Vern got home from a long day at work. Her father was standing in the living room. He was busy doing squats and bending exercises as he played his video game.
“That’s nice to see you working out and heeding the advice of your doctors.”
“I have too”
“That’s the spirit, daddy.” Vern went upstairs to change into sweatpants and t-shirt. After changing, she went into the bathroom to wash the makeup off her face. She noticed darks spots on the floor, the bath rug and towel. She gathered up the items to wash them. She went back downstairs to the laundry room. “Daddy, what happened in the bathroom? Did you cut yourself shaving?”
“No” He said panting while trying to do abdominal crunches.
Vern decided that it was not worth fussing over. She began to cook pasta with chicken. The entire time she cooked her father did not stop exercising. He was breathing heavily. Vern caught a glimpse of him running in place. “Daddy, should you really be working out like this?”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“Ok, dinner is going to be ready in just a few minutes.” Vern fixed the plates of dinner. She put her father’s plate on his TV table in the living room. Then she made a place for herself at the end of the dining table.
“What is this?”
“It’s pasta with baked chicken.”
“I can’t have all these carbs.”
“Daddy you eat carbs all day. Tonight you’re going to complain about eating pasta?”
Vern’s father sat down in his reclining chair. He wiped his face off with the napkin. Then he took off his hat.
“Daddy, what happened to your hair?”
“I colored it.”
“I can see that.”
“Does it look good?”
“No, no you look Goth. Why did you dye your salt and pepper curls black?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Daddy, are exercising and coloring your hair for a girl?”
“Noooo, my looks are hot already for that. It’s something else.”
“What is it? Are you missing mom?”
“No Vern. I mean yes, I do still miss your mom, but this is all about Christmas. I was nominated as runner-up for Santa Clause at the VFW.”
Vern chuckled. “Daddy, that’s a good thing. Think of all the children you will make happy.”
“No, think of me! I don’t want to be Santa Clause. I’m a war veteran. I can’t do it.”
“So, you thought exercising and dyeing your hair black would take you off the nomination.”
“Yeah, Pete is always Santa. It’s his thing, but if something was to happen to him, I would have to do it.”
“What should we do?”
“I still have a week to lose more weight, shave my head, get violently ill, or leave town.”
“I think you are going too far.”
“But I don’t want to be Santa!”
“Why? The children at the hospital love it when the VFW comes.”
“Yes, I like doing that. It’s just that I’ve always been a helper. I want to be a helper, not Santa.”
“Daddy you are a warrior. You’re going to have to put that red uniform on, lace up them black boots and spread cheer. Santa is a warrior. Every day of the year, Santa is preparing for his battlefield to bring gifts to the children. Being Santa is an honor.”
“I guess you’re right. I’ve never thought of it that way.” Vern and her father finished eating dinner. Vern put up the plates then she brought her father a scoop of frozen yogurt.
“Vern, I can’t eat this.”
“It’s good and good for you.”
“No, if I’m going to be a runner up for Santa, I need to eat like Santa. Bring me some cookies with milk!”