Tough Love by John Wentworth Chapin

Taped to the front door in an envelope:

Dear Justin,

This morning, you missed your schoolbus for the third time this fall. Dr Pruitt agrees with me that it’s time for something called Tough Love. This Tough Love contract will set up expectations for the future so that we may traverse this rocky path speedily.

TL EXPECTATION: be on time, each and every day. Yes, extenuating circumstances arise, and no, not that frequently.
TL CONSEQUENCE: sitting and waiting, without a snack.
TL GOAL: managing your time and lessening familial inconvenience.

I locked you out of the apartment today because you inconvenience me when you miss the bus. I have to get you to school, and I end up late for work. I hope that you are similarly inconvenienced. Does being hungry feel worse than Mommy felt this morning? Unlikely – disrespect strikes quite deep. If they don’t cover consequences in your gifted and talented program, you may care to research it.

For you to ponder: how gifted can one be if one can’t manage to catch a bus?

Your Mother,


PS — We will keep this contract in the sitting room credenza for future reference.

Also, I have a deposition until about 6:30. If nosy Mrs Wong by the elevator asks why you are sitting in the hall, tell her you lost your key.


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Filed under John Wentworth Chapin

13 responses to “Tough Love by John Wentworth Chapin

  1. Martin Brick

    This has all my favorite qualities: a little funny, a little sad, and it uses the word “credenza.”

  2. Great piece, John. I love the concept, the note that tells so much about the characters and the history that brought up this scene.

  3. Len

    what a great piece of writing. very clever, all the way, from the start to the very finish. loved it.

  4. Kim Hutchinson

    My heart goes out to both of them.

  5. Two well-worked-out characters within 250 words. I’m envious.

  6. Loved this completely! Especially-
    >For you to ponder: how gifted can one be if one can’t manage to catch a bus?<

  7. Al McDermid

    And of course, she’s a lawyer! Great detail, John, and a great piece of writing. My (step) mother’s psychosis wasn’t quite this measured, but in a similar vein, so this cuts a bit too close for me to really ‘like’ it; again; a testament to the writing.

  8. Fantastic piece, John. Details galore, a sweet delicately balanced sad touch, just like life, and really touched me. A fave of mine!

  9. Thanks for all the kind comments, folks! Greatly appreciated.

  10. so good and surprising in its turns. loved the contrast of emotions and “contract”, and the language you developed through it: “TL Expectatation” / “TL Goal” – and the line for the nosy neighbour.

  11. Pingback: Week #31 – Missed the bus | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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