After getting over her case of nerves when she first saw the victim covered in blood, the camp secretary has become my ally. I stand and straighten my hair. There’s a spot of blood on my nylons but hopefully it’s not too obvious.
The door bangs open. “Where is he? Is he okay? Why didn’t you call me at Camp Laurel?” a loud nasal voice demands.
Mrs. Ross answers so quietly I can’t hear her response.
Then the inner door swings back, and two men in uniform enter the infirmary. Captain Wolfe steps forward and shakes my hand. “Miss Myers. Thank God you were here. How’s Jed? The boys outside said his leg was half cut off.”
The man beside him is short and plump, balding on top, with his yellow hair combed over his freckled scalp. Both are dressed in army uniforms and they begin to perspire in the warm room.
“I’m Major Milliken,” the superintendent introduces himself. Since I grew up in New England, I recognize his Boston accent at once. “I’m deeply grateful for your services, Nurse. Is the young man’s leg okay? Do we need to transport him to the hospital? There will have to be a report filed. This is awkward, a civilian doing the surgery. . . .”
He paces the floor, mulling things over. “I wonder if we could submit the Pay Inquiry Form 2142 for the registered nurse before we submit the DA285,” he says to himself and then turns toward his secretary. “Could we do that, Mrs. Ross?”
“Certainly, Major. Whatever you say. I’ll do it right away. Post the employment 2142 this afternoon and the DA285 tomorrow.”
“Hold on a moment.” I’m not usually so forceful but things seem to be moving too fast. “Are you saying you’re hiring me? We haven’t discussed the pay for a registered nurse, the hours of employment, or what my responsibilities would be.”
Captain Wolfe kneels at the side of the patient’s cot, inspecting his dressing. He puts the back of his hand on Jed’s forehead as a parent would, feeling for fever. “You okay, lad?”
“I gave him some laudanum,” I explain. “The laceration was deep, but there will be no lasting deformity, except the scar of course.”
“Young men don’t mind scars.” Captain Wolfe laughs, touching his own face. “It’s their mothers and wives who mind. . . . Before we go too far, Milliken, don’t you think you should interview Miss Myers and be sure she wants the job?”
“Oh, very well. Yes. Will you come into my office, miss?”
There’s something about the miss that irritates me, but I let it go.
“I believe the current pay for registered nurses is thirty-five to forty cents an hour,” the camp supervisor begins—no “How do you do?” or “Thanks for being here at just the right moment.” “I can give you thirty cents an hour.”
My inner eyes go wide at the insult, but I keep my face still. “Major, I just saved your enlisted man’s life. If I hadn’t been here, he might have bled to death. I can work for thirty-five cents an hour and no less.
“I’d also like dinner on the days I’m here, and Captain Wolfe told me the camp would fill up my gas tank and make minor repairs on my automobile if needed.” This part about the repairs is a fabrication, but I don’t care. The officious man annoys me.
“Agreed . . . Mrs. Ross,” he calls, “Can you type up the offer and bring in the forms. This meeting is over. You’ll need to make a list of supplies. There’s already an account at the pharmacy in Liberty and anything they don’t have we can order through the army quartermaster in Pittsburgh. I’ll also assign one of the young men as your first aid officer. Can you come on Tuesday and Friday?” He doesn’t wait for my response.
“The physician at Camp Laurel, Dr. Crane, will come Mondays and Wednesdays. Then we’ll go uncovered on weekends and hope the medic can handle it. I’m going to add you to the payroll as an LEM. . . . That’s the best I can do . . . Mrs. Ross!” He shouts these last words.
“LEM, locally employed man. We hire fellows to teach specialized skills—forestry, mechanics, driving heavy equipment. Most of the CCC boys are from cities and know nothing about working in the woods.
“We also hire cooks, carpenters, and unemployed teachers from the surrounding area. Headquarters in Washington has decided it will help the economy and keep down locals’ resentment about the camps.
“Mrs. Ross!” he shouts again, though by this time she’s standing right at his elbow. “Get Mrs. Myers’s dress size and order her a surplus army nurse uniform. Make it two.”
“I’d like Boodean for my assistant, if he’s willing.”
“Boodean, the young man who was here when you came in. I’d like him for my medic. He was very helpful with the wound repair and may have an aptitude for this kind of work.”
“Agreed.” The little man looks at his watch. “Can you stay and fill out the employment forms and the medical report? I have to go. It’s three forty-five, and I’m teaching the class in business math at four.”
Holy moly! I have to be in Liberty to pick Dr. Blum up by four thirty! Hastily, I make my report about the accident and my medical care and then turn to the employment form. Twenty minutes later, the secretary gives me a nod as I check on the patient in the miniature infirmary one more time. He still sleeps and Boodean sits at his side, but when I look around for Captain Wolfe he’s nowhere in sight.
“Well, I guess I’m done, Mrs. Ross. Is there anything else?”
“No, honey. Thank the lord you were here. We’ll see you next Tuesday.”
As I hurry out the door, a chorus of deep voices startles me. “Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!” Eight or nine young men rise from the steps where they’ve been keeping a vigil for their friend Jed Troutman. “Nice work, Nursie!” a short, bright-eyed fellow calls out.
“It’s Nurse Myers,” I correct, my face turning red.
“That’s what I meant,” the smart aleck answers.
It’s Indian summer and each day is hotter and dryer than the last. Nights are in the fifties, days in the eighties. It’s so hot even the goldenrod is drooping.
Lately, I’ve been reading the newspapers that Daniel brings over aloud in an attempt to stimulate Dr. Blum’s mind. We sit at the table after our midday meal while I peruse the headlines.
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