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Pretty Much a Gift

My sense of gratitude seems to have grown with time. I feel grateful about as often as I need to pee, which these days is a matter of minutes more than hours. Age probably has as much to do with the one as the other. At seventy I’m able to see most of the ways that what I used to take for granted could have been otherwise. I’ve watched the crapshoot long enough to know all the various combinations on the dice. As their similar spellings might suggest, an awareness of the gratuitous goes hand in hand with gratitude, a sense that anything good in your life, even something that might seem deserved, is pretty much a gift. Better people than you have gone without it.

Illustration by Michelle Thompson

My Father’s Toe

My father recently lost a toe. The second one on his right foot, lopped off in an outpatient procedure, quick and painless. Such a funny thing to lose, everybody thought—my mother, sisters, brother, the grandkids all finding much levity in the situation. They call him “Nine-toed Joe” now, and for his birthday his granddaughters gave him customized white tube socks, the ghoulish gap of his little amputation rendered with a red Sharpie. My father found the gift hilarious, and wore the socks proudly with his new sandals right through to Halloween. I laughed, too, pretending not to find it disturbing and macabre. His toes had become grotesque with old age, as toes do when you approach eighty, after decades of punishing footwear: Army boots, oxfords, wingtips, Chuck Taylor Converse All Stars on the basketball court, running shoes in which my father pounded the pavement, training for marathons he never ran. Now he’s barely able to get any shoes onto his feet in order to make it to church.

Illustration by Nicole Rifkin


Thundering down, a cataract from a high plateau, raising billows of dust, manes, tails, whinnies rippling like banners, a glamorous species, captive yes, but not entirely subdued, they—oh, no, a fellow in that ridiculous getup pops up from behind a rock and pulls out a—bink! That’s enough, goodbye stupid old show, time for a cup of tea. Pulls out—bang, bang, bang. Yes, sensible Cordis decides, not a drink, time for a nice cup of tea.

The dog, a parting so-called gift from unfortunate Mrs. Munderson, peers at the blank screen, baffled, then paws at Cordis. Moppet is not glamorous, except in the most trivial sense; Moppet is cute. What does Moppet want? A treat? A tickle? A furlough?

Illustration by Chris Ware

Jordan W. Lint, Installment #2

Chris Ware contributes the second installment of “Jordan W. Lint,” a “serialized pictorial fiction,” to the Spring 2008 issue of VQR. Ware’s new project tells the story of the fictional Jordan W. Lint by illustrating single days from each year of his life. Illustration by Chris Ware Illustration by Chris Ware Illustration by Chris Ware