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July 2013

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M*A*S*H drabble: Metamorphosis

Good lord, I am bad at writing short things. Still, go here to request a (long) drabble of your very own http://impulsereader.livejournal.com/48933.html

Title: Metamorphosis
written for litlover12
she requested Radar from M*A*S*H
Word count: 1291


It takes a while for Walter to become Radar.

When he first lands in Korea, Walter is too afraid to take out his bear.

It’s nice to know that he is in his bag, under all his clothes and stuff, but it would be nicer still to be able to cuddle him, even if he had to do it under the covers so no one else could see.

But all the other guys are tough and don’t need a bear.

Or maybe they just don’t know how nice it is to cuddle a bear.

Either way, Walter knows he needs to leave his bear where he is - hidden.


Basic training is pretty simple to deal with.

Do what you’re told.

Do what you’re told to do even when you’re tired and dirty and you don’t want to do it.

You’re in the Army now, Son. Do what you’re told.

In the Army people yell on principle. It’s silly, really, because you’ve already been told you’re going to have to do what they’ve told you to do; couldn’t they at least say it nicely?

It seems not, Walter reflects late at night - thinking about his bear - at the bottom of his bag.


But then - something happens.

The assignments come out.

Sturdily, Walter writes home the news and packs his bag again. It’s good really, because the layer of stuff covering his bear has become distressingly thin; it is a relief to pile everything he can still call his own on top of him. When his bear is safely buried again he breathes a sigh of relief. Wherever he is shipped off, his bear will go with him.


Walter honestly doesn’t know or care where he is going. He simply does as he is told. He has taken to the training pretty well. Sure, he copies out what will hopefully be his next address to send Mom and Uncle Ed, but that's the only detail he really cares about.

He hands over his paperwork when asked and gets onto the bus he is subsequently shoved toward.

After a bumpy ride he is then shoved out.

This is how he arrives at the 4077 Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

It’s a lot of tents pitched in a huge field of mud.

Walter is initially alarmed, because it feels as if he has been shipped to the front.

...and he has been...

He spends his first night frozen in terror, waiting for the cannon fire in the distance, the rifle fire up close.

His bear is still at the bottom of his bag. He is still a vague comfort, but Walter feels that even if he could cuddle him, he wouldn’t be much use against a gun.




“You’re on KP. Report to the mess tent.”


Walter spends a few days dishing out chow and helping mix the chow according to army regulations.

In self defense, he decides food is food.


“Choppers on the way.”

Sam and Eli stop mixing water with the powder of the day to stare at him for a second.

When he notices this, he shrugs. “Choppers’ll be here soon. We might as well shut it down.”

Sam and Eli look at each other.

They keep mixing water and powder, because they are in the Army, and that is what they do.

Walter slows his peeling of the potatoes, because he is in the Army, and he can hear the choppers coming.


A few weeks later, Walter is peeling potatoes again when a tall man comes into the mess tent and lets himself into the privileged kitchen area.


Walter is the only one there.


He shoots to a standing position and salutes as he has been taught.

He holds his position.

He cannot remember what to do next.

The tall man looks down at the clipboard he’s holding.

“O’Reilly?” he queries.

Walter relaxes a touch. This allows his brain to supply the proper Army response.

“Private Walter O’Reilly. Sir!”

The tall man slumps a bit more. Walter hadn’t realized he’d been slumping, but the added slump draws his attention to the fact.

“Son, could you do me a favor and relax a little? I’m a doctor, not a -,” the tall man paused and seemed to be checking something on the clipboard; he flipped a page or two, “Lieutenant Colonel; I’m not an actual Lieutenant Colonel. I’m just a doctor, and I need some help. Can you help me, Radar?”

Walter’s salute wilts. “Sir?”

The Not an Actual Lieutenant Colonel sighs and sinks down onto the counter behind him. “They’re calling you Radar, didn’t you know? They say you can hear the choppers coming, and you’re always right.”

Walter, for the first time since he has become part of the Army, feels he has the leisure to take at least a moment to consider this news.

Of course he can hear them. Of course he is right.

“Yessir, I mean nossir, I didn’t know, I mean...” despite the time to think, he ends up trailing off...

The tall man scrubs his hands over his face. “All right, you know but you don’t know. That’s fine. Let’s just assume you’ll be able to keep on hearing the choppers. God help me if you can’t. Come on, Radar, you’re bunking in my office from now on. You’re going to be my clerk.”

Bewildered, Walter struggles for a split second over leaving his post - where he is busy mixing powder with water to make something which isn’t milk and no one wants to drink. He decides to risk it.


Approximately two hours later, Walter has been given a look at the OR which is actually just another tent, and the Not an Actual Lieutenant Colonel has waved him vaguely about the room which is meant to be his office. More importantly, he has introduced him to the room just outside that which contains filing cabinets, a typewriter, a telephone, and a cot which is to be Walter’s new billet.

Dutifully, Walter has moved his bag into this new space which has been assigned to him.

His bear is still there on the bottom - somewhere. It has been a long time since Walter has seen him.


A full day goes by, and Walter is busy answering this phone which keeps ringing and telling him things he doesn’t want to know; he doesn’t even wonder where his new boss is until he feels the tickle of incoming choppers. It hits him suddenly, this is what the tall man wanted to know, this is why he - Radar - had been tapped for this new, bewildering job.

Duty slams into him like a freight train.

He works at a hospital. The wounded men on the choppers he can anticipate need the help of the doctors at the hospital where he is stationed.

Radar bursts out of his office yelling, “Choppers! Hey, choppers on the way!”

Instantly, people are running and Radar is being slapped on the back. “I knew you could do it, good work Son!”

And Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake is off and running, running into surgery where he will work to save as many young boys as he can. With the help of Radar O’Reilly.


That night - early morning, really - Radar unpacks his bag. He unpacks it completely for the first time since he and his mom packed it in his bedroom back home.

He feels the familiar knobbly fur of his bear for the first time in a very long time. He pulls him out and gives him a cuddle - he’s sure his bear has missed it as much as he has.

He’ll sleep better now; he has his bear and he understands what he‘s doing here, how he can help.

Radar is far from home, but now he has his bear.



I love this. Of everyone in M*A*S*H, Radar's always been my favorite. I don't even like watching the later episodes when he's gone. I love the story of how his bear came to Korea. And Henry having to check his rank!
Thanks very much. Henry was never really one for rank. ;-)

I really like to think Radar somehow ended up married to that nice girl he met on the way home and has a sweet little family eventually.
Oh, my goodness, I almost cried! That was so wonderful and sweet and touching and lovely. It was . . . so Radar. :-) (And Henry was so Henry!) And you worked the bear in perfectly. Just marvelous. Thank you for this.

You should post this on great_tales, if you haven't already!
I'm so glad you liked this! I'm so glad you requested it!

It think this is the first thing I've written that doesn't have any attempt at a 'ha ha' sort of funny, though Henry is a bit comical in a very Henry sort of way.

I spotted a couple of things to clean up - posting something is so very satisfying that I couldn't make myself put it away until morning - and then I'll pimp it on great_tales. I made them make a tag, so I'll feel better when it pulls up more than one little 300-word story!
Aww, Radar was my favorite character. I even started drinking grape soda because of him.
LOL. I liked grape soda at some point when I was a kid, but then it became a 'thing' that I liked it, so everywhere I turned I was being offered a grape soda and I ended up overdosing.

Radar is a great character. So is his teddy. :-)
This works very well,

All the elements knitted beautifully together.

Thanks for posting:-)

Thank you for reading! I'm very glad you liked it. :-)
Oh, this is perfect! I love it, and I love Radar. I always felt sorry for Klinger, because, really how could he possibly live up to Radar O'Reilly?
Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I remember feeling very resentful toward Klinger when he took over. I forgave him eventually, but it definitely took a while.
(Here via litlover12)

I loved this so much! I'm only used to seeing these people there. I sometimes forget that had lives before the 4077th.

The boy with the bear becomes the one who keeps that hospital running. How amazing is that?
I'm so glad you loved it!

It's totally amazing and awesome that the boy with the bear became the man with the clipboard and a 925dashJ filled out in triplicate. Radar is a fabulous character.

Thanks for stopping by! :-)