The Cold War
2006 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
A powerful sneeze echoed through Barracks Two, followed by a softer, weaker moan that made Sergeant Andrew Carter wince. “Gee, the Colonel’s really got it bad,” he observed, looking toward the closed door to their commanding officer’s quarters.
“There’s nothin’ I ’ate more than being flat on me back sick like that,” agreed RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk. “Nose all blocked up, freezing when you’ve got a fever, chest aching like you’ve got a ruddy elephant sitting on it—it’s just a bleedin’ nuisance.”
The best cook in Stalag Luft 13, French Corporal Louis Le Beau, passed them both at the table of the common room, steaming bowl on a tray in his hands. “I am bringing the Colonel some chicken soup. That will help.”
“Good luck, Louis,” said Sergeant James Kinchloe, sounding more like he was offering up a warning. “You know the Colonel doesn’t like to be coddled when he’s sick.”
“This isn’t coddling,” retorted Le Beau. “This is food. Even sick people eat—that’s how we know they are still alive!”
“You’ll know the Colonel’s alive when he throws that back across the room at you,” Newkirk declared.
“Bah—peasants,” Le Beau sniffed. “The Colonel will not be able to resist this.” He waved the tray closely under Newkirk’s nose. “Smell that—could any man in his right mind say ‘no’ to something that beautiful?”
“You’re forgetting one thing, Louis—I doubt Colonel Hogan will be able to smell it.”
Le Beau turned his nose up at the resistance and mumbled a few choice words in French before opening the door to the senior POW’s room and going inside. He put the tray down on the plain desk and looked over at the bunk beds, shaking his head like a mother watching her wayward child. Colonel Robert Hogan was huddled up on the bottom bunk, turned to the wall, shivering. His beloved bomber jacket and crush cap had been abandoned carelessly on the upper bunk in favor of several blankets which he had wrapped around him, leaving only the dark-haired top of his head visible. Louis came close to the bedside and called in a low voice, “Colonel, are you awake?”
A muffled groan and a sniff from under the blankets was his answer.
“Colonel, I have brought you something to eat.”
Another groan, this time followed by a pleading, “No food.”
“Come on, you must have some of this. It will make you feel better,” Le Beau said, trying to sound tempting.
“Jus’ n’d s’deep,” Hogan slurred from his bed, breathing with obvious difficulty. “Led be s’deep.”
“You are all stuffed up, Colonel. Come on, this will help you.” He reached over to pull the thick layers of blankets down from his commanding officer’s body.
Hogan groaned loudly and tried to pull the covers back up, shivering. “I’b code!” he complained feebly.
“You have a fever; you should not be all wrapped up like that.” Le Beau persisted in his task, until Hogan, too weak to resist, gave up the fight. Le Beau shook his head at the sight of the senior Prisoner of War officer, bathed in sweat, his shirt soaked through, his hair matted and damp, his eyes bright. “See? You are making it worse. Let me help you.” Once again unable to hold up against the small Frenchman, Hogan allowed the Corporal to help him sit up and strip off his shirt and dress pants so he was in just his undershirt and boxers. “You had a mother,” Le Beau complained; “she could not have taught you to abuse yourself like this when you are sick!”
Hogan tried to lie back down, but Le Beau held firm. “P’dease, Louis. P’dease…” Hogan begged, miserable.
“Soon, Colonel. Here,” the Corporal said, quickly grabbing the bowl of soup before Hogan collapsed back on the bunk. “Look. Chicken soup. It is wonderful for a cold, non? It is ma grandmere’s secret recipe.”
“Whud’s zo spessial aboud it?”
“Pebber mates me steeze.”
Louis continued, oblivious to Hogan’s protests. “This is a beautiful preparation that will help you to feel better in no time, Colonel. Take this,” he prompted, holding a spoonful of broth up toward Hogan’s mouth.
Hogan swallowed hard and closed his eyes. “P’dease, Louis, jusd led be die down,” he begged, his cold making his request sound much more fatalistic than it was. “By head feels like id has ten jackhabbers in id.” Hogan started to close his eyes sitting up.
“Just a little bit, mon Colonel, You will see how much better you feel. Come on.” Le Beau pushed the spoon a little closer to Hogan’s face. The Colonel surrendered once again and allowed the Corporal to feed him some of the soup. “See? That’s got to be so much better.”
Hogan flinched as the soup hit his mouth. “It’s hod!” he complained in vain.
Le Beau shoved in another spoonful during the protest. “That’s right—just what you need.”
“Bud you zed I need do be code!” Another bit of soup. Hogan waved a hand in front of his face and turned away to try to stop Le Beau. “Id’s burding by bouth!”
“Just a little more,” Le Beau continued, ignoring him.
The next spoonful that went up was a mistake. Hogan managed to inhale a strong sprinkling of pepper, and despite his efforts to stop it, let out a huge sneeze. He groaned loudly, holding his head, and this time when he fell back onto the bunk, Le Beau didn’t stop him.
“Sorry, Colonel,” Le Beau apologized. He put the bowl back on the tray and covered Hogan with one light blanket, removing the others and putting them out of reach on the top bunk. “It will help you, though, I promise. I will come back with more later—but I will leave the pepper out of it, d’accord?”
Hogan didn’t answer, and Le Beau didn’t push it. He grabbed his tray and left the room.
As he put the last of the soup on the stove, he saw Newkirk shaking his head. “What?” Le Beau asked the accusing faces. Newkirk raised his eyes to the ceiling. “At least I tried.”
“I told you it wouldn’t work,” Newkirk said. “When a man’s sick like that you can’t feed him anyway. Feed a fever, starve a cold.”
“No, that’s not right,” Carter countered. “It’s the other way around—feed a cold, starve a fever.”
“No, Andrew, I’m sure it’s the way I said it—feed a fever, starve a cold!”
“Well it doesn’t matter, does it?” Kinch put in. “The Colonel has both. What he needs is to gargle with salt water to help his sore throat.”
“He didn’t say anything about having a sore throat!” protested Le Beau.
“Do you think he’d be as sick as that and not have a sore throat?” Kinch countered. “A long rest, no black pepper, and gargling.”
Le Beau shook his head and sat at the table. “You are all crazy,” he said. “What the Colonel needs is chicken soup.”
The door to the barracks swung open and the Sergeant of the Guard tramped in. Hans Schultz was a bear of a man, more than twice the size of Le Beau and stronger than almost every man in the camp. But none of that could hide his soft interior, which showed often in his dealings with the prisoners of war. They often used this gentleness to their advantage when planning one of their innumerable sabotage or intelligence capers, with him remaining completely oblivious to their actions—by choice.
“I thought I smelled something wunderbar in here,” Schultz said, floating toward the stove with a light smile on his face.
“Go away; it is for the Colonel,” Le Beau said, turning his back on the guard.
“You might as well give it to ’im, Louis,” Newkirk countered. “The gov’nor’s not going to survive if you give him that concoction again.” He looked at Schultz to plead his case. “Imagine giving a sick man something that makes him sneeze.”
Schultz tore his eyes away from the pot Louis was protecting long enough to look at Newkirk. “Colonel Hogan is sick?” he asked.
“Sure, Schultz,” Kinch answered. “Didn’t you notice him sneezing non-stop at roll call this morning?”
Schultz pondered. “I thought… it was the cold morning.” He screwed up his face, deep in thought. “Has he been breathing in steam?” he asked. “He needs to breathe in steam to clear his sinuses.”
“He’s got a fever, Schultz, he’s not going to want to hold his head over a bucket of hot water,” Carter said
“And he needs to take a mustard footbath. Le Beau, do you have any mustard?”
“Where am I supposed to get mustard?” the Frenchman answered, still offended about the reaction of the others to his grandmother’s special recipe.
“Never mind; I have some back in my quarters.” Le Beau rolled his eyes at the thought of what the Sergeant was keeping hidden in his own personal pantry. “The Kommandant wants to see Colonel Hogan.”
“Stay away from there, Schultz,” Kinch warned the guard. “He’ll bite your head off.”
Schultz twitched his nose, making his moustache wiggle. “Maybe I will get a medal for that, if he does.” He approached Hogan’s door and opened it with a gentle push. “Colonel Hogan… oh, Colonel Hogan!” he sang softly.
Hogan’s men could only shake their heads and watch.
“I know what it is like,” Schultz empathized as he sat next to Hogan, who was bent double on the bunk. “Your muscles ache, they feel so heavy. Your face hurts,” he said, moving in close to Hogan. The American closed his eyes, feeling every word the guard was saying pulse through his body. “Your head pounds… you are hot, then you are cold.” Hogan brought a hand up to rub his eyes and face. “You cannot breathe, and when you have to swallow it is like razor blades…” Hogan frowned, sweating and trying not to listen. “You are so tired, but you cannot sleep…”
Hogan shook his head and moaned. “Schuts…” he started, but the word got caught in his throat and he coughed, a hacking, wheezing agony that prompted Schultz to stand up quickly and move away from the Colonel.
“I will get the cockroach to get you a nice mustard footbath and a bowl of steaming hot water,” Schultz said, backing out of the room. “Don’t worry, Colonel Hogan. I will tell the Kommandant that you are too sick to see him.”
Hogan sank onto the bunk and tucked his arms under his head. “Dank you, Schuts,” he said softly, and closed his eyes.
If he thought he was going to be left alone, Hogan was sorely mistaken. Perhaps he had fallen asleep, he couldn’t remember, but when he opened his eyes, the Colonel was surprised to see half an onion just inches from his nose. Even in his congested state, the aroma made his eyes water, and he knocked it off the bunk and tried weakly to sit up.
“No, don’t move that away, sir.”
Hogan raised heavy-lidded eyes to the voice, only to see the Sergeant had been busy: there were onion slices all around the room, and cloves of garlic had been strategically placed in the office as well. Hogan heard something roll to the floor as he managed to sit all the way up, and when he looked he realized that Carter had put onions and garlic all down his blanket.
“Onion and garlic are great for colds, sir,” Carter said, coming back to the bed now that he had finished spreading around the rest of the stuff. He picked up the onion Hogan had pushed away and tried to hand it back to the Colonel. Hogan ignored it vaguely. “These help ward away colds, Colonel; honest,” Carter said. He sat down next to Hogan, whose bloodshot eyes tried vainly to plead with the young man as he spoke. Hogan just watched as the words passed over his aching head. “This will clear up your system—a few strong breaths and you’ll be clean as a whistle.”
He tried to push the strong onion under Hogan’s nose. Hogan groaned and turned his head away as his eyes watered. Carter took this as a good sign and offered the onion again. “See? It’ll get right through even the toughest stuffiness!” he declared.
Hogan leaned away and, too weak to hold the position, he lay down on the bunk. “P’dease, Carder,” he managed.
At that moment the door opened and Newkirk walked in. “Blimey, Carter, what’s with the vegetable shop?” he asked, putting a cup down on the desk and picking up one of the pieces of onion that the American had placed there.
“Onions and garlic are good for colds,” Carter said defensively.
“We’re not trying to banish a vampire,” Newkirk scoffed. “What the gov’nor needs is some nice, hot tea.” The Englishman approached the bunk and shooed Carter off. Carter screwed up his face but did as he was bid. “Still feeling poorly, gov’nor?” Newkirk said, leaning in toward Hogan, who was still lying with his eyes closed on the bunk, trying to ignore everything.
In the small space Newkirk’s voice echoed in his head, and Hogan just moaned and covered his ear. “I’ve got just what you need, sir. I’ve brought you some tea, from me own private stock. Tea can cure all sorts of things,” he said for Carter’s benefit, “and you don’t have to smell like a pizzeria to do it, eh?”
Hogan’s answer was small and hopeless. “I jusd wad do s’deep. P’deeeease, Dewkirk.”
“You’ll be right as rain soon, sir, you just leave it to me. None of this soup to make you sneeze and onion to make your eyes water—just nice, simple tea.” Newkirk gently drew a feebly protesting Hogan to a sitting position. Hogan hugged his aching chest and leaned forward over the side of the bunk, wishing his well-meaning men would leave him alone. “There you are now,” Newkirk said brightly. He retrieved the cup and brought it back to the bunk, offering it to Hogan carefully. “Here now, drink this up, sir, and you’ll feel a big difference soon.”
“I hade dea,” Hogan objected, shaking his head. “P’dease, p’dease lee me adode.” And Hogan tried to lie back down.
“Newkirk! What are you doing keeping the Colonel up like that?” remonstrated Kinch as he came into the room. He came to the bunk, practically pushed Newkirk off of it, and helped Hogan to lie down. “Now come on, guys, can’t you see he needs to rest?”
“Danks, Kid’ch,” Hogan managed. Ah, how wonderful the bed felt to him. He tried to settle back down under a blanket and closed his eyes, letting all the tension and fatigue drain out of him, when he suddenly felt a blast of cold air hit him in the face. Gasping, Hogan shivered and opened his eyes, only to see Kinch nodding, satisfied, as he stood patting his jacket near the open windows. Hogan started to lose all hope. “I’b freezing!” he complained, and he drew the blankets in closer around him.
“Fresh air—it blows all the germs away, Colonel. It only makes sense, doesn’t it? You’re holed up in here, recirculating your sickness over and over again. How on earth can you hope to get better?”
“He’ll get over ’is cold, all right,” Newkirk muttered. “Then he’ll catch pneumonia!” He nudged Carter. “C’mon, Carter, let’s get out of here, before we all die of Kinch’s cure.”
Kinch shook his head and stopped Hogan as he struggled out of bed to grab the blankets that Le Beau had put well out of his reach earlier in the day. “No, no, no, Colonel,” Kinch said, leading Hogan back to the lower bunk without the extra covers. “You have to let the fresh air reach you,” he said.
“I’b code, Kid’ch,” Hogan complained, but somehow knowing it was hopeless. “I’b sick ad I’b code ad I jusd wad do be deft adode.” Hogan fell into the bunk and closed his eyes, giving up. “Jusd led me die id peace, okay?”
Kinch smiled softly and shook his head. “You won’t die, Colonel. I’ll make sure of it.”
Another intrusion. “What are you doing? It’s freezing in here!”
Hogan recognized the voice but didn’t have the strength to open his eyes.
“Fresh air clears out the germs, Kommandant,” Kinch explained, standing guard at the window in case someone tried to close it.
“This is ridiculous—Hogan will just get sicker!” Wilhelm Klink strode to the bunk and pulled down the extra blankets. He wrapped them quickly and expertly around his senior prisoner of war.
“Gibbing… aid ad cubfudd to the edeby,” Hogan mumbled, grateful. “Hodstedder… hab you shod,” he added, sighing in relief.
“Sergeant, close that window,” Klink ordered.
“But Colonel—” Kinch started to protest.
“Close it before I give you a week in the cooler!” Klink insisted. He shook his head and looked at Hogan as Kinch gave in to the threat. “Though it’s probably warmer in there than in here,” he said. “Hogan, Schultz told me you are sick—I have something that will help you.”
Hogan moaned. “Doe more cures… dey’re killing me!” He tried to bury his head in the blankets.
But Klink pulled the blankets down. Hogan protested as the room had not yet warmed up from Kinch’s remedy, and even the rapidly cooling tea that Newkirk had left on the desk was starting to look good now. Klink pulled a bottle and a small cup out of the pockets of his long overcoat. “You must drink this, Hogan,” Klink said. “It’s apple cider vinegar with salt and honey. It is fantastic for chasing away colds and flu.”
“It’d chase me away,” Kinch observed wryly.
Klink cast a dirty look in the Sergeant’s direction. “You are dismissed, Sergeant,” he said through his teeth. Kinch raised his eyebrows and then did as he was told. Klink filled the cup with the mixture, then turned back to Hogan. “Here, Hogan—have some of this,” he said, pulling Hogan up off the bed.
“Kobbaddatt,” Hogan tried to resist, but it was no use. Klink soon had the American’s face in front of this foul-smelling brew. Hogan gagged, which made his head throb. He closed his eyes.
“Come on, now, Hogan, you’re a big boy; take your medicine!” Klink shoved the cup at Hogan’s face, and the American grimaced and took a tiny swallow. He immediately choked, spraying the concoction out onto the floor.
“Sorry,” Hogan said through gasping breaths. “I cad drink dad s’duff.” He shook his head as Klink prompted him to try again. “P’dease, Curdle, jusd lee me adode….”
Klink let Hogan fall back to the mattress and covered him again with the blankets. “Very well, Hogan; just make sure Sergeant Kinchloe doesn’t try to come in here and offer you his fresh air therapy again. There has never been and escape or a death at Stalag 13, and I don’t want your demise to be the first!”
He turned to leave, only to be blocked from leaving by Schultz. “Schultz, what are you doing here?” he asked accusingly.
“Herr Kommandant, I have brought a mustard footbath for Colonel Hogan. The cockroach is boiling some water for me so the Colonel can breathe in some steam as well.”
“I’b dot doing eddyzing, Schuts,” came Hogan’s weary voice from across the room. “I cad dake eddy bore.” Then, with great effort, Hogan sat up in bed and aimed his fevered eyes at the Germans. “Dell by ben dad if eddyone cubs id here before domorrow mornid I’ll bersonaddy hab him drawd ad quarded!”
Then Hogan fell back in the bed with a groan and closed his eyes.
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Five days later, Hogan was standing in the common room, a tolerant smile sitting on his face. “I just want to say thanks to you fellas for trying to help me when I was sick. All I needed was some complete rest, and once I finally got it, I was on the road to recovery.” He looked around the room. “It was rough going for awhile, but there are lots of ways to cope with illness. Your methods may suit you just fine, but mine was the simplest of all: to be left alone. Now,” he said, approaching Kinch’s bunk, “Kinch, I’d like to offer you my room while you’re suffering from your bout of this ’flu—you can’t really open the windows in here, since everyone isn’t sick, and you don’t want all that fresh air giving someone else pneumonia.” Kinch just rolled over, pulled up his blankets, and ignored the Colonel.
“Le Beau?” Hogan smiled. “If you can tolerate it with all your sneezing, I think you’d get some goodness out of this soup—it’s a lovely broth with just a touch of pepper in it.”
“Colonel Hogan!” the Frenchman exclaimed. “My grandmother’s recipe!”
“It’s not as good as yours, I’m sure, but since you swear by it, I think you should have some!”
“Non, non merci,” Le Beau replied, horrified, with a sneeze.
“Newkirk?” Hogan turned to the Englishman’s bunk, where Newkirk was snuffling into a handkerchief. “Tea?”
“Maybe lader, zir.”
“Carter?” Hogan knelt down and offered the Sergeant the contents of his pockets. “I found these in Le Beau’s pantry,” he said, holding up two onions and a garlic clove.
“D—doe dank you, Colonel,” Carter answered, blanching as the smell from the food made it through his stuffy nose, even without them being cut up. “I dink I’ll jus ged some s’deep.”
“Well,” Hogan sighed, standing up, “I guess you boys might just need some rest. Imagine that! I’ll see if I can get you out of roll call.”
Hogan disappeared. A few minutes later he reappeared, closing the door quickly as protests about the cold weather greeted him. “Well, fellas, I’ve got good news—roll call has been cancelled for this afternoon.” Hogan shrugged. “The Kommandant has a cold and half the guards are down with the ’flu!” Hogan considered for a second. “Hey, Le Beau—do we have any apple cider vinegar and honey? I need to visit a sick friend.”
Text and original characters copyright 2005 by Linda Groundwater
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.