Vern’ s father looked frantically around the house. He just could not find it. He called Vern at work. “Daddy, this better be important. It January, busy season, I don’t have time for phone calls. There are people staring at me as we speak.”
“Screw them. They can wait. It’s going to take more than a few minutes to lose weight. I’m suffering here. I can’t find the chapped lip stuff.”
“No, the stuff I use on my lips when they are cracked.”
“It’s called lip balm daddy. You probably left it in one of your pockets. The doctor is coming, I’ve got to go.” She hung up the phone.
Vern’s father licked his lips. The dry cracked skin burned from the salt of his saliva. He looked around the house. He tried lotion, but that burned too. Then he used ice but as soon as he removed the ice, his lips burned again. Then the cold from the ice started to make them throb. He went snooping around the bathroom cabinets for anything that could make his lips better and using it. At last, he found some eucalyptus spearmint lotion. He rubbed a hefty amount on his lips. At first, his lips tingled then as seconds turned into minutes his lips began to burn even more than before. He used the sleeve of his robe to wipe it off. Frustrated he called Vern at work again.
“Dr. Slim’s office, how can we help you tone up and slim down?”
“Daddy, what are you doing? I told you I was slam busy.”
“It’s my lips Vern. They’re killing me.”
“Again, you are calling for the lip balm. I’ve already told you I don’t know where it is.”
“I give up. I looked everywhere. Can you come home at lunch time and bring me some?”
“Noooo! The house is almost an hour’s drive. Are you kidding me?”
“Vern, you’ve got to help me. I’ve tried ice. I’ve tried butter. I’ve tried conditioner and your eucalyptus lotion.”
“You put all that crap on your lips?”
“Yes, and they still hurt. That smelly lotion makes my lips feel numb and burn at the same time.”
“Daddy, how about you walk to the store and buy some medicated lip balm?”
“I don’t want to. I want you to bring it to me, plus, you know what I need. I’m clueless.”
“Noooo! I’m working. I have to get off this phone before I have another outburst from new clients in the lobby.”
“Fine.” Daddy hung up the phone. He decided to heed Verns advice and walk to the store. The sun was shining. It was fifteen degrees above normal in the small New Jersey town. He walked to the gas station. He felt good from the walk but the wind made his lips burn a little more, so he went to the refrigerators to get a cold soda. He stood there gulping down his 20 ounce when he caught a glimpse of two of his friends from the VFW. They were standing at a counter scratching off lottery tickets. Daddy waved to them. His lips were so dry that he could feel the skin cracking more when he was talking to Vern, so he did not feel up to talking to his friends. He walked up and down the aisles looking for the lip balm. He did not want to ask the cashier, because he did not want his friends from the VFW to know he wore lip-gloss or whatever Vern had called it. He paid for his soda and left without anything for his lips.
Outside the store, daddy thought about just walking home, but if he didn’t get something to soothe his lips he would not be able to attend tonight’s VFW nacho dinner. It was once a month. It was one of his favorite days of the month. Vern would never approve of him eating a plate full of tortillas piled high with cheese, beef, chicken, jalapeno peppers and lots of salsa. Damn it! I’m going to have to walk on base. It’s my only option to find something to repair my cracked sandpaper lips, or I just won’t get to go to the nacho dinner.
The base store was only a mile from the gas station. He was a little out of breath once he got inside. When he walked into the store, he caught a glimpse of what looked like a medical counter. He could not see well because he forgot to wear his glasses. He found a woman wearing a white lab coat over a dress. She looked like a pharmacist. He walked up to the counter. His swollen, cracked, burning lips were throbbing and he did not want to open his mouth full when he talked so he mumbled.
“My lips” He said while pointing to them.
“Excuse me Sir?”
“I need something for my lips.”
“Ok, our lip products are over here?” She led him to a bar stool at a countertop with mirrors. “Is there any color you are looking for today?”
“No, I need it for the puffiness.”
The woman smiled. She pulled out a small tray of samples. “I know exactly what you need.” The woman put on some lip-gloss on daddy’s lips. He felt an odd sensation, but it was better than it felt before. “Do you like it?”
Daddy shook his head in agreement. Then he took the container to the cash register. The cashier looked at him with surprise. Daddy shook his head. “My lips…”
The cashier nodded in agreement. Then she handed him his change. Daddy walked back home. He made himself a sandwich and played video games till Vern got home. Vern came in the door as usual with her hands full of groceries. Daddy continued to play his video game. After Vern sat her bags down in the kitchen, she came into the living room.
“Daddy, I got you some lip balm.”
“You’re too late.” He looked up at Vern. She started to laugh.
“What in nation’s name is on your lips?”
“Lip stuff from the store on base.”
“Noooo, I got it at the medicine counter from the nice girl in the white coat.”
“Did you wear your glasses?”
“Did you tell the girl you are color blind?”
“Noooo. Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“Because, you look a little draggy”
“Yes, like a drag queen. Where’s the tube of lip stuff?”
“In my coat pocket”
Vern went to get the lip product her dad bought from his coat pocket. “Daddy, you bought red raspberry lip volumizer lip stick.”
“That explains a lot.”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought I heard the girl helping me chuckle. Then the cashier was a bit surprised when she saw me. Then I thought I saw the mailman blow me a kiss.”
“Daddy, the store does not have a medicine counter. It was a makeup counter. I hope you learned your lesson.”
“Yeah, you should stay here and take care of me instead of sending me out into this sick world looking for lip stuff.”