the others and through the doors to Post-Op so he can leave the building without having to pass through the small mob in the office.

 

B.J.: You’re relieving him of duty at a time like this?!

 

MARGARET: Colonel, what about our mail?!

 

POTTER: Not to worry children, our new company clerk will sort everything out.

 

Potter called for Shadrach.

 

POTTER: Troops, I’d like you to meet Sergeant Jason Shadrach, our new company clerk; Shadrach, these are Captains Hawkeye Pierce and B.J. Hunnicutt, and Majors Margaret Houlihan and Charles Emerson Winchester. Now people, go easy on the man, he’s new here, and needs all the support he can get…

 

Potter then turned to Shadrach, placing a concerned hand on his shoulder.

 

POTTER: If you survive this blood-lust mob, I’ll relieve you at 20:00, if you don’t, I’ll relieve you earlier.

 

Potter went back into his office, but before Shadrach even had time to react, the others nearly ambushed him, demanding their mail; a short time later, the Swamp rats were headed back into their tent, satisfied that they had finally received their mail.

 

HAWKEYE: Well, Shadrach seems like a decent enough kid.

 

CHARLES: I would have thought that Colonel Potter would have replaced Klinger with a higher form of plant life by now, granted, Corporal O’Reilly was no Aristotle, but hopefully, this Sergeant Shadrach character will be a veritable phi beta kappa.

 

HAWKEYE: That’s the spirit Charles, hide these poor little saplings under a bushel.

 

B.J.: Hey guys, listen to this: Peg says the meeting with Radar went just as we planned… (Reading letter) “Erin and I went to the airport, and we spent two or three hours with him. He sure is a cute little guy, and so nice. Sweetheart, it was really funny, when Erin first saw Radar in his uniform, she ran up to him and said, ‘Hi daddy’”…

 

CHARLES: (Chuckles) Out of the mouths of babes come drollery.

 

HAWKEYE: What else does she say?

 

B.J. sat there with a blank expression on his face, before Hawkeye tapped his knee to break him out of it.

 

HAWKEYE: Beej?

 

B.J.: Uh, she just goes on with some other stuff…

 

Back in the office, Shadrach was still trying to get things sorted out, which is something he really wasn’t prepared for: when I-Corps sent him over as a replacement for their company clerk, he was under the impression that all he would really be doing would be answering phone calls, making phone calls, operating the P.A. system, among other things. Not once did I-Corps mention that he would also have to sort mail, file reports, fill reports, make reports, or anything to that extent; so needless to say, Shadrach was quite overwhelmed. At that moment, Potter exited his office once more.

 

POTTER: Sergeant!

 

SHADRACH: Yeah, yeah Colonel…

 

POTTER: Sergeant, I apparently am missing a requisition regarding the arrival of a couple of new nurses to our unit, have you come across it yet? Major Houlihan, our Head Nurse, is giving me a bad time about it.

 

SHADRACH: Well, I’m not sure…

 

POTTER: What do you mean you’re not sure?!

 

SHADRACH: Look Colonel, I wasn’t prepared for this…

 

POTTER: Then why would I-Corps send us a man who wasn’t prepared for the job, when they know the fool we had was even less prepared for the job?!

 

SHADRACH: Colonel, I was under the impression that all I would be doing was taking phone calls, making phone calls, operating your radio, operating the switchboard, stuff like that… they never said anything about sorting mail and filing paper work, I don’t even know what I would be looking for.

 

Potter let out a loud sigh through his nose, and shook his head furiously, while Shadrach grew more and more uncomfortable.

 

SHADRACH: You’re not mad, are you?

 

Potter swiftly brought his hand, signaling Shadrach not to say another word.

 

POTTER: Please, Sergeant… I’m afraid if I answer that question, I might become a little ugly… just give me some time to regain my composure… if I ever can do so!

 

Potter started heading for his office, but he decided to hell with it, he’d go back to his tent instead.

 

POTTER: I’m going to my tent to take a nap, and TRY to calm myself down, if you ever come across anything that might LOOK like a requisition regarding new nurses, or ANYTHING that looks like ANY kind of requisition, just bring them all to me, and I’ll figure them out myself!

 

Potter stormed out the front doors, while Shadrach sank into his seat.

 

SHADRACH: I wonder if it’s too late for me to desert.

 

Later that evening, everyone was gathered in line in the Mess Tent for dinner; B.J. was so out of it that he just stood there in line, his tray full of food, staring out into space.

 

IGOR: Do you want more, sir?

 

B.J.: Hmm? No, I’ve got enough.

 

B.J. took his tray, and went off to a table, followed by Margaret and Charles; it was then that Shadrach walked in, and found Margaret.

 

SHADRACH: Excuse me uh… uh…

 

MARGARET: Houlihan! Major Houlihan!

 

SHADRACH: Right, Major Houlihan, uh, the Colonel told me about a personnel requisition that you filled out that he never got, so I took the liberty of typing up a new one for you, so you can get your new nurses.

 

MARGARET: Oh? How did you manage to find a typewriter under all that mess?

 

SHADRACH: It really wasn’t easy…

 

Charles simply chuckled, while Margaret rolled her eyes. The two brushed past him, while Shadrach shrugged and left the tent, while they joined the table where B.J. and Father Mulcahy were sitting.

 

MULCAHY: Good evening Majors.

 

MARGARET and CHARLES: Father.

 

MULCAHY: I had the opportunity to speak with our new company clerk today… he seems like a rather nice fellow… Presbyterian, I believe he told me… how do you all feel about him?

 

MARGARET: Ugh! Until I can see some action around here, I couldn’t care less!

 

CHARLES: Either way, considering the circumstances, both the former Klinger and the present Shadrach have done one thing remarkably well, they have made me realize just what a little gem Radar was.

 

B.J.: Radar-Radar-Radar, doesn’t anybody talk about anything else?! Even Peg… “Radar was here”, “Radar’s SO cute”, “Erin LOVES Radar”, I’m getting sick of hearing the name!

 

MULCAHY: B.J., the young man did mean quite a lot to us.

 

B.J.: Well he’s gone now, can’t we forget about him?! He’s home, seeing his family… and OTHER people’s families… it’s not like he was dead… he’s better off than we are!

 

B.J. slammed down his fork, got up from the table, and stormed out of the Mess Tent, while Margaret, Charles, and Mulcahy watched the puzzling spectacle unfold.

 

CHARLES: Whatever happened to our cheery, evening meals?

 

A short time later, Potter was back in his office, when Shadrach brought him the new personnel requisition.

 

POTTER: What is this?

 

SHADRACH: The requisition for new nurses that Major Houlihan wanted.

 

POTTER: (Reading the “requisition”) “Dear I-Corps, please send two new nurses to MASH 4077 on behalf of Major ‘Hoolihan’. Signed…” ?

 

SHADRACH: And that’s where you’ll need to put your signature.

 

POTTER: You can’t be serious with this!

 

SHADRACH: Well sir, I never could find the actual requisitions in question, so I thought if I typed up a new one maybe that would help matters here.

 

Potter let out possible the loudest sigh any one human being could, as he crumpled up the paper and tossed it into the trashcan next to his desk.

 

POTTER: Son, a “nice, little letter” like that just doesn’t wash with the army, if you’re going to send out a requisition, it has to be a REAL, military requisition, not a letter to grandma!

 

SHADRACH: Well, where can I find a “REAL, military requisition”?

 

POTTER: Damned if I know! There’s only one man who’s been able to figure out this Daffy Duck system, and right now, he’s back on the farm with his mother, not having to worry about stuff like this anymore!

 

SHADRACH: So, what do you want me to do now?

 

POTTER: Just get out of my office son, I’ve had a bad day, and it just keeps getting better and better…

 

Shadrach went back into his office, and got to thinking; he picked up the phone and began ringing headquarters.

 

SHADRACH: (Over radio) Hello? Hello? Sparky? Yeah, Sparky, it’s Shadrach… ugh, things aren’t too good around here, I feel like I’ve been thrown to the wolves… yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s all I’ve heard ever since I got here, about what a great guy Radar was, about what a gem Radar was, Radar-Radar-Radar… listen, I need you to help me out here, the Colonel is fuming over these requisitions for new nurses that were lost, what do you say we get down to some serious business here… what can I scrounge up in order for you to send a couple of new nurses here?

 

Back at the Swamp, Hawkeye returned after serving Post-Op duty, to find an extremely drunk B.J. fumbling around.

 

B.J.: (Drunk) Well, if it isn’t Benjamin Franklin Pierce Hawkeye, named for an Indian, a president, and a stove. Here’s lookin’ atcha!

 

B.J. downed a drink, while Hawkeye observed the ransacked Swamp.

 

HAWKEYE: You seem to be having a good time, mind if I join you?

 

B.J.: (Drunk) Be my guest. Matter of fact, I’ll have one with you, I hate to see a man drink alone.

 

B.J. joined Hawkeye over at the still, while Hawkeye poured himself a martini.

 

HAWKEYE: What are we drinking to this time Beej? War? Peace? Boredom? Overwork? Underwork? Underwear? New shoes? Old shoes? Lunch? Missing lunch? Annual sheet changing day?

 

B.J.: (Drunk) You’re not even warm.

 

Hawkeye took a seat on his bunk.

 

HAWKEYE: I have the distinct impression you’ve got more on your mind than cirrhosis of the cerebellum… in O.R. today, the patients were more fun than you were.

 

B.J.: (Drunk) Why shouldn’t they be?! Some of them will go home! Radar went home! You remember Radar, short, cute, my daughter calls him “daddy”…

 

HAWKEYE: Oh, so THAT’S it, it’s the letter that’s bothering you.

 

B.J.: (Drunken) Yeah, the letter, so what?! I mean I’m sorry if it annoys you, but I have this strange aversion to being away from my family, I MISS them!

 

HAWKEYE: It’s the same for all of us, you don’t think I miss my father?

 

B.J.: (Drunk) You really think that’s the same?! Come on Hawkeye, how old is your father?! HOW OLD?!

 

HAWKEYE: Sixty-two.

 

B.J.: (Drunken) Sixty-two?! How old was he when you last saw him, 61?! 60?! Has he changed much?! Was he walking and talking when you left?! Erin wasn’t, but I hear she is now! Does your father remember what you look like?! Will he know you when he sees you?! Is he calling anybody else “son”?!

 

A hush fell over the Swamp.

 

HAWKEYE: Beej, I know how you feel…

 

B.J.: (Drunk) Yeah?! Tell me how much you miss YOUR kid!

 

While B.J. downed another drink, Hawkeye arose from his cot, and confronted him.

 

HAWKEYE: Okay, I don’t have a kid, and I don’t have a wife, but lemme tell you something… I’ve been stuck in this sewer longer than YOU have, and nobody wants out of here more than I do!

 

B.J.: (Drunk) No?!

 

HAWKEYE: No! And lemme tell you something else, you’re wasting your time with that stuff! I can tell you from personal experience it won’t work for long!

 

B.J.: (Drunk) Really?!

 

HAWKEYE: Yeah, it may get you drunk, but it won’t get you home!

 

B.J.: (Drunk) Oh yeah?! Then what am I wasting my time for?!

 

With that, B.J. impulsively grabbed a small, wooden chair, and began smashing the still to pieces; Hawkeye would soon regretting trying to stop B.J. from his destructiveness, for in doing so, B.J. sucker punched Hawkeye right in the eye, before storming out of the Swamp for parts unknown. Sometime later, Potter and Margaret stepped into the Swamp to see what had happened.

 

POTTER: What happened here?

 

MARGARET: You’re hurt! Did that still finally blow up in your face?

 

CHARLES: Actually, the still didn’t do this, Hunnicutt did.

 

POTTER: (Points to Hawkeye’s black eye) Hunnicutt did THAT?

 

HAWKEYE: (Points to the smashed still) Yeah, and he also did THAT, he got drunk, he went crazy, and then he punched out his two favorite roommates, me and the still.

 

CHARLES: I am puzzled by his behavior, although, a-heh, I do admire his judgment.

 

MARGARET: What on earth made him do a thing like that?

 

HAWKEYE: It was that letter he got from Peg about Radar, it really got to him…

 

POTTER: Any idea where he went Pierce?

 

HAWKEYE: Uh, no, he just waved goodbye with his knuckles and left.

 

POTTER: Has everyone around here gone dingus?!

 

MARGARET: I guess we better go find him.

 

POTTER: Right, we better pair up. Margaret, you and Winchester check the Officer’s Club out, and that end of the camp. I’ll take the great John L. with me.

 

After having no luck at the Officer’s Club, Margaret and Charles went to search for B.J. at Rosie’s Bar, where apparently, Rosie had her hands full with the drunk and out of control Captain.

 

ROSIE: You know what he did? He draw face wearing glasses on napkin, he put it up on the dart board and throw darts it, he call the game “Vaccinate Radar”!

 

Margaret and Charles took a look at the scribble of Radar on the napkin up on the dart board.

 

MARGARET: That’s sick.

 

ROSIE: Not so bad, he never come close to target, but he nearly stick three marines, that’s when I took the darts away from him, so then he started to throw pretzels and peanuts at Radar face!!! I kick him out!!!

 

MARGARET: Do you have any idea where he went?

 

ROSIE: Uh-uh! Just happy he went!

 

At that moment, Potter stepped into the Mess Tent to find B.J., but the only one who was there was Father Mulcahy, as he finished a cup of tea for the evening, while studying his Bible.

 

POTTER: Oh, hi Padre.

 

MULCAHY: Ah Colonel, would you join me in a cup of tea?

 

POTTER: Uh, no thanks, have you seen anything of Hunnicutt around here?

 

MULCAHY: Uh, no, sorry… anything wrong?

 

POTTER: Afraid so, he’s missing.

 

MULCAHY: You mean he’s AWOL?

 

POTTER: Well, we’re not calling it that just yet Padre, Hunnicutt’s tied one on over that letter from the missus.

 

MULCAHY: Oh. Colonel, could I trouble you for a moment? I’d like to shed some light on something for you.

 

Potter nodded, and took a seat next to Mulcahy.

 

POTTER: May as well, looking’s not doing me any good.

 

MULCAHY: Sir, I realize that Sergeant Shadrach is a new man and all, but you seem to think he leaves a little to be desired as a company clerk.

 

POTTER: I don’t understand why I-Corps would send a man who ain’t prepared for the job, when they know what kind of shape we’re in!

 

Mulcahy nonchalantly sipped his tea, as he continued with his conversation.

 

MULCAHY: Well, we had a fellow here a while back, who was much worse.

 

POTTER: “Much worse”? Father, you wouldn’t lie to a Methodist, would you?

 

MULCAHY: Oh, believe me, this lad was quite a bozo… he couldn’t do anything right, drove everybody crazy with questions, you should have seen him try to patch through a call, it looked like hand-to-hand combat… folks here were convinced the enemy had sent him to sabotage the unit.

 

POTTER: Yeah? So whatever happened to this rube?

 

MULCAHY: Well, as time went by, he got a little better… your late predecessor, Colonel Blake, rest his soul, took him under his wing, and sort of helped him grow into the job.

 

Potter slowly began to smirk.

 

POTTER: You suckered me Padre, you’re really talking about Radar!

 

MULCAHY: (Nods) The very same bozo... you see, when you arrived, you got the broken-in model… but my, my, his first few months here were harrowing indeed. Now, at the risk of interfering Colonel, don’t you think Sergeant Shadrach deserves the same consideration?

 

POTTER: Well, it’s not gonna be easy being patient with a company clerk who so far can’t find a hippo in a footlocker…

 

MULCAHY: Just so you make the effort, Colonel.

 

Just then, Margaret and Charles came into the tent.

 

POTTER: Any news? You see him?

 

CHARLES: No, but we have been regaled with glorious tales of his exploits. Sparing you the sordid details, he is setting new standards for inebriate behavior… additionally, we may be teetering on the brink of war with the marines.

 

MARGARET: (Interrupts) Colonel, I think we should call in the military police.

 

POTTER: I think so too. Let’s go to my office, and we’ll get ‘em on the horn.

 

As Potter got up from his seat, Charles raised his hand.

 

CHARLES: Not me, I hereby resign from the “Missing ‘Creh-tins’ Bureau”.

 

Coincidentally, B.J. happened to be in Potter’s office, where the drunken Captain was breaking into the Colonel’s liquor cabinet; Shadrach was also in the office, because he was trying to clean up Potter’s office for him.

 

SHADRACH: You okay, sir?

 

B.J.: (Drunk) I’m fine, I’m fine, I just come in here for a couple a bottle a booze, to whist my whettle.

 

SHADRACH: I’m not so sure you’re supposed to do that…

 

B.J.: (Drunk) No, don’t worry, the Colonel lets us have a little nip from his booze cabinet all the time…

 

B.J. then jammed his fist through the glass, and pulled a bottle out. Potter and Margaret then came back into the hospital to call the M.P.s, but before they did, they heard B.J. cheering and whooping in Potter’s office; with no need to get the authorities involved in the shenanigans, Potter and Margaret stepped into Potter’s office, and found B.J., wearing Potter’s campaign hat, and sitting atop the wooden horse where Potter kept Sophie’s saddle, pretending to be galloping around.

 

B.J.: (Drunk, southern accent) Howdy pardner, you got an appointment with Colonel Potter.

 

Shadrach looked up, and immediately made sure his name was in the clear.

 

SHADRACH: I had nothing to do with this, I’m innocent!

 

MARGARET: What a pathetic pair of sots.

 

B.J.: (Drunk) Would that be a pair of argyle sots?

 

While B.J. began to giggle at his silly joke, Potter leaned over to Margaret’s ear, and instructed her to go fetch Hawkeye; Potter approached B.J.

 

POTTER: Do you know we were turning South Korea upside down looking for you?

 

B.J.: (Drunk) How’d you find me Colonel?

 

POTTER: It was easy, we just followed the trail of empty bottles.

 

B.J. began laughing hysterically, though Potter was not amused.

 

POTTER: I don’t mind telling you I was damn worried… but now, there’s something I’d like to talk over with you Sergeant, let’s step outside.

 

SHADRACH: Colonel, I swear this isn’t what it looks like, I was just trying to straighten up your office for you, I hoped you would’ve liked that, then the Captain came in here, drunk as a skunk, and...

 

POTTER: (Interrupting) Come on Shadrach.

 

SHADRACH: Yes sir, Colonel…

 

Shadrach reluctantly followed Potter out into the outer office, while B.J. continued galloping on his imaginary horse, only to end up falling off when the ride got too bumpy; out in the company clerk’s office, Potter instructed Shadrach to have a seat, and as Shadrach took a seat, Potter sat in front of him.

 

POTTER: Let’s clear the air Sergeant… I think we both realize that you’re no Radar O’Reilly.

 

SHADRACH: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been gathering today sir.

 

POTTER: But by the same token, Radar is no Shadrach.

 

SHADRACH: What do you mean?

 

POTTER: I want to tell you a little story…

 

SHADRACH: (Confused) Colonel, don’t you think I’m a little old for story time?

 

POTTER: Zip it, sonny! Now listen… long before I became the C.O. of this little hospital, the 4077th was under the command of a fella known as Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake, and as I understand it, folks around here were mighty fond of him. Believe me, my first days in his shadow were a might uneasy, nobody was jumping for joy over me, I was no Henry Blake, never tried to be, that didn’t mean I was better, or worse, just different.

 

SHADRACH: Yeah?

 

POTTER: The thing is, the people here gave me a change to get comfortable, and to make this job Sherman Potter’s… I guess maybe I had forgotten about all that, after Radar went home, and Klinger wasn’t able to adjust to the job, and then you arrive as our new company clerk. What I’m trying to tell you is, you need the time to take this job, and make it Jason Shadrach’s, so just do it! And if you need some help, if you’ve got a question, just knock on my door. Is that clear, Jason?

 

Shadrach sat there like a deer in the headlights for a brief moment, before he nodded in understanding.

 

SHADRACH: Crystal.

 

Potter arose to his feet, as Shadrach did the same.

 

POTTER: Alright. As of this moment, Radar’s office is closed, Shadrach’s is opened.

 

SHADRACH: Yes sir.

 

Potter smiled, and patted Shadrach on the shoulder.

 

POTTER: Atta boy, you’ll do just fine.

 

Hawkeye then walked in.

 

POTTER: Mine’s here, yours is in there.

 

Not wanting to take any chances, Hawkeye placed his combat helmet on his head, and carefully entered Potter’s office, only to find B.J. flat on his back, with empty booze bottles in his arms, and Potter’s campaign hat over his face.

 

HAWKEYE: Well, this is a switch: me standing, and you on the floor.

 

When B.J. lifted the hat off of his face, and saw Hawkeye standing there in his helmet, he began to laugh uncontrollably.

 

B.J.: (Laughing) You wore your soldier hat! Don’t worry, I’m unarmed… I’m practically unconscious!

 

Hawkeye rolled his eyes, while B.J. allowed his laughing to die down, so he could contain himself.

 

B.J.: You know what I did today? I hit the best friend I ever had… I’m sorry Hawk, I’m sorry…

 

Hawkeye removed his helmet, and knelt down to the floor to sit next to B.J.

 

HAWKEYE: It’s alright, don’t worry about it.

 

B.J.: It’s just I’m here, y’know, in this stinkin’ place… (Gulps from bottle) and I got that damn letter from Peg… (Sighs) and… the first time my little girl called ANYBODY “daddy”… and it wasn’t me…

 

B.J. started breaking up, while Hawkeye tried his best to comfort his hurting best friend.

 

HAWKEYE: Look, it could have been anybody in a uniform.

 

B.J.: (Tearing) I know, I know… I can see him standing there, holding her hand and laughing… I can see Peg smiling… I can see him giving Erin the present I sent for her, touching her hair… getting the hug I should’ve gotten! Radar’s home Hawkeye, I should be glad for him… (Cries) BUT I’M NOT! I’M SO TORN UP WITH ENVY I ALMOST HATE HIM! AND I FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT TRAPPER, AND I NEVER EVEN MET HIM! But he built that still with you, and he’s home too…

 

HAWKEYE: You’ll go home. One day we’ll all go home.

 

B.J.: (Tearing) I’ve been gone so long Hawkeye… a lifetime… ERIN’S LIFETIME… even if I go home tomorrow, I’ll never… never get that back…

 

Once again, B.J. burst into tears, so Hawkeye cradled his head in his hand, while B.J. continued to cry on his shoulder. Early the next morning, Potter, Margaret, Shadrach, and Klinger gathered in Potter’s office, as Potter welcomed aboard the two new nurses who were sent to the 4077th.

 

POTTER: Ladies, it’s a pleasure to have you aboard the 4077th.

 

Both the nurses saluted Potter before Margaret took over.

 

MARGARET: Alright nurses, if you will just follow me, our Post-Op ward is right this way…

 

Margaret happily led her new nurses out the door; Shadrach simply stood there, with a smile on his face, casually holding his hands behind his back, something that didn’t go un-noticed by both Potter and Klinger.

 

POTTER: Alright Shadrach, enlighten us, just how did you get those nurses up here without a requisition?

 

SHADRACH: Oh, just a little horse trading, is all. I just HAPPENED to know where the secret officers’ supply is at H.Q., and I just HAPPENED to let Sparky know about a little stash of confiscated equipment, like transistor radios, and stuff like that.

 

Both Potter and Klinger began to chuckle.

 

KLINGER: Way to go kid, you may have just saved the day!

 

POTTER: Shadrach, you keep this up, and one day, I’ll MAKE you an officer.

 

SHADRACH: I have heard that brass is always greener on the other side. Well, if you two will excuse me…

 

Shadrach headed for the door, but Potter stopped him.

 

POTTER: Where are you going son?

 

SHADRACH: I’ve got some things I need to give to Captain Pierce and Hunnicutt…

 

Potter raised an eyebrow in confusion, after Shadrach left.

 

KLINGER: You know somethin’? That kid’s alright.

 

POTTER: (Slowly nods) Yes… I have a feeling he’s going to fit right in here.

 

In the Swamp, Shadrach delivered a small box of supply to Hawkeye and B.J. to help them rebuild their still; a couple of hours later, the still was looking back to normal, and was almost completed.

 

B.J.: Shadrach, you did a terrific job getting all this stuff for us; Elwood Einstein couldn’t have done better.

 

SHADRACH: Elwood? Don’t you mean Albert?

 

B.J.: Elwood, plumber back in Mill Valley, he’d go crazy for this thing!

 

HAWKEYE: “Thing”?! You make it sound like it’s an inanimate object! This is alive, it’s not merely a collection of hardware, it breathes, it has soul, warmth, love…

 

Hawkeye finished pouring some of the homemade concoction into three martini glasses.

 

HAWKEYE: Ah, there she is Beej, our firstborn, the founding shot of new booze!

 

Both Hawkeye and B.J. grabbed a glass, while Hawkeye lightly sniffed its aroma, which excited his sense of smell.

 

HAWKEYE: Ah, what bouquet, what nose!

 

Hawkeye then handed Shadrach a glass.

 

HAWKEYE: Shadrach, in honor of your remarkable resourcefulness, your imagination, and your downright dishonesty in getting these necessary parts, to you goes the honor of the first belt.

 

SHADRACH: Oh, I really don’t drink, carbonation doesn’t settle on my stomach.

 

B.J.: Come on, you’ve only got one life to live, so live a little!

 

Shadrach shrugged and took a swig of Hawkeye and B.J.’s homemade gin, and immediately began to hack violently as the stinging alcoholic nearly tore up his throat on the way down; both Hawkeye and B.J. smiled and nodded their heads in satisfaction.

 

HAWKEYE: How about that Beej? And we thought it was going to be bad!

 

THE END