M*A*S*H Slash Awards 2004, Third place:

Outstanding Angst




"Hollow Men"


by Jimaine


Okay, today's story is brought to you by Mr. T.S. Eliot.J The man must have been thinking of

Hawkeye when he was writing this. Combine Eliot and "Apocalypse Now" (Coppola and Eliot sharing

one source of inspiration after all, Mr. Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'), then the mood is set.

Imagine, that after six years of trying and never getting past the first half-hour, I finally made it through

that movie!


Pairing: Hawkeye/B.J.

Rating: PG

Archive: at mash-slash, T'Len's & Lady Charena's place, and all ye who ask shall receive!

Disclaimer. MASH belongs to 20th Century Fox, the poems to T.S. Eliot and those who are entrusted

with his legacy, and I really, really don't make any money with this!



"Non sum qualis eram."

(I am not as once I was)

- title of poem by Ernest Dowson (1867-1900)




(We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!)


The lines blur before his eyes and he rests the slim volume on his chest, briefly allows his head to fall

back on the pillow. The thin, striped, lumpy Army-issue pillow perpetually smelling of sweat and

mildew. Does he want to know exactly what kind of microorganisms are living on the fabric? No. If

anything, he reasons, they have a far happier, much less troubled life than them humans and rightfully

deserve the pillow. They live on it, after all, only to be disturbed occasionally – very infrequently – by

the dark head that comes crashing down on them.


 (Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass

Or rats' feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar)


The past few days have once again reminded them of their limited abilities, emphasized once again

(every time is one time too many) that they're men, not gods.


The notion that all their hard work, their sacrifices, has been for naught is too much to contemplate

right now. Screamed orders, muffled curses, names of people and surgical instruments…quiet and



Tense moments elapse as his hands become slick with sweat in the afternoon heat. He wipes them on

his pants, then wipes his face with the discarded shirt. His throat feels desiccated and scorched, he

decides that he needs another drink.

Soon it'll rain.


(Shape without form, shade without colour,

Paralysed force, gesture without motion)


Shapes and shades, waiflike beings drifting through the camp, khaki-clad chameleons blending into their

surroundings as they hurry through the mud. He hears a jeep passing at just-above-regulation speed and

the vehicle hits a (by the sound of it sizeable) puddle. Someone's angry shout follows. Give it an hour,

and the evidence will be gone, tire-tracks and footprints and dirty clothes. The monsoon effectively

erases all traces of their actions.

With the exception of shell-craters and graves, the surface of Korea remains untouched. There will be

no permanent record of their presence here.

No footprint will remain to tell of some frantic run to the OR, no tire-mark to document the never-

ending trek of ambulances. Even the memories of paralysis in the face of carnage will fade.

The only record there'll be are the scars they leave on the bodies and the gratitude they receive when

'the bodies' regain voice and thought. That is proof that life cannot be blotted out completely, the proof

they just have to settle for.

Demanding more would be…well…


Turning the page, he smiles, but without a scintilla of humor.


Four surgeons at the 4077th. And of each of them, there are two. One a doctor…and one a victim just

like the boys they're trying to heal. They have long since become *them*, casualties treating casualties.

Now where did that thought just come from…?


Like many of the great literary minds Eliot exquisitely captures the unique essence of horror, unchanged

throughout history. However, college professors and books fail to paint the picture beneath the words

in its true colors...and he feels a little nostalgic for his lost student-naïveté.

Maybe that's why Charles keeps the book around. To recall days when words were just words and

rats' feet didn't involve actual rats?!


He appears to mull the question over for a moment, then shakes his head.


(Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom

Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost

Violent souls, but only

As the hollow men

The stuffed men.)


Do they remember, he wonders. The men who arrive in pieces, their legs five minutes ahead of their

arms, their guts two minutes after their maimed torsos – what do they remember? Pain, for sure,

voices, noise and mindless fear. Yeah, they probably remember fear most acutely. There hasn't been

one man yet in whose eyes he's not seen fear. Fear is universal.

But do they also remember those who tried to save them? What kind of memories are they allowed to

bring with them to that other place? Maybe there's some kind of censorship.


If there is, they'd better remember family, ice-cream and apple-pie, somebody singing 'Happy Birthday'

to them, and not the smell of ether and their own screams fading with the steady hiss of the gas. Not

the faces hovering above them, each 'I'm sorry, kid' hidden by a white mask.


If they do remember, are the memories sharp images or just phantom shapes in blood-spattered white?

And are they aware that they take pieces of their want-to-be saviors with them when they cross over?

They are who make them the hollow men, one death at a time.





(Eyes I dare not meet in dreams

In death's dream kingdom

These do not appear:

There, the eyes are

Sunlight on a broken column)


Much like the eyes looking back at him on those rare occasions when he decides to shave properly and

deigns to use a mirror. This must be what it's like to pay for one's sins while still alive. If only he could

remember what it is he's done wrong. Stolen apples…no, the upset stomach afterwards usually was

sufficient punishment. The occasional broken window…which Dad paid and he got grounded for.

Minor infractions in a world of grown-ups. The things adults do are far worse. And their eyes (blue,

brown, green, gray) tell the tale, tell the truth.



(There, is a tree swinging

And voices are

In the wind's singing

More distant and more solemn

Than a fading star.


Let me be no nearer

In death's dream kingdom

Let me also wear

Such deliberate disguises

Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves)


Or khaki. Or white that becomes red. Only the skin is real. And sometimes even that feels like a

disguise. How long can fragile skin hold together what's locked inside? Uneasy and restless, he shifts

on the narrow expanse of his cot, the metal creaking softly, and absently he wonders where their

loyalties will ultimately lead them. With every line, the darkness from outside encroaches further upon

his circle of awareness until reading becomes something of an effort in the dim yellowish glow of the



(In a field

Behaving as the wind behaves

No nearer --)


Behavior is a matter of training, governed by external stimuli, and the same thing goes for politics. Age-

old patterns taught, and learned, and applied, patterns of power and ideologies. They might as well be

reenacting another chapter of 'Gulliver's Travels'. He only vaguely remembers the book, but a sigh, an

off-hand remark in the OR always brings it all back. Swift's poorly-disguised criticism that is too real in

its fictitiousness, the author's voice too distinctly heard in the narrator's words.

People go to war over the strangest things. Communism, democracy, racial and religious issues…on

which end to open an egg.

The things they fight about…are they worth fighting *for*?

People die on either side, so supposedly everybody's right, no exceptions are made when it comes to

the loss of life. They are both right and wrong and fighting for the biggest nothing in history. And in

spite of their combined efforts, they fail again and again, soldiers and surgeons alike. Nobody wins.

Everybody loses.

They're stalks of wheat in the battle-field, flexible and strong, but the wind blows mercilessly, and they

can only bend this far…


(Not that final meeting

In the twilight kingdom)


There and there alone the final decision on right and wrong is made. And when they're dead, who cares

if they were right or wrong? Maybe it's a good thing that the only enemy he has to worry about is

Death. Capital D.





(This is the dead land

This is cactus land)


No cacti here, this is Korea.

Eliot never got here, only his writings, here in his hand, and it reads like a summary of everything he

won't allow himself to feel. It feels good to let someone else do the feeling.


(Here the stone images

Are raised, here they receive

The supplication of a dead man's hand

Under the twinkle of a fading star.)


They certainly get many of those. Dead men's hands. Supplications are more frequent than supplies and

the only things twinkling are things of steel, scalpels, dog tags, bullets and shell-fragments.

Bright and shiny things, both of the life-giving as well as of the life-taking kind. Odd that they're so

similar in their inorganic, precise beauty.


If they survive, maybe these people – who arrived as supremely confident-looking men and now have

been reduced to wounded bodies with equally wounded souls – will find a moment to share this

particular expression of their doctors' worn humor, this cynical outlook on life.

*If* they survive.

After all, what else is 'if' but a middle word in 'life'?


(Is it like this

In death's other kingdom

Waking alone

At the hour when we are

Trembling with tenderness

Lips that would kiss

Form prayers to broken stone.)


There are too many people who have already gone there, to that other kingdom. It's not as if they let

them. They just…go. Some because most of what made them living human beings is missing when

they arrive here, others because they simply want to be dead with their friends.


Slow, shuffling steps outside, then the door opens to admit another hollow man, fatigue in his eyes and

his silence, it's wrapped around him like a garment. One already too threadbare and fraying at the



Maybe that's why they call Army clothes 'fatigues' in the first place.


"Lost five in Post-Op", is all he says before dropping onto his cot and turning his back on the world.


He doesn't need to watch his friend's face to see it change, see boyish features settle into planes and

hard angles. Later that night, he knows, he'll wonder yet again how a face of stone (_Broken stone…_)

can have lips that soft. And how deep within the tears might be buried such as not to break through.





(The eyes are not here

There are no eyes here

In this valley of dying stars

In this hollow valley

This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms


In this last of meeting places

We grope together

And avoid speech

Gathered on this beach of the tumid river)



With a sigh of resignation, he puts down the book and rises. It hurts…maybe it's weariness, maybe the

alcohol, or maybe both and something else entirely. Whatever it is, it hurts. His muscles protest as he

moves over to stand by the other cot and gazes down at the inert body.

The cure for his pain…for the symptoms at least.

Human kind cannot bear very much reality indeed. And love is simply another complication. It's not

B.J.'s fault, it's just the way it is. Hollow plus hollow doesn't equal full, they'd be foolish to think so.

Once he'd believed it possible, but that was taken away from him in a hung-over haze of heat and tears

and a nervous kiss to his cheek ("He's gone, Hawkeye."), and now – today – he is too frightened by the

thought of what he might do to feel another hollowness again…just once, one more time. And he rids

himself of the temptation by yielding to it.


"Look at me. Hold me," the silence of his touch cries. B.J. turns from it, refusing. But it is never a

question with him. Another caress of the shoulder, fingers combing through thinning ash-blond hair,

brings about mute surrender. Wide, slate-blue eyes gaze up at him. Tired, so tired…

No visible tears. B.J. never cries and he has long since stopped wondering why. Now it's a fact he

accepts, just like bad food, the smell of dirty socks, and frightened eyes that close with a flutter,

sometimes forever, when the black rubber mask comes down and the gas takes effect. Sometimes,

there are tears…the patients cry whereas their doctors can't. The only time he remembers B.J. crying

was in the aftermath of a letter.


One hand creeps into his and holds it.


(Sightless, unless

The eyes reappear

As the perpetual star

Multifoliate rose

Of death's twilight kingdom

The hope only

Of empty men.)


The stars are the eyes watching them. They see what human eyes tend to – choose to – overlook, all

the flaws of existence. Observant, never missing anything. Never judging, and yet he feels naked, on

the outside as well as the achingly hollow inside.


His thumb gently strokes the hollow of the other palm. _Twinkle, twinkle, little star…_


There's no wishing on stars here, not for them. Even less so today when the sky is heavy with clouds

ready to release the afternoon monsoon.


They sit, and even though it's hot and humid, they are both cold and shivering, and their hands stay

clasped together, Hawkeye silently telling B.J. that he shares his pain, and B.J. replying in kind. Their

eyes are open, but their voices are closed.


And the first drops fall. Strangely enough, they aren't red.





(Here we go round the prickly pear

Prickly pear prickly pear

Here we go round the prickly pear

At five o'clock in the morning.)


A children's nursery rhyme…something B.J. might - *should* - tell Erin as he stands in the playground,

pushing the swing. And Erin laughs and says she's a bird. Higher, Daddy, I have to fly higher…


"Beej." There's no need to say anything else. He tries an encouraging smile and surprises himself by



"Hawk." The reply is just as concise, as is the motion with which he makes room for him. Everything

else is said through the kisses that now follow.


 (Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow)


The shadow hides the action. The rain hides the sound.


(For Thine is the Kingdom)


And for as long as they're here, they're each other's.


(Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow)


'For though I walked alone in the valley of Death –'


(Life is very long)



It is. And it isn't. Some lives stretch into forever, days into months, and others end abruptly,

unexpectedly. It's a daily guessing game…what'll it be today? Will today be the end, or will there be

another day? With every passing day, the 'when' in 'when they get home' looks more and more like an

'if'. And with every passing day, denying it becomes harder.


(Between the desire

And the spasm)


— is Korea

— is too much

— is them

— is the memory of someone else, but he's officially gone and gone now, B.J. can taste it on

Hawkeye's lips, hear it in the sighs breathed into his mouth.


Such a very inconsequential bit of contact and yet they feel as if fresh life is flowing into their bodies.

They bend beneath the wind once more, each pouring what he can spare of himself into the other's

hollowness. Filling it up…only to drown in it.


(Between the potency

And the existence)


What is there that can possibly fit between those two concepts? Or between them? The question

rapidly fades from Hawkeye's mind, though.


(Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom)


— and the power and –


(For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the)


— the glory, forever and ever.




(This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.)


…as do they.