A beauty queen encounters the baffling complexities of war.
| "Jane Rinemore has said she will visit a MASH unit," the opcom intoned into the radio.
"Rinemore ... ssshhh ....MASH unit," came back in a haze of static.
Miss Rinemore applied lipstick as she gazed into a compact mirror.
"Boy, you military guys sure are a business like bunch," the reigning Miss America commented.
"I'm sorry, Miss Rinemore. Things have been kind of hectic since the Tet offensive."
Jane turned and began to search through her luggage.
"Now come on, guys, it couldn't have been that bad. General Highland was just saying we nearly had the enemy whipped."
"General Highland has been scrambling to keep from getting mobbed by the press."
The Miss America pulled a chemise from her luggage, holding it up from her shoulders. Her breasts were pert beneath it.
"How do you think this will work to raise our boys' morale?"
"I'm sure it will work quite well, Miss Rinemore."
"You military guys don't get excited about anything."
"There is a lot going on right now, Miss Rinemore."
"Somebody needs to do something about morale. If you guys want morale, I can get you morale. I can get you all the morale you need."
She gazed at herself critically in the compact mirror.
"The jeep is here."
The compact snapped shut, and Jane turned around.
"A jeep. The officers get staff cars."
"Some of the officers get staff cars. There is a lot going on right now, Miss Rinemore."
The beauty queen walked delicately to the vehicle, acting horrified that she might get mud on her white slacks. The corners of her mouth were turned down, and it was obvious that she was disappointed that she had gotten a jeep.
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There were a few half hearted preparations at the MASH unit. Someone had placed trails of plastic between the Quonset huts and had written "Welcome Miss Rinemore" on cardboard with a black magic marker. However, any observer could tell that the reigning Miss America was not the major business at hand. Two orderlies carried a soldier on a stretcher into the trauma stabilization unit. A heart monitor beeped quietly, and a lung ventilator periodically gave off vacuous hisses. Next to the inert figure on the ventilator a soldier smoked a joint on his bed. His arm was in a sling and the side of his face was bandaged heavily.
"Hey, I can get you guys a real good deal on some Viet Namese black," the bandaged soldier told the orderlies.
"Mr. Headly, you know you're not supposed to smoke that in here. Put it out," the nurse said.
"Sure, anything for you baby," Sgt. Headly answered, ignoring her instructions.
Both of the orderlies gazed at the round and smooth buttocks underneath the nurses uniform. Sgt. Headly gazed too, and then made a face at the orderlies, wiggling his tongue.
There was word that they had facilities in Da Nang to treat the wounded, but they had set up MASH units out in the sticks so they could keep the more severely wounded and other embarrassing cases away from the cameras of the press.
Michael Headly was an E-7 in army intelligence, which meant that he had so many drug connections and was into so many whorehouses it was hard to believe. Some soldiers said he had a big bank account in Australia, and he was going to skip to Aussie land before the Tet offensive.
The nurse and the orderlies left, and the noises of the machines fell into the stillness. Sgt. Headly took a hit on his joint.
"Hey nurse Rackley, when are you going to give me a sponge bath?" he yelled through the door.
"You're hopeless. Put out that joint," the woman yelled back.
Sgt. Headly sat on the edge of his bed smoking his joint.
"Can you believe that? She said I am hopeless," he said to the inert figure on the ventilator. "Want a hit?" he asked, offering his joint.
The lung ventilator gave off a dry hiss.
"Oh yow, I forgot. You don't smoke any more."
He stood up and walked to the center of the aisle.
"I just want to say how much I have enjoyed your company, and if you are ever in Saigon, look me up. You can get high, on me."
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Jane Rinemore's jeep pulled into the MASH compound. She was perched delicately on the front seat, her hand on her dashboard to steady herself. The look of distaste did not change on her face as the vehicle entered the area.
"We'd better check in to headquarters, Miss Rinemore," the driver told her.
"Now I have ridden over twenty miles over the worst potholes in existence, and I have bruises in places it would ot be decent to mention. I told the army I wanted a staff car, and it did not see fit to give me one. I am not in any mood to kowtow to army brass. I tell you what I am going to do. I am going to knock the socks off these soldiers, make their morale go sky high, and then take a staff car home."
Jane strode towards the trauma stabilization unit, but picking her steps carefully. Her face became determined as she entered.
"How are our fine young American fighting men?" She gesticulated. "Now come on boys, you're not going to let that little old Tet offensive get you down are you?"
She strode towards a prostrate figure on a bed.
"I bet I am the sweetest, sexiest thing you've seen all day," Miss Rinemore told him.
Michael Headly stood down the aisle, looking at Jane aghast. He walked towards his bed, looking over his shoulder at her, the same look on his face.
As Jane Rinemore sat next to the severely bandaged figure the sound of quiet weeping came from his bed. The heart monitor beeped quietly in the stillness. Michael Headly went up to a sign he had written earlier in the day. It had originally read "The G.I. serviceman's rights and responsibilities", but Sgt. Headly had written over it - "All who pass through here will be returned to the world good as new". He reached up, stretching a little, and got it off the wall. Miss Rinemore quietly stood up and started towards the door. Michael Headly met her in the aisle.
"Here is what I want from you, baby. I want you to make me good as new ... eh?"
He thrust the heavily bandaged side of his face towards her. Then he pulled his arm out of the sling, showing her a bandaged stump. He tapped the sign with his amputated limb.
"Here's what I want from you, baby. I want you to make me good as new. Good and new," he said following her and tapping the sign.
He slowed down, and Miss Rinemore exited the unit.
"Oh shit!" Michael Headly suddenly said, dropping the sign. There was the sound of glass shattering on the floor.
"I need a shot, Nurse Rackley! I need a shot! I am going to do major damage if you won't give me a shot."
Nurse Rackley came and gave him a shot.
"Oh thank God! You're my Miss America," he said with relief.
The white clad woman turned to leave.
"Hey Nurse Rackley, I know a wonderful little place we can go to in Saigon," he yelled at her.
"No thanks. You guys are hopeless."