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

Outstanding Letter Fic

 

 

 

Remedies"

 

by Jimaine

 

A/N: Yeah, I'm back. More or less a reply to the challenge of Friday,

October 25th.

A couple of months too late, *wry smile* I've been out of touch with MASH

lately, sailing other seas under quite another captain's command.

 

Pairing: none, really, nothing specific

Disclaimer: All belongs to 20th Century Fox, I can't lay claim to anything

and certainly don't make any money of this.

Feedback to sbrzezinski@a...

Quite unbeta'ed, but that's the way I want it. Raw and pure.

Dedication: To the list...in case something should happenŠ

 

 

"Oh, what men dare do! What men may do!

What men daily do, not knowing what they do."

‹ Much Ado About Nothing

 

"Things without all remedy should be without regard;

What's done is done."

‹ Macbeth

 

 

***********

 

Dear

Someone.

 

Dear readers. Dear editorŠ

 

The journalists covering the war (*Police Action*) for the papers of the

world give it its appearance, the shape and form visible to the nations, but

it's the letters that instill it with essence. They are the true chronicles

of three years of bloodshed  not the headlines, not the cheerful tones of

the "Washington Post" opening another Movietone reel. These creased sheets

of paper are filled with tight, frantic script that will fade with the

years. Quite unlike the memories; those will remain fresh forever.

 

 

Dear Ma

 

The letters aren't very stylish, but much is expressed by the simple words

that hide the ugliness of reality behind a veil of innocence. He tells of

the lives of the people that matter to him, people he admires. Through his

letters, he involves them in his life, gives back something he's afraid they

may have lost. It's why his letters are important, not just to him. They

help preserve a shred of innocence taken from each of those who know and

care, those who call him Radar and treat him like the brother they never

had.

Letters full of hope and other things they fear they have lost.

In his simple words, the writer captures what everybody is too afraid to

express, not because he believes that the recipient has a particular

interest in the affairs of perfect strangers, but because he feels that he

has to. So he just does it. He writes. Late at night, when his work is done

and his superiors and the rest of the camp have gone to sleep, he sits on

his cot and writes, slowly, diligently, not leaving out a single thing.

Nothing is *too trivial*. One might say that taking care of other people's

feelings is sentimental, just another kind of administrative duty. Other

people ship home vehicles, furniture and other luxury items, and he's

mailing home sheets full of second-hand emotions, just in case somebody

needs them in the years to come.

By the time he returns to the place he's sending them to, back to peaceful

farm-life under a sky that has never seen the phosphorescent glare of

artillery fire, the innocence that allowed him to write the letters is worn

to a frazzle, transparent like a pane of stained glass. The dominant color

is always some shade of red.

Nobody calls on him to reclaim his lost property, though. They don't know

where to look, who to turn to. So the feelings, trapped on paper and hidden

in a cardboard box under a hard-working (innocent no more!) farmer's bed,

are lost to them. They are aware that they're missing *something*Šbut they

can't say what it is exactly that causes the nightmares, the phobias, the

behavior that drives people away and makes relationships difficult or

outright impossible.

All they know is that it started in that Hell Beyond the Sea. Korea.

Eventually, some accept it, and others don't. Some can live with the pain,

others can't. Won't.

His letters are their epitaphs.

 

 

Dear Mildred

 

There are times when he lives in the moment and times when he prefers the

distant past. Quiet, sun-soaked days between the fields and the barn,

entropy dictated by the rhythm of the horse beneath him. Pace, trot, gallop.

Here, he is in control, reins in his hands, and he throws back his head and

laughs wildly at the sky.

 

In the present, he feels everything slipping from his grasp; fingers have

become too old, too brittle, and he has relinquish his hold on the past and

crash back into the moment.

 

Memories tinged with blood become intertwinedŠmemories of nine million dead,

an entire generation, disillusioned and sobered after their initial

enthusiasm, dying on the battlefield called Europe in a war (the Great War,

first in a row) that nobody (as they will say later on) really wanted. The

images merge with sleepless nights in the Pacific, the heat and anxiety

keeping him awake. And then, almost as a post-scriptŠKorea.

 

P.SŠ past sobriety Špast sanityŠ. past savingŠ

 

At least, here he doesn't have to see torn bodies hurled up into trees by

the force of the grenades, doesn't have to anticipate even greater cruelty

once the artillery has finished and the infantry moves in; here, grenades

and shells are at a not-really-safe distance, supplying only the many bodies

on the table in front of him.

 

But slaughter still is an everyday thing, death still a habit. And habits,

be they old or new, die hard.

 

 

Dear Peg

 

For every letter he sends, he gets three in return. The elegant lines of the

pen are a magical thread she spins with love, prayer and bell, book and

candle by the light of new moon. Though it is fragile as spider-silk and

only can be seen by starlight when eyes and emotions are dulled with gin, he

works it into a solid rope, a lifeline connecting him to another reality

that is but a dim fantasy here in this unreality.

Hands need to touch, to connect, and his are never free. The scalpel is

exchanged for the pen when the deluge subsides and disgorges four people in

blood-splattered white.

In spite of the company, he stands alone, drenched and exhausted and

feelingŠlost. The survivor of an international shipwreck.

No day at the beach, Beej.

Hands hold (touch, explore, caress, comfort, cradle), desperate to be full

(of some body or thing), and while the object in his right may vary, he

never lets go of the lifeline in his left. Captain Truman and his helmsman

MacArthur failed to miss the Korean iceberg. Adrift on the ocean of his

nightmares, he has his eyes on the fading shore; with each letter he writes,

every red-tinted lie he tells (yes, he has become quite the expert at lying

by omission), the distance grows.

In the middle of the night he emerges from those icy depths, gasping for

air, awake but still only an inch away from drowning.

 

When he writes to her, he is both author and editor, censoring the truth

with every desperate stroke of his pen. Filtering out the dirt, the blood,

the mindless, numbing fear, the individual tragedies and faces  the clear

liquid he pours into her glass is perfectly transparent. Distilled emotions,

high-proof trivialities.

 

Finest kind.

 

Sometimes he doesn't have the time to write.

Sometimes he doesn't know how to write because if he started, he would keep

on writing and inadvertently tell the truth.

 

Her letters keep coming, as do the cookies and photographs, tangible pieces

of something he's desperate not to lose touch with, and from the magical

thread he spins a cocoon for himself. A shell neither bullets nor shells can

penetrate; it will protect him from other people's feelings as well as keep

his own safely locked inside.

With every day, as he watches the people around him deteriorate, his

determination to make it out of here alive and relatively sane grows. It

grows in direct proportion to his helplessness at the sight of his best

friend turning into one of the ghosts haunting him.

 

 

Dear Sis

 

He cannot help it, melancholy and despair creep into his letters in spite of

his best efforts to sound optimistic.

In a way, he reflects, they are a series of confessions, the feelings he

leaves out of the private conversations with his God. Maybe it's because he

feels that even He cannot quite understand the disillusionment permeating

his every day.

Faith, whatever shape it may take, is still a toolŠand life is the ultimate

victim.

 

Bottled up frustration. Responsibility for the souls entrusted to him.

How to give the very thing one does not have?

How to provide what oneself craves more than anything?

 

 

Dearest Honoria

 

He lets her know that Emily Dickinson put it best: 'Because I could not stop

for Death/ He kindly stopped for me.'

He isn't talking about himself, of course. It's always the others for whom

Death stops. For all he knows, the Grim Reaper has taken up permanent

residence at the 4077. Maybe, he reflects, that's why the fourth bed in the

Swamp remains empty. The symbolic extra setting at the dinner table for a

deceased family member, the unsent invitation for the witch at the feast in

honor of Briar Rose's birth.

He tells her of the music he misses. Tells her in terms of concertos and

poetry how much he suffers, for as much as he prides himself on his

eloquence, he cannot find words of his own to describe how the loss of lives

(he's never lost patients before Korea) affects him. Notes, harmonies and

rhymes have to be his substitutes language.

Smetana's "Moldau"  from source to stream, from a trickle to a flood,

that's how it's in the O.RŠfirst it's just a broken arm and suddenlyŠ

Ravel's "Bolero"  same tune, over and over again, and with each repetition,

the horror intensifies, gaining momentum until the crescendo sweeps him

away.

Mozart's "Requiem"  for those who died in spite of his *acclaimed* superior

skills.

Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", Act II, no. 10, scène moderato  for the

description of the first glimmer of dawn behind the hills when stepping out

of the O.R. after seventeen hours of surgery.

Vivaldi's "Four Seasons", 'The Spring'  to describe the roller-coaster mood

in the camp, especially his chameleon-like tent-mates, who at the most

unlikely of occasions strike a chord of sympathy, and even empathy, within

him, not that he'd openly admit to that, not even under torture.

Only to his sister does he confess that they kindle a longing, a

long-forgotten impish streak in his soul that craves this kind of kinship,

wants to connectŠbut he's too afraid to lose what little is left of the boy

he was never allowed to be to the man he has become.

 

 

Dear Dad

 

The spaces between the words are open wounds of silence. Not clean cuts like

from a scalpel, no, the scalpel is something he uses to preserve life. These

wounds are ugly and deep and dirty, wounds made by lives lost, and the blood

gushing out of them is the blood of others. Slowly but steadily, he's

bleeding out into the growing hollowness within, working with a furious

energy that is either entrancing or appalling to those around him.

He has to admit that the despair and mindless fury burning him out cannot be

remedied by any words he knows, and even the dictionary isn't any help at

all. That's when he gets desperate, some may even say manic.

Unstable.

He notices it, of course, but it is beyond his control. After fighting,

resisting, *enduring* for as long as he has done, the red current sweeps him

away. Where it will take him, he doesn't know. Maybe he'll wash up on

another foreign shore  though he cannot imagine any place more foreign than

where he is now  alone and alive after the tempest (O brave new world that

hath such casualties in it!), or maybe he'll drown. There's that

possibility. He doesn't have a lifeline, after all; his has snapped/ was

severed/ ripped/ sent home/ re-drafted/ killed, and maybe it should worry

him that he no longer cares. The formerly sharp edge of his tongue has

dulled. He is going up against dragons armed with a wooden toy sword.

Language cannot defend him anymore, he realizes, and that moment of suicidal

clarity is the knockout punch that sends him onto the boards. That's when he

stops writing, too afraid that the lines would turn out to be red.

And towards the end, when their stay in purgatory has been extended again,

the edges of the wounds (never enough time or material to treat them, never

enough time for anythingŠ) have turned necrotic, the blackened flesh

poisoning his entire body.

 

 

*******

 

Dear God

 

Letters of that particular kind are returned to sender.

 

 

FINIS