Trapper's Last Days by labman

 

 

Trapper John McIntyre smiled as he watched the helicopter take off.  His buddy, Hawkeye Pierce, was headed for a week of sin and debauchery in Tokyo.  "I just hope there's enough of him to ship back at the end of the week," Trapper thought.  "He'll need another week to get over this week."

 

Hawkeye had earned the trip by saving General Mitchell from a truly ignoble end.  General Mitchell, who was dining in the Mess Tent after the memorial service held for Henry Blake, had choked on a quarter-sized chunk of meatloaf.  Hawkeye had rushed over and saved the General.  Trapper chuckled at the image of Frank Burns standing nearby helplessly and then slipping away unnoticed (except by Trapper) after Hawkeye's good deed.  Neither he nor Hawkeye had even seen Burns or Hot Lips Houlihan since then.  "I guess they're regrouping.  I better lay low myself since I'm the only target in sight now," he thought. 

 

Trapper turned and walked back to the Swamp.  He needed a drink and a nap.  He had talked Nurse Baker into a rendezvous in the Supply Tent later in the day, so he needed to rest.  Nurse Baker was very thorough in everything she did, so a nap was probably a good idea.   As he headed for the compound, he bumped into Radar O'Reilly, who was rushing toward the Swamp.

 

"Radar, what's up?  You look confused."

 

"No, Sir.  I just don't know what's going on."

 

Trapper rolled his eyes and nodded.  "Why don't you come in?  I just cleaned up the place."

 

Radar followed Trapper into the Swamp, stepped over a pile of Hawkeye's clothes and nudist magazines, and sat down on Pierce's cot while Trapper fixed a martini.

 

"Want one?" Trapper asked.

 

"Oh, uh, no thank you, Sir," Radar fidgeted.  "I have trouble seeing after I drink those."

 

"Maybe you should clean your glasses," Trapper said, sitting on his cot.  "What's bugging you, Radar?"

 

Radar scratched his head, looked around, and said, "It's the Majors, Sir.  They've been holed up in Colonel Bla╔...Major Burns' office all morning.  I don't know what's going on.  Neither one of them has yelled for me one time today."

 

"And you're complaining?" Trapper joked.  "They must be up to something.  Maybe you can snoop around in the office tonight after he leaves."

 

Radar shook his head.  "He locks the door when he leaves, even if he's in surgery.  Besides, when he does leave, it's two or three o'clock in the morning, and if he's not in there, Major Houlihan is.  It's like they're joined at the hip or something."

 

"Aw, he's probably licking his wounds from yesterday, when Hawkeye showed him up in the Mess Tent.  Don't worry, Radar.  Hot Lips is probably just helping him forget his problems.  He'll be back to yelling at you in no time."

 

Radar shrugged, "I guess so."

 

 

 

"Margaret, what am I going to do?" Frank Burns whined.

 

"Be quiet, Frank.  I'm thinking," Margaret Houlihan snorted.  She was very angry with Frank.  She had figured that it would be okay to leave him with General Mitchell while he and Frank were in the Mess Tent.  What could go wrong, she thought.  They were both eating, so Frank wouldn't have to talk and General Mitchell wouldn't have to listen.  She was gone ten minutes, ten lousy minutes, and Frank's whole future as commander was now in jeopardy.  It was all because of Hawkeye Pierce.  "I cannot believe that you just sat there╔" she hissed. "╔while Pierce saved the day yet again.  What's wrong with you?  Don't you know what's at stake?"

 

Frank nodded shamefully, "I couldn't help it.  I just froze.  My family has never been good under pressure."

 

Margaret frowned, "Not good under pressure?  Well, I'm sure they'll take that into consideration when they start searching for a new commanding officer.  That should move you right to the top of their list."

 

"Margaret, what am I going to do?"  Frank whined.

 

Margaret glared at him.  "I am going to call General Mitchell.  I am going to tell him about your performance as a doctor and a surgeon.  I'm going to let him know that you had a thriving practice in Indiana before you came to Korea.  I'm going to do everything I can to see that he thinks your performance in the mess tent was an isolated incident, caused by fatigue from all the surgery and other stress we've been through since Colonel Blake was killed."

 

"Do you think that will help?"  Frank asked.

 

"Don't worry.  General Mitchell and I go way back," Margaret smiled wistfully, her back to Frank.  "It will help."

 

 

 

By that afternoon, the wounded were coming from all directions.  With only two surgeons on duty (and one of them being Frank Burns), the work was long and grueling.  Trapper worked quickly, yet carefully.  "Of all times for Hawk to be on a debauchery run", he muttered to Nurse Baker.  "I'm up to my knees in guts here and there's nobody but me and Major Disaster here to patch these guys up."

 

Frank was managing to hold his own.  Hot Lips had stationed herself close by to assist him, which suited Trapper fine since he was taking most of the serious cases himself.  Just routine meatball surgery, patch them up long enough to get them to the next stop.  Luckily, there had been no catastrophic wounds to come in, no marathon sessions spent on one patient.  With no relief in sight, the session was a marathon in itself.  During a short break, Trapper had slipped out to the latrine and tried to get Radar to call the 8063rd to see if they could spare a cutter, but the 8063rd were just as overloaded as the 4077th, so they were on their own.

 

By the time the session was completed, it was the next afternoon.  Trapper emerged from the O.R., exhausted.  He leaned against the wall and lit a cigar.  As Nurse Baker passed, he called, "So, Baker, how about I cash in my rain check?"

 

Baker smiled and sighed, "I'm exhausted.  I'm going straight to bed."

 

Trapper's eyes twinkled, "Is that a 'yes' or a 'no'?"

 

Baker smirked and entered the nurses' tent.  Trapper was relieved.  After 22 hours of surgery, he was wondering if he could even make it to his bed in the Swamp.

 

"Uh, Captain McIntyre?"

 

Trapper looked around to see Radar standing in his shadow.  "What is it, Radar?"

 

"Sir, I think I need to talk to you about something I found in Major Burns' office."

 

"Let's go to the Swamp.  Frank's probably in the office polishing his pistol," Trapper said.

 

 

 

"General Mitchell?  There's a Major Houlihan on the line who wishes to speak with you."

 

"Thank you, Captain."  General Mitchell picked up the receiver, "Yes?"

 

"General Mitchell, Sir?  Margaret Houlihan at the 4077th.  How are you, Sir?"

 

"I'm fine, Major.  Busy, but fine.  What's on your mind?"

 

"Sir, I wanted to apologize for Major Burns' behavior during your visit yesterday.  He's been under a lot of stress and╔.."

 

"No more stress than any of the other people in your camp, Major," General Mitchell interrupted.  "The person I select to run the 4077th must be able to handle stress.  I don't know if you've noticed, Major, but there is a war on, which carries with it a certain amount of stress."

 

"Yes, General, but if I could say╔."

 

"There's nothing you can say that will change my mind on this issue, Major.  I saw all I needed to see yesterday concerning Major Burns.  I think he would probably serve the unit better continuing in his current role as second-in-command."

 

"Sir, I think if you would give him another chance, you would not be disappointed."

 

General Mitchell sighed, "Major, I'm afraid you've saddled the wrong horse for this race."

 

Margaret paused, then played her last card, "General, is there anything I could do to possibly change your mind?"

 

General Mitchell growled, "There is nothing you can do, Major.  I suggest you quit while you're ahead."

 

 

 

Margaret hung up the receiver, stunned, and tried to gather her thoughts.  So it was final.  It might as well be chiseled in stone.  Frank Burns would not be commanding the 4077th.  They would be bringing someone else in to take over soon, possibly in a matter of days.  That meant that any chance she had increasing her stature or even of actually running the 4077th, albeit through Frank Burns, had gone up in smoke.  More than likely, she was as high as she was ever going to get in the Army, given the male-dominated structure.  As far as she could tell, Frank had been her last chance to have any influence in command.

 

Although Margaret had been furious with Frank for his incompetence over the past couple of days, she realized that he was limited in his capacities.  Since Henry Blake's death, deep in the back of her mind, she had wondered if Frank would be able to lead this unit.  She thought that it was possible, given the quality of the surgeons and nurses who would be serving under him, but after yesterday, reality slapped her hard in the face.  She had pushed him, prodded him, and driven him, but she was beginning to realize that he could only go so far, and so could she.

 

Then she heard Radar's door swing open.  Frank was whistling as he approached.

 

"What am I going to tell him?" she thought.  "He'll be devastated." 

 

"Hi Darling," Frank sang as he entered the office.  "What are you doing here?"

 

"Oh, um, nothing, Frank," she replied, forcing a smile.  "I was just waiting for you."

 

"I thought you might have been calling General Mitchell."

 

"Well, I tried," she began, and then thought better of it, saying, "I was told that the General was on a week's R&R in Honolulu.  He won't be back until next week."

 

Frank frowned, "That's too bad.  I was looking forward to talking with him.  I think if he had been here to watch me during this last batch of wounded, with just me and McIntyre working for 22 hours nonstop, he would have no doubts as to who could run this outfit.  Don't you think?"

 

Margaret stared out the window, thinking about what General Mitchell had said.  You've saddled the wrong horse.  "Yes Frank.  I think you're right," she said, weakly.

 

"Why don't we go to the Officer's Club and celebrate?" Frank said.  "Then maybe we can take a jeep ride and enjoy the view somewhere."

 

Margaret shook her head.  "I'm going to go lie down for a while, Frank.  I need some rest.   I'm dead on my feet"

 

Margaret walked out of the office, fighting back tears.

 

 

 

Trapper sat down in the Swamp and fixed a martini.  "What did you find, Radar?"

 

Radar looked around, making sure no one was listening.  "Sir, you're going back to the States," he smiled.

 

"What?  Are you serious?  How do you know?"

 

"I saw the orders in Major Burns' desk drawer, Sir," Radar replied.  "He forgot to lock the office door when the wounded started coming in.  You're being transferred stateside." 

 

"But, how?  I don't understand.  I'm the newest surgeon here.  Hawkeye and Frank have both been here longer than I have," Trapper said, puzzled.

 

"I don't know, but you leave in five days.  Tokyo, Honolulu, San Francisco, and Boston," Radar grinned.

 

"Boston?  I'm going to Boston?" Trapper asked, puzzled.

 

"Yes Sir.  What's wrong?" Radar asked.  "I thought you'd be happy."

 

Trapper stood up, "Oh I am, Radar.  I really am.  I just can't figure out how I'm getting transferred home.  That just doesn't make sense because the Army always sends a person as far from home as possible and to the most uncomfortable place you can go.  This doesn't fit their way of doing things."

 

"I don't understand it either, Sir," said Radar, extending his hand, "but I'm glad you're getting to go."

 

Trapper squeezed Radar's hand, smiling, "Thanks, Radar."  Then, grimacing, he said, "Hey, what about Hawkeye?  He won't be back until after I'm gone.  I'm leaving the day before he gets back."

 

"Uh, oh," Radar said and then he turned and ran back toward his office.

 

Trapper sat on his cot, shaking his head.  Things sure had changed in a hurry for him.  He did have some questions, like how did something like this happen to him when there were two other surgeons who had been at the 4077th longer than he had.  Another question he pondered was how long and why the two Majors had been holding his orders and how long they were planning to hold them before letting him in on the news. 

 

"Sir," Radar peeked through the tent.  "There's a call for you."

 

"Who is it, Radar?"

 

"It's a man.  He wouldn't give his name."

 

 

 

Trapper picked up the receiver, "Hello?"

 

"McIntyre?" a deep voice asked.

 

"None other.  Who is this?"

 

"Don't you recognize me?  Your pal from college with plenty of girls and lots of bail money?"

 

"Bobby, is that you?  It's been years!"  Trapper laughed as he remembered Bobby Bradley, his old college roommate.  Bobby was usually returning to the dorm room in the mornings as Trapper was getting ready to go to class.  He partied hard, and would have been a perfect fit in the Swamp.  They had parted ways after college as Bobby went to law school and Trapper opted for medicine.  "How the hell did you find me here?"

 

"Louise told me where you were, so I made a few calls.  You packed yet?"

 

"Something tells me you could answer a few of my questions.  Are you responsible for this good fortune of mine?"

 

"You might say that.  I don't know if you've heard, but I was elected to serve as a Representative of the great state of Massachusetts several years ago."

 

"So I heard.  Your opponent died, right?"

 

"Very funny.  Now, if you'll remember, I owe you a big favor that I will never, ever forget╔.."

 

"You mean getting you out of that bordello before that girl cut your throat?" Trapper grinned.  "I've still got a scar on my arm from that."

 

"That's the favor.  Well, I have a friend on the Budget Committee who owed me a favor for voting on a bill of his, and he has a friend at the Pentagon who owed him a favor for whatever, and next thing you know, Trapper John McIntyre is being transferred to Fort Devens in Massachusetts."

 

"Wait a minute.  Isn't that a training facility?"

 

"You bet it is, Trap, but every training facility needs a physician or two on duty.  You're the new Chief Physician at Fort Devens."

 

"Bobby, I don't know what to say.  I'm speechless," Trapper stammered.  "This is a pretty big thing you're doing for your old college buddy."

 

"Trap, if you hadn't backed me up that night, I wouldn't be where I am today.  Do you know that in a couple of years, I may have a legitimate shot at the U. S. Senate?  Who knows where things might go from there."

 

"Well, hopefully, you're not hanging out in the same places you used to."

 

"You're right about that, old buddy.  I found a place that delivers.  When are you going home?"

 

"I haven't seen the orders yet, just heard about them, but I hear five days."

 

"You called Louise yet?"

 

Trapper winced, "I hadn't even tried yet.  Maybe tonight or tomorrow."

 

"Sounds like you two are closer than ever."

 

"You're right.  The war probably saved my marriage, or my life."

 

"Well, you still have five days."

 

"What about you, Bobby?  Did you ever tie the knot?"

 

"Not until I get pregnant, Pal," Bobby laughed.  "Listen, I have another call.  Let me know when you get back.  We'll get together and order in."

 

Trapper laughed, "You've got a deal."

 

 

 

Trapper hung up the receiver and laughed.  Old Bobby had come through.  He was going home and life was great, or was it?  According to the calendar, he would be gone before Hawkeye got back from his R&R.  It was going to be nearly impossible to track him down in Tokyo to give him the good news.  Hawkeye moved around like a fugitive whenever he was in Tokyo.  He didn't want to be tracked down.  Whenever he went on R&R, he had always told Henry, "If you should feel the urge to call me, don't."

 

There were other problems as well.  Trapper's departure from his family had been less than glorious.  What he had told Bobby about the war saving his marriage was pretty close to the truth.  Louise was ready to put him on the street before he was called to Korea, due to his philandering ways.  Their marriage had been fine at the start, but the arrival of the children had pulled them apart.  While he adored his daughters, Trapper needed more from Louise than she was willing to offer, so he had sought what he needed elsewhere.  Being apart as long as they had wasn't helping either.  Deep down, he still loved her, but not in the same way he did when they were married. 

 

"Sir?"

 

Trapper jumped.  He had forgotten Radar was standing next to him.

 

"Would you like to call your wife while you're sitting here by the phone?"

 

 

 

"Hello?" a groggy voice answered.

 

"Louise?"

 

"John?"

 

"Hiya, Honey.  Did I wake you?"

 

"Uhh, no.  I was just getting up.  What's wrong?"

 

"Nothing's wrong.  I just called to give you the good news."

 

"Good news?"

 

"Yeah, Honey.  I'm coming home.  I've been transferred.  I'll actually be stationed near Boston.  I'm coming home."

 

"That's great," Louise said, not sounding like she meant it.

 

Trapper frowned, "Well, you seem excited about it," he said, sarcastically.

 

"Oh, I am, John.  I am.  It's just that╔.."

 

Trapper's heart started sinking.

 

"╔..I don't know if I want you back."

 

"What?  What are you talking about, Louise?"

 

"I've tried to be a good wife and mother for my family, but you weren't doing your share.  When you have children, John, you have to give up some things.  It's hard work and I can't be what you want me to be anymore.  I'm a mother first, a wife second.  Before you left, I didn't know if I could make it without you, but since you've been gone, I've realized that I can, so you can come back here and carouse with your nurses," she said, sobbing, "and not have to worry about your wife being mad because you stayed out too late."

 

"I don't know what to say, Louise." Trapper was floored.  He was not expecting anything like this.  "What can I do to make things right?"

 

"There's nothing you can say or do, John.  It's gone too far to say or do anything now.  I'm better off without you.  We're better off without you.  We've moved on.  Now, you can, too."

 

"But wait a minute," Trapper said.  "What about Becky & Kathy?  I want to see them."

 

"I'm not saying you can't see them, John.  You can visit them whenever you want.  I just don't want you living under the same roof with us anymore.  They are old enough now to realize what you've done."

 

Trapper just sat there, dumbfounded, staring at the phone. 

 

"Look, I've got to go," Louise began.  "Let me know when you get back and I'll try to bring the girls out to see you."

 

"Louise, I╔.."

 

"It's better this way, John.  Better for all of us," Louise sobbed as she hung up.

 

Trapper hung up the receiver, still in a state of shock.  He heard Radar behind him.

 

"Are you all right, Sir?"

 

Trapper stared at the phone.  His home hadn't been perfect, but it was home.  Now he didn't even have a home.  He had no place to go when the war was over; no kids, no wife.  He had never felt so alone in his life.

 

"See if you can find Hawkeye," he said.

 

 

 

Trapper had given Radar four places that Hawkeye might have been.  Radar told him, "I'll come get you if I find him, Sir."

 

"Thanks, Radar," Trapper mumbled as he left.  Night had fallen.  While headed to the Swamp, he encountered Nurse Baker, looking refreshed and ready.  "Trapper," she squeaked as he walked past her.  "I think I'll be free for anything you have in mind tonight.  Just say the word."

 

Trapper stopped and turned around.  Baker's big blue eyes glistened in the moonlight.  A few hours ago, he would have not thought twice about it.  "I don't think so right now, Baker," he said.  "Maybe later."  He walked into the Swamp and slumped down on his cot.  He needed a drink, badly.

 

Nurse Baker sighed.  Never before had the insatiable Trapper John McIntyre turned down the "anything you have in mind" proposition.  "Oh well," she thought.  "He's probably just tired.  I'll catch him tomorrow."

 

 

 

The next morning, Margaret walked into Frank's office.  Frank was sitting at the desk, looking at the mail.

 

"Frank, when are you going to tell McIntyre about his transfer?"

 

"I still have a few days.  He's not going anywhere.  What's your hurry?  I thought you wanted me to wait until it was too late for them to pull a fast one on me."

 

"Pierce is gone, and won't be back until after McIntyre is gone.  It's not 'them' anymore.  It's 'him'."

 

Frank shook his head, "Well a 'him' can be just as bad as a 'them' in his case, Margaret, or in their case.  I'm not taking any chances with him, or them.  I'll tell him the day before he has to go.  I'll tell him the orders were misplaced.  He won't care.  He'll be so excited that he won't have time to do anything but pack and leave."

 

Margaret nodded.  She was still depressed about the events of the previous day.  She was still having conflicting emotions about telling Frank what General Mitchell had told her.  For now, she had decided not to tell him and then act surprised when the new man arrived.

 

"How are you feeling today, Honey Bun?" Frank asked.  "Did you sleep well?"

 

Margaret smiled and said, "Yes, Frank.  I slept very well.  I don't remember even getting into bed."  Actually, she had not slept at all.  She had mostly worried about what the future held for her.  "Will you excuse me, Darling?  I need to look over the duty roster for the nurses."

 

Frank smiled his lipless smile.  "You're excused, Sweetheart.  Maybe later, we can go over tomorrow's duty roster together in your tent."   

 

Margaret smiled weakly, "Maybe."

 

 

 

It was a long day for Trapper John McIntyre.  He spent most of it drunk in the Swamp.  Radar had not been able to find Hawkeye.  He had covered his tracks well.  Radar was still trying though, but nighttime was fast approaching and wherever Hawkeye would be after dark would probably not have a telephone.

 

Radar opened the door of the Swamp.  Trapper was lying on his cot with his back to the door.  "Sir, I tried all those places you told me.  None of them had seen Captain Pierce or anybody that looked like him."

 

Trapper rose up from the cot.  "It's ok, Radar.  We've still got a couple of days before I go home.  Maybe he'll call us.  He might need bail money or something."

 

"Yes, Sir," Radar smiled.  "Sir, are things okay with you at home?"

 

"I figured you were listening Radar.  You tell me?"

 

"Oh. No, Sir.  I wasn't listening," Radar fidgeted, "It sounded like you were upset."

 

"Whether you were listening or not, Radar," Trapper said, "I would appreciate it if you assumed things were okay, and didn't let anyone else think differently, okay?"

 

"Yes, Sir.  I'll get you some coffee," Radar said, as if he read Trapper's thoughts.  Trapper hoped that he hadn't read any of his others.  Most of them were dark.  He wasn't sure what he was going to do when he got home, but he knew what he was going to do during the rest of his time in Korea.  He staggered to his feet and walked outside.  He was headed to the shower when he bumped into Nurse Baker.

 

"Feeling better, Doctor?" she squeaked. 

 

"I don't know," Trapper said.  "I was thinking of taking a shower.  Interested?"

 

"No," Baker laughed.  "But, I may be free afterward."

 

 

 

The next morning, the 4077th was greeted to the sounds of helicopters and trucks roaring through the compound.  Though the number of wounded wasn't as high as the last session, there were still a lot of them, and still only two surgeons available. 

 

Luckily, Trapper was feeling much better than the day before, having spent a couple of successful hours in the supply tent giving Nurse Baker a physical the night before.  He was working on a chest wound while being assisted by Major Houlihan.

 

"Clamp," he said.

 

Margaret stared at the wall behind Trapper, a thousand miles away.

 

"C'mon, Hot Lips!" he barked.  "Wake up!  I need a clamp!"

 

Margaret blinked back to the present, "Sorry, Doctor.  Clamp."

 

"What's eating you, Major?" Trapper asked.

 

"Nothing, Doctor.  I'm fine," she said.

 

Trapper looked up from his patient at Major Houlihan.  He thought that she was acting strange.  Ordinarily, she would have bitten his head off for saying what he had just said, told him it was none of his business, but she had let that one go without even giving him a mean look.  It was kind of odd that she was assisting him anyway.  She had been assisting old Butterfingers the other day.  He wondered why she wasn't over there with him today.

 

He pressed his luck.  "You and the Major have a spat or something?"

 

She didn't answer.  She was staring at the patient now and continued to do so until the patient was fixed up and moved to Post-Op.  Luckily, Nurse Able was standing by and helped Trapper finish up.

 

 

 

Trapper sat at the bar in the Officers' Club, resting after fourteen hours of surgery.  He was working on his third martini.  Father Mulcahy was playing the piano nearby.

 

"What's that song you're playing, Father?" Trapper asked.

 

"Well," Mulcahy began, "I'm not sure what it is right now.  Get back with me in a few minutes."

 

Trapper smiled and turned back to the bar.  While he was sitting, Major Houlihan walked in and sat at a table near the jukebox.  She still looked as if something was bothering her, Trapper thought.  He thought he would go over and see what it was.  After all, he was leaving in a few days.  It was no skin off his nose. 

 

He got up and walked over.  "Major, I wanted to ask you something."

 

Margaret looked up, "What is it, Captain?"

 

Trapper sat down.  "Mind if I sit?"

 

Margaret frowned, "I guess not."

 

"Good.  Now what I was wondering about was bothering you today in the O.R.?  You were a million miles away, kind of like you were when you came in here."

 

"I'm fine, Captain.  There's nothing bothering me.  I'm just a little tired.  You do realize that we've had several busy days in the O.R."

 

"That's not what I'm talking about and you know it," Trapper said.  "Usually you and Frank Burns are serving as each other's shadows."

 

"We are not!  What are you talking about?" Margaret growled indignantly.

 

"You weren't assisting him today like you did two days ago and here you are all alone in the O. Club.  Something's up, isn't it?"

 

"No!" Margaret said angrily.  "There's nothing up.  I decided to get a drink and relax before I went to bed, but I'm not able to do that because you're making it hard for me to relax."

 

"Hey," Trapper joked, "If you want to relax, you're going about it all wrong.  Maybe I could help you with that."

 

Margaret gasped, then grabbed Trapper's drink and tossed it in his face.  She stormed out of the Officer's Club.

 

 

 

Margaret slammed the door to her quarters.  She was furious with McIntyre.  How dare he proposition her like that? 

 

Or had he, she thought.  Maybe he was just concerned about her.  She thought about that for a minute, then thought better of it.  I could kill him, she thought. 

 

She had been very close to telling him what was wrong and then he started in on her and Frank Burns.  How dare he bring that up, considering the mischief he had been in over here while his wife was half a world away.

 

She turned around stormed out into the compound.  Trapper John was leaving soon, but she was going to let him know exactly what she thought of him before he did and tonight was the perfect time.

 

 

 

When Margaret got back to the Officer's Club, she met Trapper John coming out.  He stopped, leaned on the door and wiped his eyes.

 

"Good thing nothing's bothering you, Hot Lips," Trapper frowned.  "I'm glad you're in a good mood.  What would you have thrown at me if you were in a bad mood?  Kerosene?"

 

"McIntyre, I've got a few things to say to you and now's a good a time as any," Margaret said through clenched teeth.

 

"Save it," Trapper walked past her.  "I've got a good idea what you want to say and it's not what I need to hear right now.  If you don't want to talk, fine with me.  Good night."

 

Margaret was surprised.  She hadn't expected him to walk away.  She was expecting either an argument or some kind of witty retort.  "Well, apparently something is bothering you, McIntyre.  What's wrong?  Usually you'd have some kind of smart comeback for me if I got in your face like that."

 

"No thanks, Major," Trapper said.  "I'm not gonna make your day by telling you my problems."  He walked back toward the Swamp.

 

"Wait," she said.  "Something is bothering you.  I've never seen you like this."

 

"Yeah, from what I hear, you won't be seeing me like this much longer anyway."

 

Margaret's mouth dropped.  She looked around.  "McIntyre, can we talk?  You tell me your problems, I'll tell you mine?"

 

Trapper looked up and took a deep breath.  "C'mon," he said, walking toward his quarters.

 

"No," Margaret said.  "Not the Swamp."

 

 

 

In the Supply Tent, Trapper poured Margaret a martini from a canteen he had stopped and picked up at the Swamp.  "Okay, you first," he said.

 

Margaret looked at Trapper, "You can't tell anyone this, okay?"

 

"You can trust me," he winked.

 

"McIntyre, please.  You can't tell this to anyone," she said, sadly.

 

"Okay," he said, puzzled.

 

"There will be someone new leading this outfit in a few days.  It won't be Frank."

 

"Frank's out?" Trapper said, nearly bursting on the inside.  "What's the deal?"

 

Margaret told him the whole story, including her call to General Mitchell, but omitting her offer to influence his decision.

 

"Wow," Trapper said.  "I assume Frank doesn't know this, since there are still storm troopers patrolling outside."

 

"No, he doesn't know and I don't want him to find out until the new commander gets here.  It will kill him if he finds out before then.  Please, you have to promise not to tell him before you╔." Margaret stopped.

 

"╔..Before I leave?"

 

"How did you find out about that?"

 

"I got a phone call from an interested party.  When were you kids planning to tell me?" Trapper said angrily.

 

"Oh, come on, McIntyre.  You know why we didn't tell you.  What would you have done to us if we had told you?  You would have had a week to plan something to spring on us before you left, something that would have embarrassed us in front of everyone."

 

Trapper smiled, "Yeah, you're right.  But neither of you have to worry about it now.  I'm not as excited about the trip home now as I thought I would be."

 

He told Margaret about his phone call to Louise.  Margaret listened and decided not to lecture him on his womanizing being the possible cause of the split.  "I'm sorry, McIntyre.  What are you going to do?"

 

"I don't know.  I mean, I realize that as far as being a husband, I'm not a saint, but I was a good father.  I know she's right.  To keep her, I have to change sometime," Trapper said. "But I don't think I can."

 

Margaret stared at the floor.  "It's hard to change sometimes, especially when you've been doing the same thing for most of your life."

 

Trapper looked at Margaret.  He had the feeling that she wasn't talking about him.  He said, "Something tells me the deal with Frank isn't the only thing that's bothering you?  Am I right?"

 

Margaret looked away from Trapper, her eyes filling with tears.  "Got any more of that formaldehyde left?"

 

 

 

After several martinis, Margaret still hadn't told Trapper anything.  She was starting to feel the effects of fatigue combined with alcohol. 

 

"When do I leave for home?" Trapper finally asked.

 

"Two, three days," she slurred.  "I think three days.  Why?"

 

"I'm wondering if you're going to tell me what's eating you before I leave.  I guess it's not that important."

 

"No, it's not," Margaret muttered.  "Anyway, what do you care?" she sneered.  "You'll go home, work in a hospital or start your own private practice somewhere, find you a cute little receptionist to take to your medical conventions, and become Dr. Mr. Trapper JohnIntyre, M.D., Private Citizen, and you'll never even look back at what you did while you were here."

 

Trapper raised his eyebrows, "Fine, but only if you're okay with it."

 

"You're darn right.  You won't think about those of us who won't have a life after we leave the Army.  The ones who are as good as they'll ever be.  The ones who are as good as they're gonna get.  We'll just be left in your dust," Margaret said, waving her finger in Trapper's face.

 

Trapper began, "Hot Lips, what╔╔"

 

"All I've got is the Army, McIntyre.  That's all.  I've given my life to them and this is as good as it will get for me.  I'm stuck with a needle-nosed Major, who will do just like you do when he leaves the Army.  He'll never look back.  He'll go back to his starched shirts and his yacht and his manicured lawn, and all I'll be able to do is wave goodbye.  'Bye, Frank.  So long'," she waved.

 

Trapper stared at Margaret.  "That's it?  That's your problem?  You think your life is over?"

 

"It is," Margaret sniffed.  "I saddled the wrong horse.  I'm too old to start over again."

 

"It's not too late for you, Hot Lips," Trapper said.  "One bad choice doesn't ruin your life."  It takes several, he thought.  "All you have to do is find another horse."

 

Margaret laughed, "Who will I find, McIntyre?  Pierce?  He wouldn't last two weeks with me.  I'd kill him.  Who else is there?  Radar?  Klinger?"

 

"Well, you'd be set wardrobe-wise if you opted for Klinger."

 

"This is not funny, McIntyre.  Where I am, I have no options."

 

"Yeah, but you're not gonna be here forever.  The war will end and you'll be somewhere else.  As many of the upper ranks as you know, you're bound to go somewhere where you can do better, and I'm not talking about finding a man.  I'm talking about your work.  You're a damn good nurse, Hot Lips, and that ought to count for something."

 

"Maybe.  Pour me another drink." Margaret said.  She looked at Trapper.  "You never said anything like that to me before."

 

Trapper shrugged, "I was too busy trying to get on your nerves."

 

Margaret sat down on a crate, "You did a good job of it, too.  Oooh, I could have killed you and Pierce several times," she laughed.  "The time you sewed the legs in my undergarments together╔"

 

"How about that night we nailed the door to your tent shut and hollered 'Bug Out!'?" Trapper laughed.

 

"You understand why I have to be the way I am, don't you, McIntyre?  It's in my blood.  My father was strictly G.I. and I've been around it all my life.  That's the only way a woman will be able to get respect, real respect, in the Army.  I have to be disciplined, dedicated to it."

 

Trapper nodded.  "I know.  You can't afford to behave like me and Hawkeye." 

 

After a brief silence, Margaret asked, "What are you going to do?"

 

Trapper stared at the ceiling.  "I guess I never should have gotten married, or at least I should have waited until I was more mature about it."  He winked and Margaret smiled.  "Don't get me wrong.  I wouldn't trade my children for anything, but being sent over here just delayed the inevitable for Louise and me.  Who knows?  Maybe if I leave, my kids will love me more than they would have if I stayed and made their mother's life miserable.  You know what I mean?"

 

Margaret nodded.  She looked at her watch.  "It's 0200.  I've got to get some rest."  She tried to stand up, but the martinis had finally taken effect and she fell forward.  Trapper caught her before she hit the floor.

 

"Watch it.  Those things sneak up on you," he said.  "Are you all right?"

 

Margaret said, "I think so.  Thanks for the save."

 

"My pleasure, believe me," Trapper smiled.  "Can you stand up?"

 

Then Margaret did something that surprised both of them.  She kissed him.  Trapper was surprised, but he didn't resist.  When she pulled him toward her for another kiss, he didn't resist either. 

 

She whispered in his ear, "I've always wondered what it would be like with you, Trapper.  Did you ever think about how it would be with me?"

 

"What are you, nuts?  Every male with a pulse at this camp has wondered about that?"

 

She smiled, "Are you interested in finding out?"

 

Trapper held his thumb and index finger about an inch apart, "Well, maybe a little."

 

 

 

Trapper limped back to the Swamp around 0400.  He was exhausted.  Everything he had ever wondered about Hot Lips Houlihan was true.  She was a tiger, almost insatiable.  He suddenly had a bit more respect for Frank Burns.  If he could endure that storm every night, he was more of a man than they all thought. 

 

As he drifted off to sleep, he wondered if he would get to see or talk with Hawkeye again before he left.  Radar had been working feverishly on trying to locate him for two days with no luck.  Trapper decided that he would write Hawkeye a note just in case he didn't get to talk with him.  After all, there was a lot of news that Hawkeye would want to hear.  He could get imagine the look on Hawkeye's face when he found out that Trapper had scaled Mount Houlihan first.

 

 

 

Margaret awoke at 0530, tiny shards of pain blinding her.  She couldn't understand how Pierce & McIntyre could survive drinking that young gin like it was water.  She wasn't sure if she could raise her head off her pillow.

 

Then she remembered, McIntyre.  She smiled for a second as she pulled herself to a sitting position.  She had always wondered about the great Trapper John.  Now she knew.  Everything she had ever overheard the other nurses say was true.  No man had ever given her the challenge he had.  She had simply overwhelmed men all of her adult life with her fierce passion, but Trapper nearly withstood it, all of it.  He was more man than Frank Burns would ever be. 

 

A tiny knock on her door brought her back to the present.  "Margaret?"

 

Margaret cringed at Frank's whisper.  He even whispered whiny.  "What is it, Frank?  I'm not dressed."

 

"Where were you last night?  I came by looking for you."

 

Margaret threw on her housecoat and opened her door.  Frank stepped in.  "Sweetheart, I looked everywhere for you.  Is everything all right?"

 

Margaret looked at Frank.  She thought for a minute, then she said, "Yes, Frank.  I was not tired and you were busy, so I decided to go to the Supply Tent and work on inventory.  I stopped to rest and went to sleep.  I didn't wake up until 0400 and then I came back here."

 

Frank nodded and said, "Would you like to go to breakfast with me?  The bacon has extra fat on it today."

 

"No, thank you," she said, yawning.  "I need to get over to Post Op."

 

"Margaret," Frank said.  "I think you've been avoiding me.  Is something wrong, Buttercup?"

 

Margaret was staring out the door at the Swamp, "No, Frank.  I still have this headache."

 

Frank poked his lips out.  "Oh, a headache?  Well, I know what that means, when you have 'the headache.'"

 

"Oh, Frank╔.," she rolled her eyes.

 

Frank grabbed her hand, "Don't be mad at me, Margaret.  I know I've been busy, but I'll make it up to you.  I'll paint your toenails.  I'll wash your hair.  I'll wash your underwear.  I'll╔.."

 

"Frank!" she whispered.  "Not in public.  What if someone sees us?"

 

"I don't care," he panted.  "I can't imagine living a day without you.  You're all I've been thinking about the last few days."

 

"Right.  I've heard that before," she said.

 

"Please let me come in.  I'll help you get dressed."

 

"Maybe later," she growled and with a burst of strength, Margaret shoved Frank out of her door and into the compound.

 

Frank straightened himself up, brushed off his shirt, and walked to the Mess Tent with a satisfied leer.  Maybe later, he thought.

 

 

 

As Margaret got dressed, reality was setting in again.  Soon, Trapper would be gone and she would still be here, stuck in the mud with Frank Burns.  But Frank would continue to be here, while Trapper John would be leaving in a few days.  As much of a thrill as McIntyre had been, Margaret knew she had to be realistic about things.  She knew she would have to stick with the horse she had saddled for a while longer. 

 

Of course, she had no intention of letting anyone find out about her little encounter.  If Frank were to find out, she would definitely be out of luck.  He would never stand for her fooling around with either McIntyre or Pierce, even one time.  As far as she knew, no one else knew about it.  The only person McIntyre would tell was Pierce and he would be long gone before Hawkeye returned.

 

 

 

Several hours later, Trapper woke up from a deep sleep.  By now, he had come to the realization that there was no way that Radar would ever find Hawkeye in time to him to get back before Trapper left, so he sat down to write the letter.  That wasn't what he wanted, but it would have to do.

 

Radar walked in the Swamp.  "Sir, Major Burns wants to see you about you-know-what."

 

Trapper looked up at Radar and then he realized that the "you-know-what" Radar was talking about was his travel orders, not the other "you-know-what" that happened earlier that morning.  "Okay," Trapper said.  "Let's see how the story goes."  He put on his bathrobe and boots and followed Radar.

 

"Any luck finding Hawkeye?" he asked Radar.

 

"No, Sir," Radar shook his head.  "I've tried everywhere you told me, and some places you didn't.  I hope he makes it back before you leave."

 

"Me, too," Trapper said.

 

As they arrived in Frank's office, Radar said "Yes, Sir," and walked back to his office.

 

Frank looked up, "That'll be all, Corpor╔╔.," only to see Radar had already walked out.

 

Trapper sat down.  "What is it, Frank?  Need a character witness in your malpractice case?"

 

Frank smirked, "Afraid not, Captain.  I just got your orders.  You're being sent Stateside."

 

"When?" Trapper asked.

 

"In two days," Frank replied.  "You're being sent back to Massachusetts, Fella.  Fort Devens."

 

"You just get this today, Frank?  That's awfully short notice."

 

Frank's chin disappeared and he sputtered, "I got it yesterday, but it was late when I read it and I didn't want to disturb you."

 

"You're all heart, Frank.  So what time does my farewell party start?"

 

"Party?  As far as I'm concerned, there will be no party, Captain.  People come and go all the time in the Army.  There's no need to have a party every time it happens."

 

"You're all heart.  I'm sure gonna miss you, Frank."

 

Frank looked down at his desk and began to shuffle papers.

 

Shuffle them while you can Ferret Face, Trapper thought.  He wished he could be there when the new C. O. came rolling in.

 

 

 

Trapper walked through Radar's office and nearly collided with Major Houlihan.  "Oh, sorry," he said.

 

"Excuse me, Captain," Margaret said officially.

 

Trapper looked around and smiled, "No need to be so formal, Major.  Looks like we're all alone here."

 

Margaret grimaced and, looking around Trapper nervously, whispered, "Frank is in the next room.  What do you expect?"

 

"I know, I know," Trapper said.  "He just told me the good news.  He also said no Bon Voyage party for me, the lousy rat.  What say you and me have one of our own?"

 

Margaret was about to reply when Radar came through the door leading to Post Op.  Instead she said, "Very good, Captain.  I'll discuss it with you this evening when we go on duty in Post Op."  She walked around him into Frank's office, a little shaken.

 

"You're the boss," Trapper said as he watched her walk into Frank's lair.

 

"Did he tell you, Sir?" Radar asked.

 

"Yeah, just now," Trapper said.

 

"Good.  I guess you're planning on some big bash for your send-off.  Too bad Hawkeye's not here."

 

Trapper thought for a minute.  He wasn't enthusiastic about having a party for a several reasons.  The first was the fact that what he was facing when he got home might be worse than what he was facing in Korea.  No wife, no kids, no home were all gloomy prospects, at best.  The second reason was that there was no Hawkeye.  Without Hawkeye, there would be the semblance of a party, but it really wouldn't be a party.  The final reason was that they had given Henry Blake a Farewell Party and look how it had turned out.

 

"Tell you what, Radar.  I don't think I want a party.  It just won't be the same without Hawkeye.  But you can just tell him we had a blow-out.  Tell him I ran naked through the compound.  Tell him I was drunk for two days.  Tell him something.  I don't want him to feel bad because he wasn't here.  Okay."

 

"I'm sorry I haven't been able to find him, Sir.  I'll keep trying.  He's bound to turn up somewhere," Radar said.

 

 

 

Trapper returned to the Swamp.  Since it was obvious that Hawkeye was not going to be found, he decided to go ahead and start writing him a note.  Besides, he was better at writing his thoughts than he was at expressing them anyway.

 

Dear Hawk,

 

Well, Buddy.  I guess by now you've found out that I'm no longer a part of the 4077th.  I'm not sure why.  Let's just say that I saved a friend's skin one night and he decided to return the favor.  One day we can sit down and discuss it when all of this mess is over

 

It's probably better that I tell you good-bye this way.  I was never one to express myself very well, which probably explains all the times I've gotten my face slapped.  Hawkeye, I have to say that you are without a doubt my best friend in the world.  I don't know what I would have done to get through this hell if you hadn't been here to make me laugh.  Sometimes I actually forgot where I was.  I hope that we can get together one day when this is all over and have a good laugh, and a good cry.

 

It's been an interesting week.  I hate that you weren't here to witness it.  Not only did I find out I was going home, I also found out that I wouldn't have a home when I got there.  Louise has decided to leave me.  I can't say I blame her, but I'm just not that interested in trying to save anything right now.  Maybe after I've been home a while, I'll feel different.

 

You will never believe what happened.  Let's just say that the most unattainable goal for us since Mt. Everest has been conquered and let me tell you, it was just as exciting ascending as it was descending.  I know that one day you hope to do the same and I highly recommend the endeavor.  I will offer you only one piece of advice:  Wear your helmet!

 

Well, that's all I want to say.  I will say more one day when all this is over.  When it is over, you had better look me up.  Just follow the trail of ladies' undergarments and martini glasses.  Be careful and keep your head down.

 

Good Luck,

Trapper

 

That was all he could think of to say, so Trapper placed the note in an envelope and laid it under Hawkeye's pillow.

 

 

 

Post Op duty was very uneventful.  Trapper tried to make small talk a couple of times with Margaret, but to no avail.  She was either occupied with paperwork or with a patient, or Nurse Kellye, who was also on duty, was close by. 

 

Around midnight, Kellye stepped outside for a break and Trapper saw his chance.  He walked over and sat at the desk across from Margaret.

 

"A little chilly in here tonight, isn't it?" Trapper remarked.

 

"I'm fine, Captain," Margaret said.  "What do you mean?"

 

"Come on, Hot Lips.  You know what I mean.  What's with the cold shoulder tonight?  You sure weren't stand-offish last night."

 

"Keep your voice down, McIntyre," Margaret looked around and saw no one.  "I don't want to give you the wrong impression."

 

"'Wrong impression'?" Trapper laughed.  "What do you think?  That I was going to fall for you, with two days of service to go?  Come on, Hot Lips.  We're both adults here.  I know what happened and why as well as you do.  We were both hurting and we were there for each other.  No more, no less."

 

"That's right," Margaret said, but there was a hint of disappointment on her face.  "Just two friends comforting each other.  That's all."

 

"No reason why we should change that over the next two days, is there?" Trapper asked hopefully.

 

Margaret frowned and returned to her paperwork.  Trapper shrugged and went to check on a patient.  As he did, Margaret looked up and a slight smile crossed her face.

 

 

 

At 0100, Trapper stepped outside for a smoke.  He lit his cigar and gazed up at the stars.  It was a bright night; the full moon lit the surroundings almost as brightly as if it were daylight.  He walked around to the back wall of Post Op, leaned against it, and closed his eyes.  Only two more hours to go, he thought.

 

"Trapper?"

 

Trapper opened his eyes and saw Margaret standing in front of him.  He held out his cigar.   "Hiya Hot Lips.  Want a puff?"

 

She shook her head.  "I think I need to talk with you about something.  About last night."

 

Trapper nodded, "Okay, fire away."

 

Margaret shuffled her feet nervously.  "Understand that I'm not ashamed of what happened between us, not at all╔.."

 

"Gee, thanks," Trapper said sarcastically.

 

"╔..in fact I would love for it to happen again.  But, it has to be between us.  The last thing I want is for anyone else to find out about this."

 

"Maybe you should stop talking, Hot Lips.  The hole you're digging is getting deeper and deeper."

 

"That's not what I mean, and you know it.  I don't want Frank to find out about it.  He's going to have enough disappointment to face in a few days anyway.  Being replaced by a new C.O. is one thing, but this would drive him over the edge."

 

Trapper looked around.  "I guess you're right."

 

"Please promise me that you won't tell anyone.  Not even Hawkeye."

 

"Okay, Hot Lips, I promise.  No one will know."

 

"One more thing," Margaret whispered.

 

"What?"

 

"Would it be so hard for you to call me by my name?"

 

"Sure," said Trapper.  "What is it?"

 

Margaret frowned at him and punched his arm.  They walked back into Post Op.

 

 

 

The next morning, Trapper woke up with pain shooting down his back.  He groaned as he rose to a sitting position on his cot.  He reached around and massaged his lower back. 

 

After he had gone off duty at 0300 (and was replaced by Frank Burns), he had met Hot Lips in the Supply Tent again.  As he walked through the door, it was obvious that she was glad to see him, very glad.  The clandestine meeting had continued until 0500, when they slipped back to their tents just before daylight.  No one had seen them or, amazingly, had not heard them either.  Trapper was exhausted.  As if the twelve-hour shift in Post Op had not been enough, the rendezvous with Hot Lips had just about finished him off.

 

"Good thing I'm going home tomorrow," he muttered to himself.  "I might wind up KIA if I were to stay around much longer."

 

Then it dawned on him, tomorrow.  He was leaving the next morning.  There were a few things to do before he left.  He had to tell people that he probably would never see again that he was leaving.  Of course, he did have Post Op duty again, with Hot Lips, that night.  He had to see if he had anything in the old bag of tricks that he could leave for good old Major Burns.  It did occur to Trapper that he had already pulled the ultimate gag on Frank by slipping around with his mistress, but he had promised Hot Lips that he wouldn't tell anyone about that.  However, he wasn't going to go stateside without leaving Frank a little something to remember him by.

 

There was one small hitch, though.  He really wanted to see Hawkeye before he left.  He knew that if Hawkeye had a seven-day leave, he wasn't coming back early, so he wondered if he could possibly delay his departure long enough to see him.  Maybe instead of leaving tomorrow, he could leave the next morning.  He was probably going to have to stay overnight in Seoul tomorrow night anyway.

 

He decided to fix a drink.  There were a few hours before he had to go on duty, so he had time to plan a few things.

 

 

 

Frank Burns knocked on Margaret's door, "Margaret?  Margaret?  Are you in there?"

 

Margaret opened her eyes and looked at her clock.  It was 1100 hours.  She should have known Frank would be looking for her this late in the morning.  She rubbed her eyes and stretched.  "Just a minute, Frank."

 

As she got dressed, she thought about the night before.  It was a shame that she had wasted so much time while McIntyre was there at the 4077th.  The possibilities were endless and now she would never know what could have happened between them.  She told herself that he was leaving tomorrow and that the best thing for her was to put him in her past.

 

She opened the door and Frank was glaring at her.  "Margaret, it's not like you to sleep so long.  Did something happen last night?"

 

Margaret's eyes widened, "Last night, Frank?  What do you mean?"

 

"In Post Op.  Was there a problem of some kind?  Did McIntyre give you a hard time?"

 

A tiny grin escaped from Margaret's face that Frank didn't notice.  "Nothing I couldn't handle, Frank."  She sighed, "Nothing I couldn't handle."

 

Frank whispered, "I thought that since you had duty again tonight, we might have a picnic this afternoon.  You know, just the two of us?"

 

Margaret replied, "That sounds nice, Frank."  As she walked out of her tent, she said, "A picnic might be the thing to help me get over this awful headache."

 

Frank's smile faded to a look of disappointment as she walked past him.

 

 

 

Radar hung up the phone.  Trapper said, "Well?"

 

Radar said, "They weren't happy about it and couldn't understand it, but they said they would delay your chopper until the next morning."

 

Trapper smiled, "That's great, Radar."

 

Radar nodded, "They said they had never had a problem with anyone being transferred who didn't want to leave before."

 

Trapper laughed, "I guess not."

 

Radar said, "Boy, I wish they'd give me a chance to leave here.  I wouldn't give it a second thought."

 

"Well, ordinarily, I wouldn't either, Radar.  But I can't leave without saying good-bye to Hawkeye.  I don't guess we'll ever catch up with him in Tokyo, so I'll put things off for a little while if I can get a chance to see him."

 

Radar looked up, "Sir?"  He took a deep breath.  "I just wanted you to know that I'm gonna miss you.  I'm glad that I got a chance to meet you and╔."  Radar paused and tears ran down his face.  "╔.I hope you make it home."

 

Trapper touched Radar's shoulder.  "Hey, don't worry, Kid.  I'll be fine.  You just take care of yourself, okay?  Somebody has to watch out for Hawkeye since I won't be here, right?" 

 

Radar nodded, "I'll do my best, Sir."

 

 

 

Post Op was uneventful.  Trapper noticed that Frank kept popping in.  He would walk over and whisper something to Margaret, turn around, and walk out.  That happened seven times during their twelve-hour shift.  A couple of times, Trapper saw Frank looking through the tiny window of the door separating Post Op and Radar's office.  Margaret stayed over by the desk, filling out paperwork.

 

One time she did walk over to McIntyre, "Doctor, I was wondering if you could look at this patient over here."  She led him to the patient in the far corner and handed him her clipboard.

 

Trapper looked at the charts.  "Everything looks fine to me, Major.  What's the╔.."

 

Margaret turned the front page of the chart up to reveal the second page, which read, He thinks something is going on with you and me.

 

"He's right, isn't he?" Trapper whispered.  "I didn't get these scratches on my back doing calisthenics."

 

"Stay away from me right now.  I'll talk with you later," she whispered.

 

"Okay, Major," Trapper said loudly.  "I think we can just continue what we've been doing.  He seems to be improving."

 

"Right, Doctor.  Thank you," Margaret said and returned to the desk.

 

Trapper looked around and saw Frank watching through the window.

 

 

 

At 0300, Frank burst through the doors of Post Op.  "Okay, McIntyre," he said, almost yelling.  "You're relieved."

 

Trapper asked, "Frank, these guys aren't sleeping too loud for you, are they?"

 

Ignoring Trapper, Frank glared at Margaret, "Major, I need to speak with you before you go."

 

Looking puzzled, Margaret said, "Yes, Major."

 

Trapper walked outside and waited around for a few minutes.  He was tired.  It seemed like uneventful shifts in Post Op were more tiring than when they were busy.  Plus he was still feeling the effects of the previous two nights. 

 

Trapper waited around outside for thirty minutes.  He smoked a cigar, went to the latrine and managed to peep in one of the windows.  He saw Frank and Hot Lips sitting at the desk.  Frank looked like he was giving her a pretty hard time, but she didn't seem to be under too much duress, seemed to be handling everything he was giving her. 

 

Trapper chuckled.  It looked like there would be no slipping around tonight.  He turned and headed for the Swamp, thinking he might get some much-needed rest.

 

 

 

Margaret went back to her tent after duty, but she couldn't sleep.  Frank was aggravated that they had spent so little time together for the past few days.  She tried to blame it on lack of sleep and fatigue (which was partly true), but he was not buying it.  He thought she was spending time with someone else and though he didn't say it, he seemed to be focusing on Trapper John and her.  Margaret assured him that nothing could be further from the truth, that as far as she was concerned, Trapper John McIntyre was yesterday's news.

 

But she felt differently as she lay on her cot.  She wished right now that she could go over to his tent, or that he would burst into her tent.  She wanted to go to the Swamp and wake him, but she had a feeling that Frank was close by, his beady eyes piercing through the night like a predator, watching her every move.  And he would continue to be watching her until McIntyre finally went home.  Disappointed, she decided to face facts and realize that there would probably not be a third night in the Supply Room with Trapper. 

 

"Oh well," she thought.  "At least I'll have someone to think about now when I'm with Frank." 

 

Smiling, Margaret switched off her light and her tent went dark.

 

Outside her tent, Frank Burns smiled his lipless smile and skipped back to Post Op.

 

 

 

Trapper's last day proved an eventful one.  Several of the nurses were upset that he was leaving, so a couple of them decided to give him a special sendoff that evening.  Sadly, it wasn't the type of sendoff Trapper was expecting from them.  It was a small party in the Officer's Club attended by a few of Trapper's friends.  Major Burns was nowhere to be found, having been summoned to I-Corps for a nonexistent meeting (thanks to Trapper with Radar's help) with General Mitchell in a jeep with a leaking gas tank.  Major Houlihan, Trapper noticed, was nowhere to be found either.

 

The party was surprisingly low-key, due to the absence of Hawkeye Pierce.  The highlight of the party was Corporal Klinger's rendition of the classic tune "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree", with accompaniment on piano by Father Mulcahy.  Radar's alcohol-induced marriage proposal to Nurse Baker, who drunkenly accepted, was another standout moment. 

 

Trapper sat through the party, watching everyone with a sad smile.  These people had been his family for what seemed to be the longest couple of years in his life.  They had been through every sort of danger and death imaginable, spending countless hours patching up wounded, dodging shells and sniper fire, and enduring those unnerving bug outs when it seemed like the enemy was right behind them.  Those bad times had made them appreciate the few good times that they had been able to have.  In some ways, he was closer to these people than he would ever be to his family. 

 

Finally, Father Mulcahy, one of the few remaining sober attendees, stood up to speak:

 

"My friends, we're assembled here today to bid our good friend Trapper a fond farewell.  For those of you who don't know or don't remember, he is being sent stateside tomorrow.  It's always difficult to say good-bye to your friends, but we all excited that Trapper is fortunate enough to go home, and we hope that we'll all be joining him soon.  We wish you good luck on your trip home, Trapper."

 

Everyone politely applauded and someone shouted, "Speech!  Speech!"

 

Trapper stood up and smiled, "I just realized that I've done this before, a while back when I had the ulcer.  I couldn't believe it then and I can't believe it now.  We, the bunch of us, we've been to Hell and back over the past couple of years.  We've seen terrible things that we'll never forget.  We've laughed, cried, loved, and we've lost people that were special to us," Trapper paused for a moment to compose himself.  "But, you guys will always be a part of me.  I won't ever forget any of you."

 

There was silence as he finished, except for a few sniffles.

 

"Now," he said.  "Which one of you nurses is coming back to the Swamp with me?"

 

There was a loud groan and several empty glasses thrown in Trapper's direction.

 

 

 

The party lasted until 0100 hours, then dispersed as everyone wandered off to sleep or pass out.  Trapper decided to walk around camp one last time before heading back to the Swamp to pack what few items he had. 

 

He stopped in front of Major Houlihan's tent.  He could see her light in the window and wondered if he should knock on her door.  He had known she wouldn't be at the party, but he thought he might get to see her before he left.  He had figured since Frank was not here that she might risk coming to the Officer's Club long enough to give him best wishes.  He decided not to knock.  It had been fun while it lasted, but it was time for both of them to move on.  He turned and walked toward the Swamp.

 

"McIntyre?"

 

He smiled, then turned.  She was standing at her door.  "Have you seen Major Burns?"

 

"No, I haven't, Major.  Maybe he decided to spend the night."

 

"That's not like Frank," Margaret said.  "I think something is up and you might know what it is."

 

"Maybe he got a better offer," Trapper shrugged, thinking of Frank's sore feet as he continued the long walk back to camp.

 

"I can't believe you were going to pass by and not tell me good-bye," she said, looking around.

 

"Well," he walked toward her.  "I was thinking that I might come back later.  I didn't know if you wanted me in your tent."

 

"I don't," she said.  "I want you in the Supply Room."

 

Trapper raised his eyebrows.  "Do you always play this hard-to-get?"

 

"Why don't you come find out, Captain?"

 

"Okay, since you outrank me."

 

 

 

"Sir, the chopper will be here in an hour."

 

Trapper woke up at the sound of Radar's voice.  It was 0600.  He had not gotten much sleep.  Hot Lips had given him quite a send off.  "Okay, Radar," he said.  "Let me get a shower and make sure I've got everything."

 

Trapper ran to take a shower.  He walked in and saw Frank scrubbing furiously.

 

"Hi, Frank," Trapper said as he stepped into the shower.  "Where you been?  Did you go to Seoul to buy me a gift?"

 

Frank smirked, "Fat chance.  My jeep ran out of gas on the way to my meeting with General Mitchell at I-Corps."

 

"That's a shame, Frank," Trapper said.  "I'll bet the General was pretty steamed with you not showing up.  You'd think somebody in the Motor Pool would look out for little things like holes in the gas tank, wouldn't you?"

 

Frank looked hard at Trapper.  "If you weren't leaving today, Mister, I'd╔.."

 

Trapper leaned toward Frank, "You'd what?"

 

Frank backed away and hissed, "I'm washing my hands of you, Mister.  You're somebody else's problem now."  He slipped on his robe and stormed out of the showers, still dripping.

 

Trapper laughed, "I'm gonna miss you, Ferret Face."

 

 

 

After his shower, Trapper walked back to the Swamp and had one last martini for the road.  He couldn't say that he would miss his daily dose of lighter fluid, but it had served its purpose.  Picking up his duffle bag, he walked toward the door and turned for one last look.

 

There it was, in all its filth and squalor, the Swamp.  Trapper smiled as he thought of Hawkeye easing down onto his cot with a groan after a long day of surgery, of Henry's face full of soot during the camp search, of the Princess and the Pea treatment they had given Frank, of the gorilla suits, of Hawkeye parading around in his Dad's tuxedo and his awful knock-knock jokes, of the many nurses who had visited, of schooling Radar to the finer points of culture ("Ahh, Bach!"), of putting Frank's arm in a cast, and of many other memories, too many to name. 

 

"Sir, your chopper's five minutes out."

 

"Thanks, Radar," Trapper said as he walked out of the Swamp for the last time.

 

 

 

The chopper was waiting when Trapper got to the pad.  So were his friends.

 

"Good bye, my son," Father Mulcahy said as he shook Trapper's hand.  "May God bless you on your journey."

 

"Thanks, Father," Trapper smiled.

 

Klinger pumped Trapper's hand, "Good luck, Sir.  I'll miss you."  He was wearing a pink bathrobe and fuzzy white slippers.

 

"Sorry you had to get up so early to see me off, Klinger," Trapper said as he looked at the curlers in Klinger's hair.

 

"It was worth it, Sir.  If you're ever in Toledo, look me up."

 

Trapper nodded, "You should be easy to find."

 

Trapper walked over and hugged Radar, "You take care, Kid.  Okay?  Remember what I said.  Take care of Hawkeye."

 

Radar nodded, blinking back tears, "Yes, Sir.  I will."

 

As Trapper turned, he saw Burns and Houlihan waiting for him.  Frank could barely contain himself.  "Well, Captain," he said, extending his hand.  "I guess this is Good-Bye, at last."

 

Trapper shook his hand, "So long, Frank.  I guess you're gonna mail me my Going Away Present, huh?"

 

Frank smiled and saluted.  If his smile had been any wider, his face would have split.

 

Then Trapper looked at Margaret.  He shook her hand, then saluted her.  "Good-Bye, Margaret," he said, winking.  "It's been quite a ride."

 

Margaret smiled slightly and returned his salute.  "Yes it has, Captain.  Take care of yourself."

 

Trapper said, "You too.  Remember what I told you.  This will be over one day."

 

Margaret nodded, "I will.  Thank you."

 

Frank struggled to hear what they were saying over the noise of the helicopter.

 

Trapper waved at them and turned to board the helicopter. 

 

They all watched as the helicopter lifted off and carried Trapper John McIntyre away.

 

 

 

After Trapper left, Frank had decided to go to his office.  He was in the process of reconstructing Radar's entire filing system and he wanted to make sure Radar was doing it the way he wanted ("You have to watch him every minute, the little sneak!" Frank had told Margaret).  After Frank left, she had decided to stop by the Swamp, just to see if there was anything that Trapper might have left behind. 

 

She walked in, appalled by the mess of clothes and nudist magazines strewn everywhere.   "Disgusting," she muttered.  As she looked around, she wasn't sure if there was anything in this pile of rubble that she wanted to take.  She looked over in the direction of Hawkeye's cot and noticed an envelope that was sticking out from under the pillow.

 

Curious, Margaret picked up the envelope.  On the front of it was a single word, "Hawkeye", written in Trapper's physician-like scrawl.  She wondered if she should open it and read it.  After all, it was a private letter that she had no business looking at, but she was intrigued by what Trapper might have told Hawkeye since there was a possibility that they would never see each other again.  She opened the letter.

 

She was touched for the first couple of paragraphs.  She could see Hawkeye smiling as he read it.  Then she was saddened as Trapper recounted the conversation with his wife and their future together.  It was obvious to her that Trapper was trying to hide the pain he was in from Hawkeye, but at least he was taking some responsibility for his contribution to their differences.

 

Then she read the fourth paragraph.

 

She was furious.  Trapper had promised her that he would not tell anyone about what happened between them, then he wrote a note to Hawkeye about it, a note that anyone in camp could have walked in, opened, and read.  It wasn't even sealed.  They could have read it and it might have gone all the way around the camp before Hawkeye even returned. 

 

She thought of what Hawkeye would do if he were to read it.  She would never be able to live it down.  He would ridicule her mercilessly, she thought.  Any credibility that she might have had with her nurses would be shot because they would all find out about it.  In their eyes, she would be just like them, jumping from doctor to doctor.  She would be brought down to their level, she thought.

 

Then, Margaret's eyes widened in horror.  What if Frank found out?  She didn't have much comfort here as it was, but if Frank knew this had happened, she would have none at all.  To them, Pierce and McIntyre had always been the enemy.  She had been consorting with the enemy.  If he found out, she would have no one at all and though Frank wasn't much, he was all that she had.

 

She was so angry that her entire body shook.  She took the letter and when she got back to her tent, she tore it into shreds.

 

 

 

Trapper was almost to I-Corps when he thought of the note that he had written Hawkeye. 

 

He knew that if Hot Lips ever found out about the note, and if Hawkeye read it she definitely would find out about it, she would be furious.  After all he had promised her that he wouldn't tell anyone about their early morning formations and he had promised with all sincerity, but he had written the note before he had made the promise and in the rush of the past few days had forgotten about what he had written in the note.

 

Well, that wasn't entirely true.  Hot Lips had been the ultimate goal for both of them the whole time they had been in Korea.  There was no one else even close.  He had to tell Hawkeye about it.  Hawkeye would be upset that he had missed Trapper, so maybe giving him a new challenge, a new mountain to climb, would help him get over the loss a little bit.  He was pretty sure that Hawkeye would not say anything to anyone about the affair because he surely would try to start one of his own with her, and that would not happen if the affair was common knowledge around the camp. 

 

He was also sure that the odds of Margaret even going into the Swamp for any reason at all were very slim.  She had never been in there without Frank and since he was in Henry's quarters now, there was no chance at all that she would go in there. 

 

Before Trapper knew it, he was in Seoul, getting ready to board a plane to Tokyo, where he found out he would be staying a couple of days before heading home.  By now, he thought, Hawkeye had probably returned to camp, in shock over all the recent developments.  He hoped the note would cushion the blow.

 

He thought about what was ahead for him.  Putting his civilian life back together without a wife or daughters was going to be a major ordeal.  He had figured out that it was going to be even more painful than he thought, not so much because of Louise, but because of the girls.  After going so long without seeing them, it was going to be even harder to not have access to them all the time when he got home.

 

"Sir, the plane is ready," a young corporal told him.

 

Trapper nodded and picked up his bag and walked to the plane.  He realized that this was the ending of one chapter of his life and the beginning of another.  He hoped he was putting the worst chapter behind him.