M a s h goes to maine, p.1

M*A*S*H Goes To Maine, page 1

 

M*A*S*H Goes To Maine
 


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M*A*S*H Goes To Maine


  M*A*S*H Series

  BOOK 2

  M*A*S*H

  Goes to Maine

  by

  Richard Hooker

  Copyright © 1971 by William Morrow

  and Company, Inc.

  Scanned and proofed by MSReaderMan

  Posted to alt.binaries.e-book

  3/10/2002 - Version 3.5 (maybe better)

  MASH Goes To Maine

  Standard Book Number: 671-78815-9.

  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 71-151912.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  1

  WENDELL Black, chief surgeon, USVA Hospital, Spruce Harbor, Maine, was mildly perplexed. The morning mail had brought an application from a surgeon who had trained at the College of Physicians and Surgeons and was certified by the American Board of Surgery. This surgeon was in his early forties, had prospered in private practice, inherited money, and now he wanted a job which would allow him to pursue professional interests without commercial distraction. Also, the surgeon stated, the idea of a forty-hour week fascinated him. He liked to ski, sail and play golf. Spruce Harbor, Maine, looked like the place to put it all together.

  Not much in the State of Maine works like other places and this is true even in Maine’s only Veterans Administration facility. Therefore Dr. Black sought the counsel of his most trusted adviser, Mr. Jocko Allcock.

  To his secretary Mrs. Ames, Dr. Black said, “Would you tell Mr. Allcock I’d like to see him at his earliest convenience.”

  Mrs. Ames had been through this before but she always played it the same way.

  “Mr. Allcock?” she asked.

  “Yes, Mrs. Ames, if you please. Mr. Allcock.”

  “Oh, of course, Doctor. You mean Jocko.”

  Mr. Jocko Allcock was at the bottom of the surgical tree on which Dr. Black, in Spruce Harbor, stood out as the highest limb. Jocko’s florid, broad, blunt-nosed face sat atop six feet and two hundred and twenty pounds of muscle gradually turning to fat. He was the guy who transferred patients from the ward to the operating room, lifted or helped them onto the table, lifted them off later on and then hauled them back to the Ward, or the intensive care unit, or the morgue. Jocko was also the hospital bookie and made more than his salary betting on the outcome of selected surgical procedures. Mr. Allcock had attracted the chief surgeon’s attention when a patient scheduled for gastrectomy, a partial excision of the stomach, discovered that Jocko’s price on him was 4 to 1, against. The patient, dismayed at the odds but wishing to participate in the action, blew his stack and the whistle when Jocko demanded payment in advance. Jocko, of course, assured the patient that he’d pay off if a payoff was possible, but he did not want to take the risk of getting stifled because neither the government, Blue Shield or Mutual of Omaha covered this kind of arrangement.

  After the furor Dr. Black and Jocko reached an accord. Dr. Black, in fact, took quite a shine to Jocko and decided that he, Jocko and maybe the Chief of Medicine were the smartest people in the Spruce Harbor VA.

  So Dr. Black, who had all the surgeons. he needed, was bothered by the new surgeon’s application and decided to consult Jocko Allcock. Late in the morning of this sunny day in May, 1954, Dr. Black was seated behind his desk, reading the Annals of Surgery and surreptitiously peeking at the budding trees and the islands in Penobscot Bay. His studies and reveries were interrupted by Mr. Allcock, who said, “Hey, boss, you wanta see me?”

  “Oh, yes, Mr. Allcock, come in. Cup of coffee?”

  “Sure, boss. Say, you gotta butt?”

  “Oh, well, er . . . sure. I think I have some here somewhere.”

  “Right in that top drawer, boss,” Jocko told him.

  “Of course. Hope you don’t mind filters.”

  “Perfectly okay, boss. Whatcha want to see me about?”

  “Read this,” Dr. Black said, handing Jocko the new surgeon’s application.

  “What do you think, Mr. Allcock?” he asked, having allowed Jocko plenty of time to read and assimilate.

  “A guy like this you can’t let him git away. This guy’s not old, he’s got the training, he’s made a living in private practice and he still wants to work. At least some. All you got now is losers or fly-by-nights gittin’ in their time for the surgical boards and fixin’ to leave the first time they got a grand in the bank.”

  “Who on the surgical staff has a grand in the bank?” asked Dr. Black.

  “That christly Pierce, Hawkeye. He’s beat me for a grand in the last month bettin’ on his own patients. If we don’t get that son of a howah outa here, I’m gonna go broke.”

  “Do you think I should fire him, Mr. Allcock?”

  “Well, boss, he’s the best man you got, but all he needs is another month here af ore he’s eligible for his surgical boards. He ain’t gonna stay long after that so you better grab this new guy and unload Hawkeye.”

  “I agree, Mr. Allcock. There’s just one thing. How do I fire him? I have no grounds, even though I know he spends more time on golf courses than he does here.”

  “Don’t worry, boss. I’ll take care of it.”

  “I’d hoped you’d say that, Mr. Allcock.”

  Jocko was pleased that he had been chosen to fire Dr. Pierce because he liked him and felt that Dr. Pierce, having met the training requirements specified by the American Board of Surgery, should not waste further time in the employ of the Veterans Administration. Jocko went directly to the Spruce Harbor Country Club where he knew Dr. Pierce would be hitting golf balls on the practice range.

  He parked his pickup truck in the space reserved for Benny Scrubs, the pro, and approached Dr. Pierce.

  “Hey, Hawkeye,” Jocko said as Dr. Pierce fiddled with his grip.

  “What the hell do you want?”

  “Nothin’. Just wanta tell you. You’re fired.”

  “Finestkind. I’m hitting the bail real good. Maybe I could go on the tour.”

  “I don’t know nothin’ about golf,” said Jocko, who had expected a little more reaction.

  Hawkeye Pierce, a tall, skinny, blond natural hooker, hit three more drives while Jocko stood and fidgeted. Then he invited Jocko to join him for lunch in the clubhouse.

  “Guess I’ll have a couple marts, seeing as how I’m unemployed,” said Hawkeye. “How about you, Jocko?”

  “Long as you’re buying, I’ll let it all hang out. Dr. Black said if I’d tell you about bein’ fired, I could have the rest of the day off.”

  “I don’t really care, but I suppose I should ask,” said Dr. Pierce. “Why am I fired?”

  “There ain’t room for you in our organization, Hawkeye. I had to let you go.”

  “You had to let me go?”

  “Well, yes, boy. Maybe I ain’t no doctor, but I know what’s best for everybody and Dr. Black respects my judgment. What’s more, I been losing money on you and I been thinkin’ of goin’ into private practice myself.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “Well, boy, you go into private practice, I’ll start bookin’ surgery outside of the VA. I’ll find out who needs operations and I’ll start betting with you instead of against you and when word gets around you’ll be the richest son of a howah in Maine and I’ll get rich along with you. Only way I can lose is if you don’t keep gittin’ good results.”

  “Look, you stupid son of a bitch,” said Dr. Pierce, “you stay the hell away from me. Yo
u got me fired. If I go into practice around here I don’t need a screwball like you scaring the patients. It’ll be hard enough to get started as it is, competing against the local barber surgeons.”

  “Boy,” said Jocko, “you just don’t understand, but you’ll come to your senses.”

  Hawkeye, now on his second martini, laughed because he remembered Jocko’s matchless performance at the Windsor Fair. Jocko and a fellow VA employee had erected a tent, proclaimed themselves specialists from the United States Public Health Service, and offered free rectal examinations for only fifty cents (to cover cost of the glove). Remembering that they’d made three hundred dollars before they were run off, Hawkeye said, “Maybe you’re right, Jocko. We’ll see.”

  “Whatcha gonna do now, Hawk?”

  “I’m going on to a third martini to celebrate my release from the Veterans Administration. Then I shall eat a large hamburger. Then I am going to Port Waldo and visit Dr. Ralph Young and find out whether the old bastard will send me some surgery if I go into practice.”

  “You want me to go with you?” asked Jocko.

  “It’s sweet of you to offer, Jocko, but I’d like to try this on my own. I can’t depend on you forever, and you’ve already done so much for me.”

  “Yeah, that’s true,” said Jocko, “but I’ll keep an eye on you anyhow.”

  “My cup runneth over. Here come the hamburgers.” Later Dr. Pierce drove slowly and a mite sleepily toward Port Waldo, a village twenty miles west of Spruce Harbor and seven miles upstream from his home in Crabapple Cove. He knew the score for a young surgeon in a to like Spruce Harbor. The town had thirty thousand people and potentially served another forty to fifty thousand. The surgery was done by several general practitioner-surgeons who had little or no formal training, and what little surgery they had learned they had picked up in the school of hard knocks. The patients got the hard knocks. These doctors resented, feared and resisted the idea of a young man with five or six years of formal training coming in and doing just surgery. They’d send surgery that frightened them, and not much frightened them, to Boston or Portland. Although they wouldn’t admit it to themselves, they’d rather let the patients die than give their cases to a new young surgeon. They would tell the new young surgeon that he couldn’t start at the top. He had to do it like they did, develop a general practice and cull surgery from it.

  Hawkeye Pierce, although a local boy, was from the outside surgical world, a world that Spruce Harbor had, so far, escaped. He knew the Spruce Harbor talent and he didn’t intend to dignify these hacks by even bothering to talk to them. He also knew that there were two young specialists in internal medicine who in time would give him some work, but they weren’t militant and the old gang scared them. Hawkeye believed that one doctor in Spruce Harbor, probably the best and certainly the busiest, a man named Doggy Moore, would help him, but he also figured Doggy would watch him for a year before jumping in with both feet. Hawkeye figured, finally, that he needed one busy general practitioner to feed him. Given that, plus a little from here and there, he could make a living and drive the barber surgeons into the ocean within five years.

  Hawkeye decided to visit Dr. Ralph Young because Ralph always told the truth. Tall, vigorous, and happy, Dr. Young knew what he knew and what he didn’t know. He had come to terms with his inadequacies. In Portland, Bangor and Boston, where he sent patients who could afford to go there for operations, he was viewed with great respect and frequently was cited as an example of what a rural practitioner should be. In Port Waldo Dr. Young, because of his honesty, escaped the total reverence in which small town and rural people frequently inundate more confident and less capable doctors. Still, be was the only one in town and he had prospered.

  Hawkeye Pierce figured he’d work off the martinis before visiting Dr. Ralph Young so he drove down to Heath Point, a deserted peninsula which protrudes into Muscongus Bay and took a naked jump into the cold Atlantic. This wiped out the martinis and brought Hawkeye to the real issues. He’d had a year of internship, three years of surgical residency, two years of army surgery, and a year of surgery in VA. How many years? Seven out of medical school. Not broke, but close to it. A wife, Mary, and three kids: Billy, age six, Stephen, age five, and nine-month-old Karen. And he was eligible for the surgical boards, so he would make out in private practice if he were patient. But, damn it, be felt unfulfilled. Surgery was jumping in the outside world. He had come back from Korea, sick of the army and cities and wanting to stay home in Maine. Now, a year later, he wondered if he belonged in Crabapple Cove and Spruce Harbor. He wondered if he should give himself a chance in the big time.

  Uncertain of what he wanted, he called on Dr. Ralph Young, who had just finished office hours and was expecting Hawkeye.

  “Hi, Hawk,” he said, “I’ve been waiting for you.

  Jocko called. I hear you’re going into private practice and want all my surgery.”

  “Yeah, I guesso. That christless Jocko seems to want to be my business manager.”

  “Okay, Hawkeye,” said Dr. Young, “I’ll lay it on the line. You’re still only—what? Thirty-one?”

  “Around there.”

  “You have the general surgical training. If you go into practice I’ll send you everything I can dig up. But, if you’ll listen to your old twenty-dollar obstetrician, you’ll get the hell out of here. This area is going to open up. We’ll have trained surgeons in Spruce Harbor within five years. You’ll be competing with your own kind. Get a couple of years of training in thoracic surgery under your belt and nobody can touch you. You can come back here and be the big man in chest cutting. If you do that, you’ll automatically get your share of the general surgery.”

  “I’ve been thinking about the same way, Ralph,” said Dr. Pierce. “But, Jesus, I got very little dough. At the age of thirty-one, with three kids, I don’t know if Mary will hold still for another couple years of residency and debt.”

  “I waited two years for Big Benjy Pierce to pay twenty bucks for you.”

  “Yeah, you old bastard, and you were lucky to get it. I’ll let you know what I decide.”

  “I’ll see you, Hawk,” said Dr. Young, who laughed after Hawkeye left and said to himself, “That boy heard me.”

  Hawkeye mounted the big brown ’52 Chrysler he had bought secondhand after getting out of Korea, and drove slowly toward Crabapple Cove and the little house on the edge of the Cove where he, Mary, Bill, Steve and Karen were living, just across a tidal inlet from his father’s farm. The kids, he knew, would be at the farm and Mary, adding to the family wealth by teaching school, would be at a convention in Bangor.

  He would be all alone. He would have a drink and take another swim. It was a happy prospect because he really needed to think.

  Dr. Pierce turned down Pierce Road. Nobody but Pierces had ever lived in this part of Crabapple Cove and he was more vividly aware of his surroundings than he had been for months. He loved the fields and the pines and firs and spruce along the shore and the high tide and the low tide and he didn’t ever want to leave them. From the top of the hill, he saw Big Benjy Pierce’s lobster boat moored in the channel. He saw his kids and his nephews and nieces playing in his father’s barnyard across the tidal inlet from his own little house, where a new robin’s-egg-blue Pontiac convertible was parked in the driveway.

  “Now who the hell is that?” he asked himself. “Holy old baldheaded Jesus,” he exclaimed, after a moment of logical thought and a look at the Massachusetts plates. “It’s the Trapper. Trapper John. It has to be because he always talked about blue Pontiac convertibles.”

  Trapper was his buddy from the 4077th MASH in Korea where Hawkeye had spent eighteen months as a surgeon during the Police Action. He’d been expecting Trapper. Trapper had stayed behind and been sent to Okinawa after the truce. When he and Duke Forrest had left their tent, The Swamp, fifteen months back, Trapper John had been half in the bag, weeping, but now he was out of the army and in Crabapple Cove.

  Hawkeye
had known Trapper for a year in Korea, but people in Korea and people at home are not necessarily the same. Hawk approached the meeting with a mixture of joy and doubt. He pulled in beside the blue convertible, went in the back door, walked through the kitchen. From there he saw Trapper, with a beer, sitting on the flimsy front porch, beneath which three feet of salt water flowed at high tide. Trapper was drowsily taking in the scene, the cove, the lobster boats and Big Benjy Pierce’s wharf opposite Hawkeye’s house.

  Trapper didn’t hear him coming so Hawk had a chance to appraise his visitor. The grubby, unshaven, long-haired army surgeon was a new man, at least on the surface. Still thin, he was dressed tastefully and expensively and Hawkeye, perhaps for the first time, really believed that Trapper John McIntyre was what he was supposed to be, a bright, young, capable thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon. Why, he wondered, did seeing Trapper dressed up make a difference? Well, it didn’t really, but Hawkeye had feared that the civilian Trapper would be exactly like the, military Trapper.

  Hawk opened the porch door and said, “Hi, Trapper. Where you been? I figured you for a month ago.”

  “I had to spend a month in bed to catch up. Now I’m all caught up so I figured I’d come and get you off the clam flats.”

  “What you got in mind?”

  “Maxie Neville wants me to come to Saint Lombard’s in New York and help him do the heart surgery. You’re going to get a year of thoracic surgical residency at some VA joint in Jersey where Maxie is the consultant and then you’re going to come to work for me and Maxie.”

  “Jeez, Trapper, you don’t mean it. You and me and Maxie Neville?”

  “Screw you. Stay here if you want to.”

  “I want to, but I’ll bite for two years of your deal. Enough to get the thoracic boards. Then I’m coming right back here. Now that we’ve settled so much so simply, let’s discuss important things.”

  2

  TWO months later, in July, Dr. and Mrs. Pierce, with Billy, Steve and Karen, left Crabapple Cove for the big VA Hospital in New Jersey. Someone at the hospital had found them “a nice two-bedroom apartment in a nice apartment development” The kind of place where even if a guy comes home sober he’s lucky to figure out where he lives.

 
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