Cosmo Kawabata’s “The Nurse”

bro cosThe hospital shook from the mortar shell.

Damn, that was close.

The man I was operating on was a broken mess of bloody parts.  I frowned and looked around for the forceps.

They were just on the tray? What the??

Then I saw them in the dirt of the hospital tent floor.

“Bender, Bender, get me a new set of forceps.”  There was no answer.  I looked around.  Bender was five beds down in the bustling operating theater.  It was strangely quiet.  The loudest sound were that of men moaning while they writhed in pain.  The air in the tent was hazy, filled with fine dust.  A new set of shells struck nearby.

Bender was tending a man with no legs. One had been blown off above the knee and the other had been amputated at the hip.

“Bender, leave him!”

“But Susan, he’s dying,” he said.

“SHIT I know that, leave him and get a set of forceps and some new gut string to tie off this vein, STAT!”

Triage is a bitch, a heartless bitch that leaves men dead, I thought. I was operating on a man without a medical degree, just field training.  It couldn’t be helped though.  The five remaining doctors were completely swamped.  One had been killed last week.

When I get back to Ohio, I going to get into accounting, forestry, anything to leave death behind.

For six days, the Cong had attacked, standing up against the quote, unquote Better trained, better equipped? American soldiers like in some WWII battle.

How I found myself here, I’ll never know.  For the past seven months, I’d been bounced from command to command, always toward the front and here I am.

There is no more of a frontier than this, I thought.

Bender returned with forceps.  I frowned. They didn’t look much better than those on the ground.

“Are they sterile?” I asked.

They were in the sterilizer but I?m not sure how long.

He wiped them down with alcohol.

The ground beneath me bounced, and the left side of the 50 bed tent collapsed.

Commander Reid rushed in shouting, “Everybody out! NOW! Take everything you can but leave the dying and the dead, we’re pulling back.”

“Bender, who can we carry?  Help me.”

With a glance, I looked quickly at the chart of the man I had been working on. Joseph Wainwright from Cedar Falls, Iowa.

He might have been cute at one time but he’d never be cute again.

He moaned.

“This one is dying,” I lied, then said, “Help me with those men over there.”

I then pointed across the aisle from Joseph Wainwright.  Once I set my eyes back onto Joseph Wainwright, I thought to myself, “He was so young.”  I knew that he could live, but only if he was in a sterile clinic with round the clock care.

But here, he was dead.

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