Notes Fear-ciuil, the author of this short memory, she was inspired by comments made by Anita Van Buren in the Law & Order episode "Over Here," about her father's being wounded in the Korean War. Having read this story, we're left to wonder if maybe Adam Schiff didn't run into Van Buren's father ... after all, as Angilbas suggested back in 1999, the future District Attorney spent some time visiting the same M.A.S.H. unit. In any case, as Fear-ciuil notes, "This is a story I couldn't resist." Hopefully you'll feel the same way.Into the Garden
Back on its golden hinges
The gate of Memory swings
And my heart goes into the garden
And walks with the olden things
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox ("Memory's Garden")
Anita Van Buren, brow furrowed, examined labels on the boxes in the closet, searching for one in particular: Ricky was doing a project on the Korean War for his history class, and he had asked to look through his grandfather's mementos. Finally locating the box she was after, she placed the stepladder and climbed up, pulling the box free and carrying it carefully into the dining room, where she put it on the table and opened the flaps.
Smiling nostalgically, she lifted out a few items, starting with her father's dog tags. Hall, William A. 36221993. T-50. B Pos. P.
Next was the box containing his Purple Heart; then his uniform. At the bottom was a scrapbook compiled by her mother, containing faded photographs and yellowed newspaper clippings. Sinking into the nearest chair, she reverently opened the book, flipping through the pages. At the bottom of one page near the end was a Polaroid of her father, lying on a cot in what was apparently the M.A.S.H. unit that had treated him. Beside him sat a tall, dark-haired young man holding a clipboard and wearing a lab coat; both of them were smiling into the camera. Staring at the photo, Anita wondered about the circumstances in which it had been taken -- her father looked genuinely happy; the doctor, a little sad….
"Hall. Hall … Hall … oh, that's right. Take in the waistband and lengthen the cuffs."
Bill Hall grinned as his doctor stopped at the foot of his cot and checked the chart. He'd never met a man quite like this doctor; not only was he notoriously silly, he went by the nickname 'Hawkeye.' "How'm I doin', Doc?" he asked weakly, unconsciously wiggling the toes on his remaining foot.
"Bad news," the young doctor replied, his grave tone belied by the twinkle in his eye. "You're gonna make it."
"Great," Bill said, his grin widening. "Great. Uh … how long before I get to go home?"
"That's the good news," the doctor said. He lowered himself into the chair beside Bill's cot, the chart still in his hand. "We're sending you to Seoul on the next bus, and from there, the United States … home." He looked wistful for a moment, but shook it off. "You'll be there before you know it."
Bill blinked drowsily. "Great … I'm really lookin' forward to seein' Evelyn. We didn't have time to … you know, start a family … before I got sent over here."
Hawkeye's wistful look returned. "How long have you been married?"
"Not too long. We just had time for our honeymoon before I had to report to Ft. Leonard Wood."
Hawkeye smiled. "Well, I wish you a long and happy marriage … just out of curiosity, do you want a boy or a girl?"
Bill's teeth flashed. "I think Evelyn wants a boy," he admitted. "We didn't talk about it much … I really want a girl, though."
"Oh, yeah?" Hawkeye seemed genuinely interested. "Any particular reason?"
Bill's grin shut down. "Because a girl can't be drafted and sent here."
Hawkeye's gaze wandered over the post-op ward. "This is no place for anyone," he responded grimly. A moment later, he managed to smile again. "But you don't have to stay. You're going home!"
"Yeah," Bill said, still thinking about how much he missed his young wife. As the statement sank in, his smile returned. "Yeah!"
"Hey, Doc, Bill!"
Both turned reflexively toward one of Bill's squad-mates -- he was ambulatory and holding a camera.
"Smile!" the soldier said, and pressed the button….
Anita continued to stare at the Polaroid, musing that less than two weeks after it had been taken (based on the date below it), Evelyn Hall had reunited with her husband at the VA hospital in Texas that would be his home for the next year. A little over a year later, she had been born.
Gently, she traced the outline of the doctor's face, wondering who he was. More than once, her father had given thanks for the doctors who had treated him: first, the men at the M.A.S.H. unit, then at the evac hospital, then the VA hospital. Those doctors had saved his life -- and, by extension, hers and her sister's. Had it been a job for them? All in a day's work? Or something more?
Sighing, she closed the book. Ricky would be coming over soon, and he'd want these things back in the box. Carefully, reverently, she repacked everything, making sure that the dog tags and the Purple Heart resumed their places of honor at the top.
Someday, she thought, I'm gonna mount all of this stuff -- not relegate it to the back of a closet.
But not today. She withdrew her ringing cell phone and snapped it over. "Van Buren…."
These things belonged to another time, another place; one that shouldn't, couldn't, be forgotten, but one that could wait. The wheels of justice wouldn't.