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The Peanut Butter Gallery

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“Fudge?” asked Hawkeye, seeing the edge of a tin in the box that Peg had sent.  Then he saw that it was a bit large for that, and was not surprised when B.J. lifted the lid, sniffed, said, “Peanut butter cookies,” and took a bite with an audible crunch.

Mumbling round the cookie, he held out the tin and added, “Want one?”

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Hawkeye.  He grinned with pleasure as he reached inside.  “Boy, you’re a lucky guy, Beej.  Peg bakes a mean cookie.”  Biting into it, he chewed only a moment before tucking the crumbs in his cheek to add, “Erin’s gotta be one happy little girl.”

“Yeah,” said B.J., a bit glumly.  He nibbled the rest of his own cookie slowly, then put the lid back on the tin and returned it to the big box.  It had already yielded a couple of secondhand whodunnits, four issues of the local paper, long johns, and two pairs of extra thick, multi-striped socks.  It was barely October; but, after last year, he’d taken no chances in his urgent August letter.  Peg had come up trumps.  So, for once, had the U.S. Army Mail.

Hawkeye ate his own cookie while enjoying the centerfold spread of his new girlie magazine, then carefully licked his index finger and removed (and ate) a few crumbs before turning the page.  Silent on the other bed, B.J. reread Peg’s letter again.  Outside the tent was the usual back and forth of personnel, punctuated occasionally by announcements on the P.A.; but nothing Radar said pertained to either of them, and could be ignored.  Still, all good things must come to an end.  Eventually Frank got off duty and came slamming back to the Swamp, announcing loudly that his shift was over and Colonel Potter had replaced him in Post-Op.

“You’ve got the night shift,” he sneered at Hawkeye.

“I know, Frank.”  Hawkeye barely glanced up from the magazine.  “I can read the duty roster as well as you.”

“Better, probably,” put in B.J.  He folded Peg’s letter, which he’d been holding reminiscently, slipped it back into its envelope, and hauled the box of goodies out from under his cot.  Reaching in, he pulled out the tin of cookies, opened it, and held it out.  “Want one?” he asked.

“Don’t mind if I do.” Frank swaggered the few steps over and reached in.

Hawkeye raised a brow and caught B.J.’s eye expectantly; but neither bothered to comment aloud when Frank’s hand came out holding two cookies.  Then his pinkie darted back to snag a third.

“Fudge!” exclaimed B.J., pulling the tin back protectively.

“Fudge?”  Frank brightened hopefully.

“No, Frank,” said Hawkeye, in the most condescending tone he could summon.  “Cookies.  Can’t you tell the difference?”  With a grin, he dropped the magazine to his lap and held up both hands as if balancing a scale.  “Fudge, cookie.  Cookie, fudge,” he said, looking back and forth.  “Different shape, different taste.”

“Perhaps you should ask Colonel Potter for an eye exam?” added B.J. as he put the lid back on the tin.

“Or a tongue exam,” put in Hawkeye.

“Oh, har-de-har-har.”  Defensively, Frank crammed one of the cookies entire into his mouth.

“Don’t choke,” advised Hawkeye.

Stuffed speechless, Frank could only glare back.

Leaving him to masticate manfully, Hawkeye picked up his girlie mag and flipped the page to the next photograph.  Thereafter he was, of course, engrossed.  B.J. opened one of Peg’s paperback mysteries and buried his nose in it.  Finding himself ostentatiously ignored, Frank addressed himself instead to the cookie in his mouth.  When he finally regained his voice, he announced that he was going over to Margaret’s tent.  The door swung loudly shut behind him.

“Well,” B.J. said mildly, not looking up from his book, “I don’t mind Margaret having one of the cookies.”

“If,” said Hawkeye, with the cynicism of experience, “it doesn’t take a detour down Frank’s stomach on the way.”

B.J. looked up.  “She is off duty this evening, though.  I expect he has hopes.”

Hawkeye snorted.  “Come on!  Even Margaret wouldn’t put out for a peanut butter cookie!  Granted, it’s one of Peg’s, but all the same….”  He left it there.

“She outdid herself this time, I think,” said B.J. reflectively.  “Used that chunky peanut butter, wouldn’t you say?”

“Definitely chunky.”

With an air of decision, B.J. reached for the tin.  “Have another?”