The best man blows it: The case of the missing rings

After a well-oiled, highly kibitzed viewing of the latest X-Men movie in the hotel suite, the male side of the Levy-O’Meara wedding party was finally ready to slip into their monkey suits.

“Damn,” best man Pete Chen said.

Part 7 of 10

2:20 p.m. Dec. 27

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The story so far: The Christmas weekend blizzard of 2010 is complicating the wedding of Aaron O’Meara and Rachel Levy in Old City Philadelphia.  But the time for the ceremony is at last drawing near, even if some members of the wedding don’t quite have their act together.

After a well-oiled, highly kibitzed viewing of the latest X-Men movie in the hotel suite, the male side of the Levy-O’Meara wedding party was finally ready to slip into their monkey suits.

“Damn,” best man Pete Chen said.

“What?” groom Aaron O’Meara asked.

“I don’t have any shirt with this tux. Aren’t they supposed to give you a shirt? Trip’s got a shirt, but I don’t.”

“Chen, you moron, didn’t it occur to you to check before you left the store?” Aaron’s older brother Trip asked, not altogether kindly.

Aaron broke his vow not to say a certain word beginning in F on his wedding day.

“Yo, Trip, chill,” Sean O’Meara said. As middle son, he had a peace-making streak. “Hey, hang on, guys. I’ve got an idea. This is a class hotel; at brunch I saw the waiters were all duded up, with frilly shirts. Call the desk; maybe they can do something.”

They could in fact. Within minutes, the concierge knocked, having rustled up a perfectly white formal shirt with cufflinks, which almost – almost – fit Pete’s slim frame.

“This must be a new one for you,” Aaron said to the concierge, slipping him a $10.

“Oh, no, sir,” the man replied smoothly with a hint of a West Indies accent. “You have no idea, sir. This was nothing. Sometimes it is the whole tuxedo that is forgotten.”

Closing the door, Aaron turned to his groomsmen: “Blood oath, gentlemen. Molly must never know about this. You look fine, Chen, even though you are a moron.”

He wrapped his best man in a headlock and gave him a gentle noogie.

No lord of the rings

“OK, dudes, checklist time. Got the cards with that Haray whatever prayer I gotta say, and my vows right here,” Aaron patted his right pants pocket. “Pete, you got the rings?”

“Yep, they’re right in my coat pocket here.” Pete reached for a leather jacket hanging on the back of a chair. His face suddenly drained of color. After a moment, he said, “Damn. They were here.”

“In that pocket? Of that coat right there? The one you just wore when we played football?” Trip asked with mounting incredulity. “You had the wedding rings in the coat you wore to play ball outside in a mountain range of snow drifts? I am freaking going to freaking strangle you, Chen.” He turned, face red, to his youngest brother: “See, A., this is what you get when you mess with tradition.”

“Chill, Trip, chill,” Sean said again. Aaron was staring at his best friend, mute, horror on his face.

Sean took charge, again: “OK, OK. Pete, here’s what we do. The rings must’ve fell out when you dove for that last pass. We’ll go out, you and me, and comb that drift like a CSI unit. We’ll find the suckers. Has to be where they are. Aaron, you stay here. Tony, you stand sentry in the lobby. Don’t let my Mom come through the lobby and out that front door, and see us. She’ll freaking freak out.”

“Just find them, OK?” Aaron said, slumping onto the end of a bed, head in hands. “Rachel picked those out. She loves them. They’re engraved. Just find ‘em!”

Deposited in the bank

By the time Sean and Pete reached Chestnut Street, Pete was nearly in tears.

“Oh, God. Oh, God. How can I be such a screwup?”

“Topic for another time, Pete. Right now get your nose deep into that snowbank and see what you can see. Please tell me the rings were still in the box, not loose in your pocket.”

“Yep, yep, they were.”

“Then, if my theory is right, this shouldn’t be too hard,” Sean said.

Sean’s theory was right, but it took a hard, long and anxious five minutes to prove it.   Pete’s trouser and shirt cuffs were well soaked by the time he spied, deep down in the drift, the black box with the golden rings still tucked safely inside.

Entering the hotel lobby, Sean and Pete ran into Molly, engaged in spirited conversation with groomsman Tony Savieri, who was clutching her elbow while casting a relieved look at the sight of Sean’s subtle, waist-high thumbs up.

“Like I said, Mrs. O’Meara, that was really great last night. The veal, it was … so tender,” Tony said, truly out of delaying palaver.

“Hi, Mom, what’s up?” Sean said, all sprightly.

“Here is what is up, No. 2 son,” Molly said. “We have at least a dozen guests on each side who may not make it. Do you understand what that means?”

“More beer for us?” Sean knew better, but could not resist.

“How can you joke about this? This is terrible. Some of our oldest friends, some people who really care about your brother, who helped us raise him, are going to miss the biggest day of his life. And the same on the Levy side with some of their friends. … Peter, why are your trouser cuffs sopping wet? What in the world have you been doing out there?”

The genius awakens

“Sean and I just took a walk and I stepped in a puddle.” Pete startled, almost as waking from a dream.   “Hey, Mrs. O’Meara, I have an idea. I have a really good idea. Yeah, a really great idea.” He rubbed his hands together excitedly. “Can you take me up to your room and show me the list of the folks who look like they won’t make it …..?”

Pete, chattering all the while, steered Molly back to the elevator. The bell dinged, the door opened and they were gone.

Sean and Tony looked on, slack-jawed.

“What was that all about?” Sean said.

“Kick save, and a beauty, by Peter Chen,” Tony said. “Pete may be an all-time screwup this weekend, but he just saved you from getting totally chewed out by your mother. What were you thinking, dude? You know better than to tease The Mollynator when she’s on the warpath.”

“Well, “ Sean said as he pulled a small black box out of his pants pocket. “Let me get these back upstairs to show to little brother. A little wet but none the worse for wear.”

“Oh, you have ‘em, not Pete?”

“Are you kidding? After that genius move by Chen, I’m hanging on to them until the last critical second when we walk out there at the Downtown Club.”

“You da man, Sean, you da man.”

Part 8 – “Countdown to ‘huppah’: The best man seeks a comeback” – will appear on Thursday afternoon. To see earlier parts, go to the “Whiteout Christmas” archive page.

Radio play: Listen to a dramatization of “Whiteout Christmas” on WHYY-FM this holiday weekend. The radio play, with Tony Auth, Chris Satullo and WHYY staffers acting up a storm, will air on 90.9 FM at 8 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Christmas Day.

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