It was three weeks since Marvin J. Mavin had angrily left Priscilla K. Snelson's condo. Three weeks with no contact at all, not even a single text message, let alone a phone call or in-person meeting.
Marvin was the superstar captain of the Detroit Doublejumpers in the National Checker League, and Priscilla was his fiancee. She was the CEO of Rust Belt Holdings, a major international conglomerate. They were something of an unlikely pair, but they had been seeing each other for quite a few years.
The cause of Marvin's rapid exodus was Priscilla's demand that he cut his trademark dreadlocks prior to their upcoming wedding. Upcoming? It was only two days away.
After their fight, Marvin wasn't sure what would happen. As the days wore on, he was less and less sure, until finally he didn't know if the wedding was on or off. He asked a few of his friends, those who had received invitations, and they said that they hadn't heard from Priscilla about a change in plans or a cancellation.
Many events at which Marvin was supposed to be present had come and gone. Or at least the dates had come and gone. There was Priscilla's dress fitting. There was the cake tasting. There was the meeting with the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, who was a personal friend of Priscilla's and was slated to officiate. And so on.
With the checker season over (the Doublejumpers didn't make the playoffs this year), and with some while until training camp began in August, Marvin had time on his hands, and he spent too much of it drinking beer at home or at a series of local dive bars. Truth have it, he was despondent. He thought he had driven Priscilla away once and for all. Although there had been a couple of close calls in the past, they had always resolved their difficulties. This time, Marvin wasn't sure.
The next day came. It was the day of the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. Marvin considered giving Priscilla a call, but then he ended up back at the bar around noon and, well, overindulged. He made his way home in a haze, fell asleep, and didn't awaken until 11 PM. If there had been a rehearsal and a dinner, he had missed them both.
He checked his phone. No messages from Priscilla. Nothing from her parents or his mother, either. This wasn't looking good, and Marvin, still feeling the effects of the afternoon, went back to bed.
It must have been in the middle of the night that Marvin made a decision.
He got up at around eight on Saturday morning. It was wedding day--- if there were to be a wedding. He had his doubts but decided to carry out his plan.
After a couple of cups of coffee, Marvin got in his old Volkswagen and drove to Twirly Tuxedos and Gaudy Gowns, determined to rent a tux for the wedding. He was going to show up at the Country Club. If the wedding was still on, great. If not, well, the Country Club had a great bar and he figured in a tux he would be welcome ... at least if Priscilla hadn't cancelled the associate membership she had gotten for him a little while back.
At Twirly Tuxedos, Marvin was received with the usual sneer by one of the staff named Stanley.
"Uh, yeah, Stan, I need like a, you know, tux, for a wedding."
"Sir, kindly address me as Stanley, if you please."
"Okay there, Stanley, but look I ain't got a lot of time."
"You're Mr. Mavin, are you not? I can tell by the way you ... well, are you or are you not Mr. Mavin?"
"Yup. The very same."
"There is a tux reserved for you, Mr. Mavin. It was reserved some while ago. I believe it suitable for a wedding, at least for someone a bit more refined in appearance than ... never mind. The tux rental, however, has yet to be paid. There is a note from Ms. Snelson that states that the wearer is to pay the bill."
Marvin reflected. What did this mean? He wasn't sure. "Okay, yeah, Stanley, how much?"
"A wedding tux of this caliber and quality rents for a bit of a higher price. It will be $1,000 plus tax and tip, plus a refundable $2000 deposit as a guarantee against damage."
"Two thousand deposit? How come?"
"We, shall you say, ask for a larger guarantee from ... certain classes of our clientele."
"Well, whatever, I ain't got much time." He pulled out his duct tape wallet and passed over a credit card.
Stanley ran the card. "I've added the customary 25% gratuity," he said.
"Gratuity? For what? You ain't done nothing."
"I did your fitting."
"Ahead of time."
"How can you ... oh forget it." Marvin signed the slip, took the tux, and hurried home to change. By the time he arrived it was close to noon and the wedding was at three. Maybe.
Now, Marvin wasn't quite adept at the various operations necessary for the donning of a tuxedo. He had a lot of trouble with the buttons and studs, particularly the cuffs, and when it came to tying the bow tie it was hopeless. He finally just made a shoelace bow and left it at that. Time was running short. It was already a few minutes after two.
He thought it best if he didn't drive his old Volkswagen to the Country Club. A taxi would be a better idea.
The trouble was, taxis didn't really like to come into Marvin's neighborhood, or at least not cabs from the better companies. The same was true for services such as Unter and Drop.
When it was two-thirty and no cab had come despite quite a few phone calls, Marvin had no choice but to drive his VW.
The last thing he needed was to get stopped for speeding, but he went as fast as he could and even pushed his luck a little. He pulled up to the Country Club parking lot at ten minutes to three.
As he expected, the attendant gave his car a long, hard look. The attendant, resplendent in Country Club livery, came over to Marvin's already-open window and pointed an immaculately white-gloved finger at him.
"You sure you're in the right place, pal? You don't look like it. Now if I was you I'd just turn yourself around and drive on out of here before one of our members catches something from that car of yours."
"Hey, man, I'm here for a wedding, can'tcha see there here tux I got on?" Marvin replied.
The attendant took a closer look. "Yep, it's a tux, all right, although the bow tie looks like some kid tied it. So exactly whose wedding are you here for?"
"It's my wedding. Well, at least I think it is. If there is a wedding."
"Your wedding? Now that's pretty funny. Best one I've heard all day. And you don't exactly sound sure. But there is a wedding here today. If you're on the level, you'll know whose wedding. So, tell me. Whose wedding?"
"I told you, mine. Marvin J. Mavin. The Mavin wedding."
"Sorry, wrong answer. So make tracks before I call security."
Marvin thought for a quick instant. It was now five to three. "No ... no ... it would be under her name ... the Snelson wedding! Priscilla Snelson!"
The attendant straightened up. "Yep, that's the one. So show me your invitation."
"I'm the groom and I don't need no steenkin' invitation!"
Now the attendant took off his cap and scratched his head, then replaced his cap. "Okay, whatever, I'll let the wedding people deal with it." He then lifted the gate to the parking lot.
Marvin, in his haste, almost stalled out the VW. "Look here," he said, "park this for me. I ain't got no more time. Priscilla will give you a nice tip."
Marvin got out of his car and ran toward the main building with the attendant shouting behing him, "I'm not the valet! I'll have this thing towed!" But Marvin paid him no heed.
He raced across the lawn and into the clubhouse. "The wedding ... where?" he asked a young woman on the desk staff, also impeccably dressed in Country Club livery.
"Out on the lawn," she replied. "But you can't just ... "
Marvin was already through the back door.
And there, quite a sight greated him.
There must have been two thousand people present, in dozens of long rows of chairs flanking a wide central aisle lined with large, colorful flower bouquets in elegant golden stands. At the front of the very long aisle stood the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, several maids of honor, a few men dressed in white tuxedos and ... Priscilla.
She was dressed in her hand-crafted Italian wedding gown, with a long train and a headress. Her makeup was perfect and her hair was piled in exquisite curls on top of her head. White lilies studded the hairdo.
She was standing with one hand on her left hip, with her right hand holding a watch, which she was closely regarding.
It was exactly one minute before three. Marvin started the long walk up to the front of the assemblage, his eyes popping and scarcely able to breathe. Could this all be real?
Yes. It was real, and he knew it the moment he reached the front and stood next to Priscilla.
"It's about time. I didn't know if you were going to show, and despite everything I wasn't about to call off the wedding. About twenty minutes ago I had the police dispatched to your apartment, to your favorite bar, and some of your other haunts. They were going to bring you here in handcuffs if they had to. You're lucky you showed up on your own and spared yourself the ignomy."
"But just look at you," she went on. "You're wearing a black tux, not a white one."
"Stanley rented me this one," Marvin interjected.
"Quiet. Don't speak. I will deal with Stanley in due course. Now, your bow tie is a disgrace. It looks like a child tied it."
"I heard that before ... "
"I said not to speak! I'm not finished! Worst of all, you never cut your dreadlocks!"
Priscilla paused, as if thinking. "Well, the wedding must go on. But we'll talk about all of this afterwards."
She turned to the front. "Justice, we're ready to begin."
Marvin stood in silence while the Justice said a few words about the occasion.
"Now, please join hands," he said to Marvin and Priscilla.
"I hope you at least washed your hands," Priscilla whispered. "No doubt you drove that filthy junkheap of yours."
Marvin took Priscilla's hands in his without replying.
"Marvin, repeat after me ... "
Marvin said his vows, and then Priscilla said hers.
"I now pronounce you spouse and spouse," the Justice concluded.
"Ain't it supposed to be man and wife?" Marvin asked out loud.
There was a murmur from the assembled crowd.
"No, Marvin, it's not. Join the 21st century," Priscilla said. Turning around to face the audience, she and Marvin walked hand in hand down the aisle. Cheers and applause rose and swelled to a crescendo.
The reception and wedding dinner and dance were held in the clubhouse, and went off without further difficulty and only a few minor disputes. When it was time to cut the wedding cake, waiters rolled out an enormous three tier cake, and to Marvin's delight, there was also a special sheet cake with the following design piped on it with red, green, yellow, and white icing.
"Hey," Marvin said, a wide grin spreading across his face, "White to play and win, right? Now, I think if you just ... "
"Later, Marvin," Priscilla said. "I'm so glad you like the cake but the checker problem really does have to wait."
"Aw, gee, Prissy ... "
Priscilla interrupted. "It's our wedding day so I'll let you get away with calling me 'Prissy'--- once. Now focus, Marvin, and not on the checker problem." Marvin, though looking a bit disappointed, proceeded gamely with his part in the festivities.
When the celebrations were finally coming to an end, Marvin and Priscilla went outside amidst another round of cheers to Priscilla's waiting limousine.
"Hey, what about my car?" Marvin asked.
"Oh, the Club had it towed. You won't need that old thing any longer."
"Hey I want my car back ... "
"No time. The limo is taking us to the airport. I've chartered a private jet to take us on our honeymoon."
"The one we agreed on. Well, the one I agreed on at least, while you were acting so childish about your dreadlocks ... which you managed to keep despite everything. But in any case, we're going to Corsica. I've managed a week off work."
"But I ain't packed or nothing."
"Don't worry, I've taken care of everything ... spouse." Priscilla gave Marvin a warm smile.
Marvin, charmed, smiled back. "Okay ... wife," he said.
"Um, Marvin? Remember? 21st century?" Priscilla paused. "Oh, the heck with it," she said, and pulled Marvin close as the limo sped off.
There seems to be a pattern to it. Marvin gets a glimpse of an interesting checker problem but doesn't get to solve it. However you, our reader, can solve it at your leisure (unless perhaps you're reading this column at your own wedding, something we don't recommend). It's another great composition from Grandmaster Composer Brian Hinkle; it's certainly not "a piece of cake" but it's quite something. Try it out and then marry your mouse to Read More to see the solution.
Problem, solution, and notes are by grandmaster problemist Brian Hinkle.
22-17 25-21---1 17-14 21-17 14-10 17-14 11-7*---A,B 14x5 13-9*---C 5x14 23-19* 24x6---D 7-2 30x23 2x27 White Wins.
1---25-22 is possible here and looks natural. We won't show the play, but Black recovers only one piece and has no further chances, eventually losing a long 5 kings vs. 4 kings ending. 25-21 is very tricky and the White win could easily be missed by the best players in the world. See notes A,B,C.
A---10-7? 14x5 7-3 24-19 23x16 12x19 26-22 30-25 22-17 25-21 17-14 19-15* Drawn.
B---10-6? 14x5 6-1 24-19 23x16 12x19 26-22 19-15 11-7 15-10 7-2 10-14 2-6 30-25 Drawn.
C---26-22? This natural move allows Black to draw with very precise play as found by Kingsrow: 30-25* 23-18---E,F 25-21* 18-15 24-27 22-18 12-8 18-14 8-3 7-2 27-23 10-6 21-17 14-10 23-18 15x22 17x26 6-1 26-23 2-7 23-18 7-11 18-14 11-7---H 14-18 7-2 18-22 2-7 22-18 7-11 18-14 11-7 14-18 Drawn.
D---30x16 7-2 14x7 2x27 White Wins.
E---22-17 24-19 23x16 12x19 10-6 19-15 7-3 15-10 6-2 25-21 Drawn.
F---22-18 5-1* 18-15---G 1-6 10x1 24-19 23x16 12x3 Drawn.
G---7-3 12-16* 10-7 16-11 7-2 25-22 18-14 22-18 3-7 18x9 7x16 24-19 13x6 1x10 Drawn.
H---10-6? 3-7 11x2 14-9 Black Wins!