Sidney starts doing the lecture circuit back in the United States - back in 'civilization', they call it, because not seeing the horror is more civilized even if you are paying for it. A group back home has started long-term psychological studies on the effects of the Korean War on veterans and non-combat personnel specifically. Sidney is in high-demand, being both doctor and patient.
"It's funny," he always starts his lecture off with, "what you can get used to. I've seen people playing golf in a mine-field."
The entire contribution he makes isn't about the 4077; there's about fifteen minutes devoted to describing a case of a front-line infantry soldier that was court-martialled for not following orders due to psychological paralysis. There's several anecdotes about the two months he spent in the battle carrier group, doctoring navy burnouts and trying not to throw himself off the edges of ships.
"Most of it," he continues, "was just awful. As a psychologist, you watch normal people, good people, slowly driven mad by outside forces. That's never easy to see, but to see it all around, day after day, happening to everyone."
He always puts in a dramatic pause right there, and inwardly shakes his head, laughs, at the mournful faces in the front row. He's been calling Hawkeye by the name of "Franklin", to keep doctor-patient confidentiality - not that he thinks Hawkeye would mind, but being six feet underground means he can't get a legal writ to use his real name and actual army draft number.
"Franklin shot himself last month," he says, at the end of his lectures. The audience is always silent, always shocked. It kind of makes him want to laugh in their faces. "It's funny," he ends with, "even with basic training and the years he spent at war, I didn't think he even knew how to load a gun."
The lecture in San Francisco - Berkley, the fetal beginnings of liberalism, and Sidney's alma mater - is one he's dreading. Lecturing at his alma mater doesn't matter; the department is all new since he did graduate work here. Lecturing in front of television cameras doesn't matter either; the show is live-to-tape and will probably only air for five minutes in the middle of a documentary for public-access television, and then sit in the Berkley library for the next ten years.
It's the face sitting in the third row, in full dress uniform, that means he's swallowing against a dry throat, stomach dropping every few minutes only to soar back up into his throat. It's a nice little roller coaster his stomach is doing, and it means he can't even see the television cameras.
Mentally, he rehearses all the de-stressing protocols he was taught for stress under normal circumstances, in the real world - slow breathing, mental exercises - and really longs to throw a wood cot onto a bonfire.
"It's funny--" he starts, and then mechanically goes through the first ten minutes of the lecture, editing it to begin with the navy, not the 4077. He tells the story of the officers starting a riot below-decks, and the months spent cleaning up. He wastes time on the front-line infantryman, avoiding the gaze of the soldier in the third row.
Finally, he has to look at BJ, has to acknowledge his presence and by extension the ghosts in the room. "There was this place, I used to go," Sidney says, instead of the usual patter. "A mobile army surgical hospital. They performed something over 1000 surgeries in a month, sometimes in a week. Thirty six hour shifts, people on the table constantly - an assembly line of bodies that never, ever stopped."
Sidney glanced up at BJ; his face was in shadow, he couldn't really see him. Sidney suddenly felt very alone, up on the dais with the other expert guests. Because of the cameras, the lecture format was modified to encourage conversation from the audience and between experts. The interviewer said to Sidney, "that must have built incredible pressure," a leading comment meant to open up discussion of various methods of relieving stress in soliders.
Sidney looked at her, to avoid staring at BJ. "They mostly managed, you know?" he said. "Ha-- Franklin, he used to use the mine field behind the hospital as a golf course. They threw the most ridiculous parties. And uniforms?" Sidney laughed, once, and rolled his eyes. "The only day I saw everyone properly in uniform was the day they were sent home."
one of the experts to his right - he thinks the doctor may be a West Point graduate, rah-rah America, Frank Burns without the idiocy to make him vaguely endearing - starts talking about guilt, and how some people just don't have the mentality to handle war and the situation. "They burn out," he says, and Sidney can't help it, he giggles to himself, thinking about Frank Burns tearing up Tokyo waiting for Margaret to stop being engaged.
The interviewer looks at him, as does the expert; Sidney swallows the giggle, and tells them, "I'm sorry, I am, it's just - I don't think it's war." he pauses, and glances at BJ again. This time, BJ's leaning forward, face stony. "I think that we managed to figure out how to prepare them for war, but forgot they'd have to come home again. We never even thought about what happened when our boys got off the plane back on American soil."
Sidney sees BJ get out of his chair, and march up the aisle. He's got a full dress uniform on, buttons shined and polished that Sidney can see from the dais, but on his feet are a pair of swimming flippers. Sidney wants to point the cameras at that, at BJ's feet, and explain to them that that's how people cope, with anything they can, but beside him the other doctor is talking about programs for vets in development, and Sidney turns back, to talk about golf in the mine-field and a bonfire.
He doesn't get to say his final shocking line about Hawkeye quite the way he would like, because after telling the audience about the wake the 4077 gave Henry Blake, he chokes up for a minute, and has to cut himself off. "They were--" and he blinks rapidly - "they are the finest bunch of people I have ever known. They really are."
The interviewer says, "It sounds like this army hospital was the best."
Sidney nods. "It really was. If you got to that MASH unit, you had a 98% chance of going home again."
"That's a phenomenal success rate, for a mobile army hospital, isn't it?"
"It really is," Sidney agrees, and then says, "and it was due to their chief surgeon, it was due to him." Clearly the interviewer has been briefed on Sidney's end of show, and someone has told the other expert to shut up too, because he's got a faint frown plastered on, but he's not interrupting either. Sidney's the guest star, at least, even if it means nothing because BJ's already walked out.
Sidney looks to his left, to his right, out into the audience, and then tells them, "They were the finest doctors in Korea, but no one bothered to even try and prepare them for coming home. We stuck them on a plane bound for Hawaii without a second thought, and we're surprised when they couldn't deal."
He shakes his head. Sure, it's staged, his reactions, even the tears in his eyes, it's all staged, intended to convince the powers-that-be to fund the vet programs they're pimping for. Sidney doesn't care. He finishes with, "I've been telling you about the chief surgeon, Franklin, all night - telling stories, anecdotes, telling you all about how strong he was, how he and the others at that MASH unit kept afloat together. Do you know what he did when he got home to Crabapple Cove, Maine?" He shouldn't say the real name of the town, but Sidney doesn't really care - people probably think he made it up anyway. He can't keep a little resentment seeping into his voice, for the indifference, for all the-- and he says, "he shot himself in the head. That's what we did to him. He survived bunkers and mortar attacks hunched in caves, forty hours straight of sewing eighteen year olds up - stringing their insides together, meatball surgery at its worst - he survived army food, no showers, blizzards with no boots, everything. And you know what we do to him? He shot himself in the head last month."
The interviewer looks down at his notes, surreptitiously, and it's clear that Sidney's departed from script slightly. He tries to calm down, tries those inane breathing exercises again. Finally, he says, "I have no idea where he could have possibly got a gun from - he hated them. I can't believe he even knew how to load one."
the lecture is a success. Sidney goes to the hotel bar for a martini or ten, and wipes salty water out of his eyes as he orders. He tries not to wish it tasted a bit more like boot polish.
BJ sits down beside him, still in uniform, only this time he has black shoes on, not the flippers. "Nice touch," Sidney says by way of introduction, "though you should have got yellow, not dark."
BJ shrugs. "They didn't have any, and it was kind of last minute," he says. The bartender comes over, and BJ orders soda water with lime.
"Good for you," Sidney tells him, points to the glass. BJ shrugs. Sidney shrugs too; it's not the same. it doesn't work. They both know it.
"I wasn't going to come, you know," BJ quips. "But I figured, hey, I'm in town, I'll stop by."
"I saw your name on the panel sponsors, but I didn't think you'd be there tonight." That's not a lie; the reason Sidney took the engagement was because he didn't think BJ would show up. Even with BJ and him on the same team, working for the same organization for vets, he hasn't seen the man since inchon. "We missed you last month."
"Yeah," BJ says, smile dropping off his face. "I -- Peg was in the hospital, I couldn't."
Sidney says, "We had your picture on the board," and then, "it's good to see you."
BJ sips his soda water; Sidney thinks about the pictures on the board at Hawkeye's wake. Him, Frank, Henry, Klinger. Missing or gone; missing or gone. "I hate soda water with lemon," BJ comments.
"I would think so," Sidney tells him. "I would think so."
BJ puts the glass down, picks it up; says, "Radar said you guys burned his stuff."
Sidney smiles, fond; "we threw it on the bonfire, but good."
A pause; a smile, then, BJ starts laughing, laughing so hard he leans over the bar, partly holding onto it for support. Sidney starts to chuckle, then he puts his martini down and lets the gut-shaking laughter out too. Sidney pictures the frown on the face of that West Point doctor, and just laughs harder; BJ sputters something about flippers, and they just keep at it.
Eventually Sidney calms down enough to wipe his eyes of tears, for a different reason, and orders a drink. He asks for cheaper vodka in it, and the bartender looks at him funny. "The cheapest you've got!" BJ cries. "Homemade. Put some formaldehyde in a glass and add an olive; that's what we're looking for, man."
When the bartender brings it, Sidney sips, then asks for the tabasco sauce and salt. After dumping a little of that, as well as a piece of mint gum, into the glass, it finally tastes half-right. BJ takes the glass from Sidney, sips, closes his eyes, and Sidney quietly orders another.
While Sidney's playing around with their second round, adding skittles this time, BJ holds his glass up and mumbles, "to functional alcoholism."
Sidney clinks his glass. "To functional vet programs," he says, and BJ clinks his glass.
"To the 4077," BJ says quietly, and Sidney drinks long and hard after that one. To the 4077 indeed, he thinks, prison that it was, hell that it was. To the 4077, and the people who managed to get Stockholm syndrome there.
By this time they're on several glasses of the cheapest american vodka the bar had, and about six pieces of gum sitting slowly dissolving in the bottom. Sidney giggles, and says, "to swim flippers."
BJ clinks. "To swim flippers."
They end up stumbling up to Sidney's hotel room and passing out without even taking off their shoes. Sidney wakes up, and looks at BJ's wrinkled, day-old, faded dress uniform, and the out-of-place, still-polished civillian shoes. Then he looks down at his own feet, and realize he's wearing combat boots.