It's Thanksgiving weekend, and Thanksgiving has long been our favorite holiday. It's a great day to reflect upon the many things we have to be thankful for. Yes, we've lived in difficult times, but we can give thanks for lifesaving vaccines, for caregivers and first responders who give their all, and for so much more.
Usually we present a problem from a great American composer. Today we have one from a prolific composer of yesteryear, Bert Berry. It's all part of a story about our iconic character, Marvin J. Mavin, and how he spent his Thanksgiving.
Marvin J. Mavin, the superstar captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers of the National Checker League, had to make a decision. But there was little question about what decision he was going to make.
In our previous story, Marvin embarrassed himself and his team by violating protocol during a showcase match in Japan. He was fined $10,000 by his Coach, another $10,000 by the League, and in lieu of suspension was sent to the Doublejumper's Rookie League Farm Team in Bayonne, New Jersey, where he was made to spend a month waiting things out as a substitute player.
But worst of all was the trouble he had gotten into with his long-time girlfriend, business executive Priscilla Snelson. Priscilla wouldn't even talk to Marvin for two weeks, and when she finally did, Marvin wished she hadn't.
In any event, Thanksgiving was coming up. Marvin generally spent that holiday with his parents in Berkeley, California. Sometimes Priscilla joined him, sometimes he went alone. But this year Priscilla asked Marvin to join her with her own parents in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Except she didn't exactly ask, and Marvin was hardly in a position to bargain or plead.
Hence, Marvin's decision as to what to do about Thanksgiving was pretty much a done deal.
The trouble was, Marvin didn't get along with Priscilla's parents. Or rather, they didn't get along with him. It wasn't very good with Priscilla's mother, Mrs. Hermione Snelson. But it was much worse with Prisilla's father, Mr. Winston Snelson, who was a partner at the Detroit law firm Snelson, Nelson, Kelson, and Delson, a high-end outfit whose rates started at $3,000 per hour for junior staff and rose to $10,000 per hour for partners. Mr. Snelson also thought himself to be rather good at checkers, and in fact had played while at law school years ago, but went on to a law career when he didn't get selected for a pro team in the amateur draft. He continued to play to this very day in the Metro Detroit Super Suers League, a rather strong amateur organization for players at law firms.
Priscilla's parents lived on a large estate in Grosse Pointe, in a home with 10 bedrooms, 14 baths, a 10 car garage, a horse stable, two guest houses, and around a dozen full-time staff.
On Thanksgiving Day, Winston sent one of his Rolls-Royce limos to pick up Priscilla and Marvin. As usual, Marvin was running behind schedule and Priscilla, waiting in the car, was getting more frustrated by the minute. Finally, Marvin strolled out of the entrance of his apartment building.
"Will you hurry up, Marvin?" Priscilla called through the open car window. "You know how my father hates us to be late."
The look on Priscilla's face told Marvin enough, and he hustled over to the car and quickly got in. "Okay, Prissy, okay, we'll be pretty close ..."
"Don't call me Prissy! And no, we're going to be fifteen minutes late!"
The car sped along but there was some traffic and didn't pull up to the front of the Snelson mansion until 4:30, a full half an hour late.
Mrs. Snelson met the couple at the huge, ornate door, held open by two liveried footmen. She gave Priscilla a hug and Marvin a cold stare. "Don't make excuses," she snapped at him. "You've made Priscilla late and my husband is very angry."
"Aw, gee, Mrs. Snelson, it ain't that late ..."
A nudge from Priscilla was all it took to stop Marvin from saying anything further.
"Dinner will be at five o'clock precisely," Mrs. Snelson said. "That will just leave you time to ... clean up." She eyed Marvin from head to foot. "If that's possible."
"However," she continued, "you have missed the cocktail hour so you will have to go without drinks. You may have some wine at dinner, but that will be all."
"No beer ... ?"
Priscilla gave Marvin another nudge, this time a little harder. "Please, Marvin," she said, "keep the peace and go wash up a little. For me, okay?"
Half an hour later, Marvin, Priscilla, and Mr. and Mrs. Snelson gathered in the mansion's huge formal dining room. Winston merely nodded at Marvin and didn't offer to shake hands.
"At least your dad didn't chew me out this time," Marvin whispered to Prisilla.
"What did you say, young man?" Mr. Snelson said in a commanding voice. "Speak up so everyone can hear you. We don't have private conversations at our table."
"Uh, nothing, sir, I didn't say nothing," Marvin said sheepishly. "Just, you know, asking where to sit."
"You know very well where to sit, and you may all be seated now."
The staff began to serve dinner. There were courses of mock turtle soup, Salade Nicoise, and Dover sole, followed by the main course, Beef Wellington, accompanied by Pommes Anna and a medley of fresh steamed vegetables. Crusty French bread served with Lille butter completed the offerings.
"Ain't we havin' turkey?" Marvin asked. "Thanksgiving, you gotta have turkey. It just ain't American ..."
"I decide the menu at this table, not you," Mrs. Snelson said.
"I told you we should never have invited him," Mr. Snelson said.
"Father," Priscilla said, "please, give Marvin a break. You're awfully hard on him."
Marvin gave Priscilla a look of gratitude but Mr. Snelson went on, "Well, my daughter, if that's how you feel, why don't you insist that this --- person --- marry you instead of leading you on for so many years? Not that I want him for a son-in-law, mind you, when there are so many good men who would wish to court you if you would only let them."
"Hey, Mr. S., I make lotsa money! I ain't so bad ... and Priscilla's my honey." He put his arm around Priscilla's shoulders. She beamed until Mr. Snelson's scowl made Marvin pull his arm quickly away.
"Priscilla has plenty of money in her own right, both from her highly successful career and her family. You may be a checker superstar, and you may get a superstar's wages, but look at you. At heart you're nothing but a bum. When was the last time you took a shower or brushed your teeth?"
"Hey, Mr. S., just because you couldn't make it in the pro ranks don't mean ..."
"Enough of this!" Priscilla's voice was loud and sharp. "Father, Marvin is my intended and you need to accept that gracefully. And Marvin, don't you go throwing gasoline on the fire. Come along, we're leaving now."
"Aw, Prissy, I'm still kinda hungry!"
Mr. and Mrs. Snelson were stunned. Priscilla had never been so forceful with them. They said nothing as Priscilla took Marvin's elbow and steered him toward the front door.
They were putting on their winter jackets in silence when Marvin noticed a checkerboard on a side table in the entryway. It had been said up with the following position.
"Hey, kinda cool," Marvin said. "Looks like all you need to do is ... hmm ... yeah, maybe not ... oh, how about ..."
"Lemme just take a picture, willya? I kinda want to figure this one out ..."
But before Marvin could reach into his pocket for his cell phone, Priscilla had him out the door and on the way to her waiting car and driver.
After they were seated and the car departed, Priscilla said, "We'll stop for turkey at a diner. Just you and I." She smiled. "I think that will be nice, don't you?"
Marvin's only reply was to pull her close and kiss her cheek.
Evidently Mr. Snelson, despite his somewhat supercilious nature, enjoyed a good checker problem, too. A shame that Marvin never got to solve it. Can you? Give it a try; you won't have anyone rushing you out the door. It's some good Thanksgiving fun. When you're ready, click on Read More to see the solution.
16-11 28-24 19-15 24-19 15-10 19-15 11-7 15x6 30-25 21x30---A 7-2 30x23 2x27---B White Wins.
A---Certainly not 29-25 allowing the immediate triple jump 26-1.
B---White gets the triple anyhow!
The Checker Maven hopes you are having the best Thanksgiving weekend ever.