The ridiculous battle, hopelessly lopsided in the enemy’s favor, sent deserters scattering into the flaming woods, shot hopeful messengers down in their tracks, and, perhaps as an afterthought, stuffed the triage tent to the flaps with wounded soldiers. The overblown histrionics, the saucy horse that trotted into the tent strapped with dynamite, might have struck a jaded audience as faintly humorous.
Not liked by the other nurses was Nurse Packer. Not only did her uncanny cure for death lend credence to her superiority, she also talked funny, and Dr. Sago’s efforts to downplay her shady zombies came across as plastic and forced.
There she was, this Rasputin-like nurse, face-slapping three soldiers to life, and instead of taking a break afterwards, she took her wartime cunning and transparency center stage and boasted about her straight ‘A’ average and her lonely nights at the library with Machiavelli and Hobbes and her dedication to Truth and Beauty, and sometimes Justice, all of which ushered Dr. Sago atop a stool and placed upon his nose a clothes pin. After all, he honked, he didn’t go around crowing about masturbation, not anymore. When Nurse Packer accused him of complaining too much, he loudly protested. Initially, these displays garnered smatterings of laughter.
Later, after stitching up some buttocks, Dr. Sago turned his deep blues to see Nurse Packer mounting Private Parings, an amputee burning with typhoid, and proceed to ride him as a sedulous ape might ride a rabid thoroughbred. The doctor ran to the private’s rescue.
“Nurse Packer, what is the meaning of this?”
“Dude’s a tough nut to crack.” She threw back her head, raspberried ongoing canon booms, and broke into a showy trot. “Beat it, Doc. Ain’t ya got no respect for the living dead?”
He grabbed her tattooed arm. “But what of your laying on of hands method?”
“Shit got old.” She lost her cap and her reddish gold hair bun broke.
“Parings? Pairings!” Dr. Sago clasped the private’s wrist. “This man is dead!”
“Again? Fudge. Gimme a sec.” Nurse Packer throttled Pairings. “Shovel, man, shovel! This ain’t no Easter parade! Or is it?”
Pairings woke up in heaven and died.
Later, in a shabby corner whistling with canvas-ripping bullets, Sgt. Welt stopped screaming under Nurse Packer’s driving ankle kicks. Dr. Sago scuttled over and examined the patient.
“Nurse Packer, the sergeant is in shock!”
“No shit, Doc? Huh. He was dead five minutes ago.” She pointed North without missing a grind. “See Miller hustling that stupid nurse in the corner? He’s totally dead.” She filled her dimple with her fingertip and flapped her eyelids. “Yeah—next.”
The doctor swayed and pulled down his cheeks. “It’s a miracle, people. A goddamn—”
Nurses manhandled the doctor behind a hot stove.
“Your star nurse’s lecherous behavior is deplorable,” Nurse Melodious said, pushing his shoulder. “And her so-called miracles have been molesting us!”
Nurse Sadie grumbled, “One of them savaged me with a tongue depressor.”
“My purse has been upended!” an unseen woman shouted.
“It appears as if someone slapped a ruler on Packer’s forehead, drew her eyebrows on one edge, leveled her bangs on the other. Pshaw.” Nurse Clemens received reproaching looks for her rather tepid remark, so she added, “And she dyes!”
Nurse Cummings worked her tongue. “Why, my fillings are gone!”
A resuscitated medic skittered down her back like a drunken spider, and said, “Nice legs. Are they real?”
The doctor turned his head and coughed. “Nurse Packer’s giving these boys something to cling to. Hark! Dost she speaketh?” He turned and a heavy wad of red gauze socked his head mirror.
Nurse Funk laughed. “Serves you right, doctor. She’s a filthy monster maker, she is. How can you possibly defend her? I do believe you’re having relations with her.”
“I’m married. I don’t have relations with anyone!”
Pairings, feeling his oats, smashed a bedpan over Nurse Funk’s head, ripped off her white skirt, cradled it against his rib, then hopped for cover.
Private Hastings returned to life after Nurse Packer initiated her quasi-revolutionary suck-out-the-bullet maneuver, then he popped up fresh as a daisy and gave Nurse Melodious a whirl.
Corporal Gervis, who had perished during an audacious torso amputation, returned to life with Packer’s assistance and made love to Nurse Meeker, who matter-of-factly demurred.
Near the front flap, Nurse Packer pulled back from her patient’s wide-eyed smile and winked. Others left cots and chased nurses. A head snapped a tent pole, then splashed into a bucket. Bullets and bayonets ripped through canvas. Private Pairings hip-hopped through the mayhem, dropping such spoils as jewelry, gold and silver teeth, pipes, purses, and pistols into medical bags. Medics carried in more casualties.
Dr. Sago hurdled a cannonball, then raced after Nurse Packer as she skirted the tent’s perimeter, assisting her in gathering up the bags while muttering congratulations to himself upon having found a mercenary as serviceable, energetic, and free from honorable ideas as the asylum could offer. They fled the rollicking tent in a zigzag and swung atop Dr. Sago’s dancing horse, stuffing saddlebags. Under a bright silver sky with no sun, Nurse Packer took reins and horn in her fists.
“Laid it on a little thick in there, didn’t ya, Doc?”
“Yes, but, I dare say I am losing sight of my role.”
“Back up about three inches.”
Dr. Sago pressed his giggling grin against her shoulder, gripped her body like a handle in a fist, then grittily, grimily, and with a “Yah, mule!” they galloped away over ruts and rises, through smoke and gunfire, bound, God willing, for their next humanitarian farce.
Banner Image:By Staff Sgt. John Etheridge (https://www.dvidshub.net/image/1475264) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons