The Plot Thins; or, Not Enough is Too Much Already
In the last installment of our tale, we found our heroes writing sympathetic letters to Superman, engaging in imaginary dog fights, and holding two-by-fours steady so as to procure a clean, measured cut. The princess was about to undertake a much needed nap when she was intruded upon by her ever appertaining servant, Toad. This saucy character was in search of a children's album he had misplaced sometime earlier, but was disappointed to be served up news of a surprise visit from one of his mistress' colorful relatives: viz., her mentally retarded cousin, Prune.
Meanwhile in the Koopa camp, Bowser, the King of Koopas, had inexplicably anticipated the caprice of a market-bound Peach (the princess, that is) and set up an ambush with his son Morton. However, what Mr. Koopa had not counted on was interference from Snoopy, and was forced to assail his target pell-mell amidst a flock of exploding Woodstocks. Afterwards, they stopped for pancakes.
So the story
As twilight descended on Castle Koopa, Roy, Lemmy, Ludwig, and the Cookie Monster were engrossed in a competitive game of Super Smash Brothers.
"... Wow, Ludwig... Smash attack much?" Lemmy complained.
"Wow, Lemmy, use ‘much’ as a suffix, much?" Ludwig replied.
"Well... I was just saying that what you’re doing is so cheap that it’s... not even fun to play anymore..."
"Hey, man, if it works, it works."
"No... because, you see... anyone can just be Falco and do that stupid roll-smash attack combo over and over again..."
"Hey, it takes skill, dude."
"Uh, no... because you’re just doing the same thing over and over again... That's not skill."
"Well, if you were so great," Ludwig contended, "then you would be able to find a way around it..."
"I shouldn’t have to, though..."
"Well that’s just too bad, isn’t it?" answered the kooky Koopaling.
There was a break in the conversation.
"Besides..." Lemmy said, "I never said I was really great at it. You're just sticking words in my mouth again..."
Ludwig cackled. "What are you talking about? You get so sensitive when you play these games... Larry, don't you, uh... remember that time we were staying at Wart's..."
Larry had been silently observing from the couch, and beamed as the memory surfaced.
"No ..." Lemmy protested.
Ludwig continued with a shrill laugh. "And you guys were playing Pokemon at like three in the morning... I remember." He paused to accommodate his giggling. "Wart came in and told you guys to stop because you were being really loud..."
"And Lemmy was just gone the next morning?" Larry added.
"Yes!" concurred the fruity Koopaling. "I remember waking up and wondering Uh... okay. Where in the world is Lemmy?"
"First of all," Lemmy rebuffed, "we weren't being that loud. And it was only one in the morning, not three, and I told you that I had been feeling sick from that weird blue juice and Ellio's pizza combination we had for dinner..."
"So you called Mouser and had him come get you at like four in the morning?" asked Ludwig.
Lemmy sighed. The banter settled for a moment as the Koopalings once again became absorbed by the game.
"You know," Lemmy interposed, after a while, "I really hope they take Falco out of the next Smash Brothers. He’s just a Fox clone anyway..."
"Pichu and Ganondorf are clones, and you never complain about them..." said Roy.
"It’s different though..."
"Hey, while they're at it, why don't they take Captain Falco out of the game?"
"... Captain Falco?"
"Er... you know what I mean!" Roy growled.
Larry chuckled. "Maybe that’s why they haven’t taken Falco out... they’ve been looking for the wrong character..."
"You know who should be in the next game?" Lemmy suggested. "King Dedede..."
There was a momentary pause as the other Koopalings turned over the proposition.
Larry corroborated Roy's sentiment. "Er... too much Kirby. They already got Meta Knight..."
"Yeah, but there was only one Kirby character before," countered Lemmy.
"You want balance between the games, though..."
"Yeah ," said Lemmy, "so... if there was only one Kirby character before, then adding more would balance it out..."
"No it wouldn’t!" Larry returned, "you go by how many new characters for that franchise are added for that game..."
"No you don’t!" challenged Ludwig. "... Wow, that’s really stupid, who said that?!"
"It’s just logic, dude..."
"Hey," Roy said, interposing, "in da next game can we turn Motion Sensor Bombs off?"
"... Me like Motion Sensor Bombs!" demurred the endearing Cookie Monster.
"You’re just a freakin’ item hog, Cookie Monster."
"Oh!" Larry interjected. "Um... I do think they should add BattleToads, and Master Chief..."
General dissension was expressed at this proposal.
"What?" Larry asked defensively.
Ludwig began to laugh to himself. "Kind of a jump there, buddy... First BattleToads, then Master Chief!" he continued, with his best impersonation of his brother.
"That’d be really dumb if they put Masta Chief in this game," Roy stated.
"He’s a popular character!"
"Yeah, but you can’t just put anyone you freakin’ want in da game!"
"Okay," began Lemmy, "so you say I have bad ideas but then suggest Master Chief for Smash Brothers."
"Whatever," snapped Larry. "You're the one who wanted to flood it with unimportant, generic characters."
"Nope, that's just you're wild imagination..."
"Paper Mario," Larry began to enumerate, impersonating Lemmy, "Goomba, that one Bullet Bill from Mario 3..."
Lemmy retaliated with an impression of his own. "Young Merlin, Yogi Bear... oh! Homestar Runner!"
"A second Doctor Mario, those dancing sheep from Wario's Woods, that one Koopa Troopa from the first Mario..."
"Okay," Lemmy interrupted, "Anything with 'that-one' in front of it is not something I would have said."
"All right. Roy!" Larry said. "Which of us has better ideas?"
Roy thought about it for a moment. "Eh... BattleToads was good..."
"... Too third party..." contended Ludwig.
"What are you talking about?" impugned a rather indignant Larry Koopa, "They were a staple of the NES when they were around!"
Lemmy reprised his attack. "Inuyasha, the Doom Guy, Garfield..."
"That would be hilarious to have Garfield in this game!" Larry said.
"You know he had his own Nintendo game, right?" Roy asked.
"Really? ... What was it like?"
"Pretty bad," replied his brother. "You’re supposed to go through da days of da week, but everything damaged you and you died really quickly and easily..."
"Sorry, kids, Garfield’s dead..." said Ludwig, imitating the voice of an announcer. "Hmm... Couldn't have been as bad as Orb 3D, though..."
Suddenly, a loud explosion rang from the game, and was attended by the screaming of three game characters off in the distance. Ludwig, Roy, and Lemmy sounded off in objection.
"Oh yeah! Owned!" gloated the Cookie Monster.
Truth be known, the Cookie Monster wasn’t really ‘friends’ with any of the Koopa Kids; rather, he was a geographical acquaintance, whom, owing to a certain social fall-out on the part of Bowser, the children were obligated to spend time with. However, the consequences of the Koopa King's debacle had somewhat ‘smoothed out’ over the past few years, and Cookie Monster found himself dangling on a precarious thread - no one liked having him over.
"I told ya about those Motion Sensors..." said Roy.
"All right, it’s over now, so I’ll quickly change it..." replied Ludwig, who was entering the game menu. "All right, lemme just quickly change it..."
Having forgotten that there were four cursors on the screen, Ludwig was unable to proceed with his plan; Cookie Monster simply exited the item menu before changes could be made to it. The Koopalings were beginning to become fed-up with the antics of the gluttonous hand puppet.
"Me like Motion Sensor Bombs..."
The game was suddenly interrupted by the echo of a large door closing in the foyer, betokening the arrival of the Koopa King. For the Koopa Kids, this was good news; ever since Bowser had delineated his plan at the table, a strange, anxious malaise lingered about the castle. Also, the Cookie Monster would probably be asked to take his leave.
Morton was the first to come upon the motley brigade of pranksters and puppets, carrying with him that same large potato sack with the princess stuffed inside. It didn't stir. He tossed it over his shoulder onto the checkered floor, allowing it to smack the tile with a wince-inducing thump. He dusted his hands and sighed with a tinge of relief.
Roy greeted him casually. "Hey Morty. How's things?"
"Well, we went to capture the princess, and Snoopy showed up, and..." Morton paused and shook his head. "... Eh... I don't want to talk about it."
"So... pretty gorey, huh?"
"Yep." He sighed and waved at the sack. "There... there's your princess. All right..."
Morton turned to leave, when he recalled the predicament he had been in with his father during the ambuscade.
"Oh, Ludwig... Bowser was really sorry he couldn't take you. Like, I mean, he just kept belittling me and telling me how much he wanted you there."
Ludwig shook his head. "Okay."
"He said that you're 'the peanut butter to his jelly'."
Ludwig had to snicker at this one. "... Weirdo..."
Roy stood up. "Hey fellas, let's give this guy a round of applause. Whad'ya say? Come on!"
Thus did the Fonziest Koopa encourage his brothers. Morton rolled his eyes to the sound of their adulation, and headed for the shower accompanied by the sound of proliferating hooting and whistling. As he left, a pleasant-faced Bowser strolled in, placing his hands on his hips with a confident air. He gazed slowly around the room, nodding to his children, as though in anticipation of an ecstatic response.
"Boys... yeah, yeah..." mumbled he, attempting to muster what composure he could.
Bowser soon got to business. "Oh… hi, uh... Cookie Monster," he said, addressing the bothersome visitor.
"Good evening, sir."
"Look, uh... We kinda have… family stuff we gotta do, so…"
"Oh…" whimpered a dejected muppet.
As one might expect, getting the Cookie Monster to leave was a chore. He had a cultivated tendency to overstay his welcome, skillfully stretching it out for as long as possible. This occasion was no exception, and, not ready to surrender, he quickly contrived a subterfuge.
"Oh... uh... we almost done with game…" he said, nodding to the television screen.
"Oh, we’re done," said Roy, stretching his legs.
"Uh-huh," frowned the Cookie Monster. "Well, guess me get going…" he said, slowly standing up. "Call you tomorrow…"
This met with no response, and, feeling bereft, the Cookie Monster slowly made his way out of the castle, ushering a sense of euphoria for the children.
"Yes! Thank God!" exclaimed Larry.
"Ya know, I think dat guy just comes over for da cookies…" observed Roy.
"Yes, well anyway…" Bowser continued, as he looked down at the sack, "go get your sister. I think she's up in her room, yammering..."
"All right," said Roy, "I'll go get da beast from da east."
Roy left to retrieve his sister, and it wasn't long before the Koopalings were assembled in the foyer. As they lined themselves up, King Koopa, as was his wont, paced before them like a parody of military commander deep in thought. It should be mentioned that, despite mounting historical evidence to the contrary, the Koopas always harbored a soupcon of hope that this scheme would turn out to be the one, the plan that would pull them out of the muck of public ridicule and onto the trampoline of public subjection. It was this determination that had propelled them head-long into so many outlandish plots, and which had once again brought them together for a family meeting.
Presently, Boswer stopped in place and fixed his gaze on an adjacent wall. He was silent for several moments.
"Hmm... I'll wait," he said, nodding.
The Koopalings were short for an explanation of his odd behavior, and passed confused expressions. It soon became clear, however, that an unwanted participant was present within the company. In unison, the children leaned over and stared at Iggy.
"Dude, I think he wants you to go."
Iggy looked up despairingly at his father, whose silence betokened an implicit acceptance of the aforementioned suggestion.
Iggy nodded to himself and looked disdainfully around the room. "Okay, fine. You know what? I don't need to be a part of this. I don't need you. This is just gonna fail like all the rest of his stupid plans!"
Iggy stormed upstairs, muttering to himself. Bowser remained still. The sound of a slamming door echoed through the castle, at which point Bowser clapped his hands together and became animated.
"All right!" he began with a wide grin. "We faced a minor setback, but... I was able to get the hotels and return for the princess!"
Shouts of encouragement resounded from the children.
"And you guys said he wouldn't be able to get it done in one afternoon," said Roy.
"All right... Now I've already gone over this with Morty, so now I can fill you guys in."
The children assented, and waited for their father to continue.
Bowser became thoughtful for a moment. "Now, how do you think the Marios always thwart our plans?"
"Their remarkable athleticism?" suggested Larry.
"Their charisma?" said his sister.
"Their magical inventory?" spoke Ludwig.
"Guns?" shrugged Roy.
"Okay, stop! It was the first one. The athleticism. Geez..." Bowser shook his head and looked down at the floor. "Anyway, the bottom line is that I've been dealing with the Marios for years and, I guess, they are just such gifted athletes that we're not going to stop them with... pits, and stuff. I've learned."
"Okay," nodded Ludwig, "so we're not going to lure them into an obstacle course. What do we do instead? I mean... that's all we know."
"Oh... we're luring them into an obstacle course, all right," smiled Bowser. "But instead of having rooms with no floor, they'll get rooms with no view."
"What? ... What in the world is he talkin' about..." So mumbled the Koopalings as they pondered this, for them, perplexing riddle.
"Have you ever had a bad hotel experience?" asked Bowser. "I mean, the rooms have no atmosphere, or there's a construction yard outside your window, or the attendants are jerks, or whatever?"
This was a strange question coming from a naked, overweight lizard-man whose occupation was the quixotic warlord of a turtle monarchy.
"Well... sure," said Larry, "but hasn't everyone?"
"Exactly!" exclaimed Bowser. "It doesn't matter if you're freakin' Sportacus: a bad hotel is a bad hotel."
Once again, the Koopalings paused to allow their father to continue his explanation.
"So..." said he, rolling his eyes, "if the Marios were caught in a lousy hotel it would be that much easier to knock them off. Am I right?"
"So wait," interrupted Lemmy, just a bit perturbed, "basically, instead of using castles to stop the Marios, we'll be using low-budget hotels?"
"Er... yeah... yeah," muttered Bowser under his breath as the crux of the proposal finally surfaced. "Well, I know it sounds crazy, but it ought to work, I reckon... and besides, we'll make some good money on the side."
"No we won't. Not if the hotels are lousy. That's where the plan backfires."
"The plan is fla- fla, f...l...awless, ugh, excuse me..." said Bowser, finally getting it out. "Can't speak today. The plan is flawless, and you'll see once we get rollin'."
"Just a quick question, just a quick question..." Roy broke in. "Did you... like... think o' this when you were on the john or something? Seriously, this plan is really bad."
"Hey! Stop questioning the plan! Next Koopaling to speak up is going in the dungeon!"
Bowser glared at his children.
"Okay... now, tomorrow morning we'll head out in the doomship, and I'll show you where the hotels are. From there, I'll give the princess to one of you, luring the Marios into one of my... menacing motels, hehe..." He rolled his hands as he chuckled. At that moment, Morton came down the stairs, fresh from the shower.
"One more thing," added Bowser. "No one would go to a bad hotel if they didn't have to, so... if ya screw up, you're gonna need to take the princess and drop her off at another hotel."
Ludwig chuckled and motioned over at Morton. "So, basically Bowser's going to... kill us all?"
Morton rung out his ear. "... Lookin' that way..."
"Now scram," ordered Bowser. "You kids gotta go to bed so we can leave early tomorrow. Anyway, those seven stand-in Bowsers from my first invasion of the Mushroom Kingdom are comin' over for Yahtzee, and I will not be embarassed. Well, not by Morty, anyway. Morty, why don't you just go to bed?
Morton groaned. "You know, you're the guy who rides around in a Clown Copter for transportation."
"Uh! I don't want to hear it," said Bowser, adjusting a novelty-sized bowtie.
Morton looked around at his siblings. "Ugh... Well, I guess I'm going to bed... Oh, Larry, you're not going to believe what I found at lunch today."
"What?" asked Larry smiling.
"A rap album by Hulk Hogan."
Larry was very excited by the mention of this. "Really? Dude, you have got to get it to me!"
"Yeah, yeah, in the morning. I... gotta go, I guess." Morton left for bed.
"Christmas comes early for Larry Koopa," grinned Larry.
"Yeah, whatever, man," snapped Roy. "Whatever."
Seated with a somewhat antiquated phonebook, Toad was beginning to become frustrated with his fruitless search.
"Nope..." he sighed, "doesn’t look like there’s one in here..."
The mushroom continued to peruse the same pages, again and again; his conclusion was irrelevant to his procedure.\tab
"C-o-m-e on!" he moaned. "This is the Mushroom Kingdom! You’re tellin’ me dat there ain’t one Domino’s anywhere?!"
He groaned and fell back into his stool. While Toad was aware of the rarity of a Domino’s Pizza, the walking, talking mushroom refused to concede that there wasn’t a single pizza chain restaurant to be found in the checkered hillsides of magic powers and floating, invisible treasure he called home.
"It’s ridiculous. Ya can’t find ‘em anywhere." Toad made a cursory examination of the phonebook. "Err... maybe it’s da phonebook... it is kinda old..."
"No, it isn’t the phonebook," Toadsworth growled, coming into the kitchen from the foyer. "It’s only ten years old, and we don't need a new one!"
"Ten years old?" Toad said, surprised. "Geez... do ya know how many people come and go everyday? No wonder we're so clueless to all the nonsense that goes on around here..."
"No phonebook is gonna tell me where things are in the Mushroom Kingdom. If anything goes on, I know about it!" Toadsworth asserted.
"What?! Whad’ya, get a newsletter or somethin’?"
"I’ve been here long enough to know!"
"Oh really? Really?" Taod responded in a skeptical tone. "... Did ya know they’re puttin’ up a Better Bedding where dat fabric store was?"
"Ah, don’t tell me yo-"
"I know about that!" the chamberlain shouted. "I just wasn’t sure that they turned the place into a mattress store. They must have started recently..."
Toad paused, with an incredulous expression. "Da mattress store is a new building, the old fabric store burnt down eight years ago, ya old codger!"
"Nonsense! That’s the same building that’s been there for thirty years!"
"No it’s not..."
"Yes it is. I’ve been going by it for thirty years!"
Toad shook his head. "No, no ya haven’t..."
Following the invasion earlier in the week, a large scale restoration project had been undertaken by the castle staff and a team of hired carpenters, with a view toward returning the Royal Kitchen to its former glory. The once hospitable space had become a gray maze of sheet rock and wood paneling; all of the counters had been covered with a translucent sheet of plastic, and the air was so intolerably dry and chalky as to allow one to recall castor oil with a kind of tenderness. It was, as a result, inaccessible in its convalescent state, and would continue to exist this way for a few more days as work was continued on it.
These new conditions made for quite an adjustment on the part of the staff, which had become accustomed to a sort of 'free commerce' of eating. With the kitchen under construction, the team had now been compelled to order out for their meals for several consecutive days; and this, as they would come to discover, was a political affair the likes of which the castle had not seen in years - and Castle Toadstool was no place for politics.
Toadsworth had advised a deliberate effort to avoid ordering from the same restaurant more than once. This was because, as the old chamberlain had earlier explained, it was unbecoming to give these respective restaurants any sense that the castle staff (Toadsworth in particular) actually liked and chose, by act of volition, to eat where they did; and that, furthermore, it was in the interest of the crew to demonstrate, through the brief and stoic manner of their interaction with these businesses, that the staff was constrained by necessity, and under very dire circumstances, to come in and order food.
However, after two meals a day for four days under Toadsworth's plan, take-out options were beginning to dwindle. Toad, who had wanted Domino’s from the very beginning, was forced to defer to the whims of the staff (which, incidentally, preferred ‘big name’ chain restaurants). Domino’s was left, along with Ponderosa (though they didn’t deliver); Jack-in-the-Box was also declined as a possibility, as Toadsworth refused to eat at the restaurant of such an arrogant, presumptuous upstart as the Jack-in-the-Box Man.
"Is this place even real?" asked Toad, who turned to look at his old companion. "You've... you've seen the commercials, too, right? So it's not just me?"
Irritated with Toad's surliness, Toadsworth proceeded into the construction zone to inspect some of the work that had been done.
"I bet it's a really elaborate joke or somethin'," the Retainer continued. He began to mock, "Hey... hey. Let's, uh... set up this delivery service, right? Except no one will ever be able to find it, what a gas, eh?"
"Stop shouting!" Toadsworth ordered. "Why don't you go ask what the princess wants?"
This was the nail in the coffin: Toad wouldn’t be getting any Domino’s tonight, which had him feeling pretty miffed.
"Fine. I’ll go find her," he capitulated.
Toad went upstairs to look for Peach in her usual haunts - no dice. He then conjectured that, seeking recreation, the princess had gone to the tennis court to practice her serve; but here, too, she was nowhere to be seen. In perplexity he pondered where else she might have gone, and why - when suddenly he recalled that, earlier in the afternoon, she had gone out to browse for bumper stickers.
It seemed unreasonable to him that the princess would take so long to buy a bumper sticker; however, given her impetuous nature, it was possible that a quick trip to the market had turned into an extended day of shopping. And, after all, her absence made it more likely that Toad would get his choice in take-out.
He returned to the kitchen and approached Toadsworth.
"I can’t find her anywhere," he reported. "Actually, I remember she said was gonna go shopping or somethin’, so she might not be back for a while..."
Sensing the opportunity, Toad eased into the situation.
"So... what are we gonna have for dinner?"
"Uh uh," Toadsworth barked. "We’re finding the princess before we do anything else!"
"I just told ya! She went out shopping!"
"NO! ... No one eats until we find the princess!"
"Whadda we, gotta hold her by the hand?!"
"The princess can’t tie her shoes without getting kidnapped! We’re doing this, RIGHT NOW!"
"SHE’S ONLY BEEN GONE A FEW HOURS!"
A tense silence followed. Toad sighed and shook his head.
"All right... fine, whatever..." the Mushroom said. "Want me to get on the horn with da Marios or somethin’?"
"Ehk... no Marios!" Toadsworth retorted, with a dismissive gesture. "I don’t like the Marios..."
"What? ... What don’t ya like about da Marios now?"
"I’ll tell you what I don't like! The Marios are slow, and disrespectful, and they’re a couple of mooks if you ask me! I don’t trust ‘ em!"
Toad shrugged. "... Okay. Well, whad’dya wanna do then?"
"You’ve gotta go..." responded the chamberlain, pointing at Toad.
"What? Why me? Ugh... why can’t we just have the Marios do this?"
"They never get the job done right. They’re just a couple of crumb bums..."
"But the Koopas have that Shtick, it always works out in the end... I... I feel really uncomfortable working against it..." he said, scratching the back of his head.
Toadsworth turned to the kitchen team. "Attention everyone - Toad would like to inform you that none of you will be eating tonight..."
"Geez, fine," Toad replied. "But why don’t we give da princess a little more time before I leave..."
"You’re going right now!"
"What if she comes back?" Toad demurred. "What if she comes back, what am I supposed to do, just... wander around out there? She could be anywhere!"
Toadsworth gave the young Mushroom an astonished look. "I don’t care! You’ll be fine, now go, already!"
Perhaps seeking reprieve from this cantankerous old fellow, Toad consented and walked over to the coat closet to prepare for his journey. He reasoned that, if he liked, he could get something to eat along the way. With this, he departed.