Hotel Mario: Revisited

By Heavy Mole

I'm a Victim of Circumstance!; or, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Mushroom:

When last we left our story, Bowser Koopa christened his new scheme with an encouraging word and a gaggle of gruesome alliterations. Circumstances in Mortonís hollow tree hotel, however, were not in sympathy with the spirit of the giddy Koopa King. Not only were accommodations in the hotel unsuitable for a small army, but a lack of preparation had made command of the underlings stationed there, for Morton, frantic and pitiful like the deranged hamster of his beloved sister Wendy.

Whatís more, a mysterious woman fortuitously discovered the hotel after an evening of shopping, and, in search of lodging and perhaps a meal, persuaded the hapless Koopaling into booking a room for her.

Meanwhile, after an unremarkable tenure at Space Camp (surely Lemmy would have been impressed!), Junior returned home to the company of his disgruntled brother Iggy, who had become indignant from being robbed of an explicitly labeled beverage. The two concocted a more tenable scheme with the aim of restoring Iggyís reputation and raking in some extra dosh on the side.

Also, the Marios came. Luigi wanted spaghetti, if memory serves.

We reconvene in Mushroom Square, with a very satisfied Princess and her rather persnickety companion...
 

"Hey, wanna see what I got?"

The princess approached Toad, who had been waiting in a music store as she selected a new bumper sticker.

"Uh, yeah sure, I guess..." yawned the Mushroom.

Peach pawed through a small plastic bag and pulled out the new bumper sticker.

It read, ďGirlís Rock!Ē.

"Huh."

"Yeah, it just kinda jumped out at me."

Toad looked at the bag. "Do you think, uh... do you really need a bag for a bumper sticker?"

"Well, what if I want to go into another store?"

"You just save the receipt. Having a bag seems kinda wasteful..."

"I need the bag," Peach explained, "otherwise Iím just gonna look suspicious..."

"What? No..." The Retainer shook his head. "No youíre not, youíre just carryiní around a bumper sticker, whatís the problem?"

"Itís just... I canít do it, it feels too weird."

"Eh, fine. Hmm..."

After his stressful, sleepless night, Toad was feeling mentally and physically fatigued. While his dozy state had rendered him incapable of any sort of sustained focus, it had also made his consciousness more permeable to the idiosyncrasies of the passing moment. Flitting peculiarities stayed with him that would have otherwise been overshadowed by concerns of a mechanical mind. He found himself exploring Mushroom Square in a moment of circumspection. The way that the daylight smacked the cinnabar walkway was, for instance, oddly endearing. He began to ponder over what material the bricks might be made from, and suddenly found himself carving out synthetic patterns from their layout. He wondered if there were any fish in the fountain, and, if not, why no one had thought of it. This was, after all, the centerpiece of the marketplace. A collection of shops and tents were lined together abreast the road, each often serving as the ambassador of a specialized interest.

Toad was temporarily fascinated by these pockets of interest and imagination, like the singular resting places of a cosmic vagabond; each one could be the end of the universe. And though on a temperate afternoon the Square had the power to give life to a tired spirit, he was especially fond of it under starlight.

Mushroom Square bore its age exceptionally well, partly in thanks to the ongoing maintenance of a dedicated staff, and also to the continued support of the local population, which was represented by the throngs of Mushroomers, Koopas, Yoshis, Thwomps, and others that had opted to spend an afternoon in the marketplace.

"What were you looking for in here?" asked the princess, pulling Toad out of his reverie.

"Oh, uh... I lost this album a couple weeks ago, I just... came in here to see if I could find it..."

"Any luck?"

"Nah, letís get outta here..." said the droopy-eyed Mushroom.

As he was leaving the store, Toad found that, perhaps by accident, he had come into the trajectory of another Mushroomerís spirited greeting. His initial impulse was to turn his head away quickly, to acquit himself the liability of a response. She could have been waving to someone else, and if in such a case he were to have waved back, the situation would become unbearably awkward. The princess, however, was eager to make contact.

"Hey, isnít that the waitress that works at IHOP? What did you say her name was?"

Toad surreptitiously examined the stranger.

"Who, Mel? Oh yeah. Huh. How Ďbout that... Well, we should get going..."

Toad attempted a hasty retreat. Peach stopped him, though, and gave him a coy look.

"Oh, I see whatís going on here..."

"Er... Look, Princess, Iím really tired..."

"Youíve wanted to ask Mel to go on a date with you, but youíre too shy-"

"Can we go?" Toad insisted.

"Oh, hey Mel! We didnít see you over there! Toad and I were just out shopping and-"

"Princess!" pleaded the flustered Mushroom. "I canít talk to Mel, I... I wouldnít know what to say! Iíll just screw it up..."

"Toad, just be yourself and youíll do fine."

"But- Oh, hey Mel, how are ya?"

Mel walked up to them with a pink leather purse draped over her shoulder.

Though Toad had regular interaction with her at IHOP, he had never seen her outside of work, and was struck by her casual garb and easy composure. His inscrutable knees began to tremble.

"Hey Toad! Iím great, how are you?"

Mel turned and looked at the princess.

"Oh... Mel," began Toad, "this is Princess Toadstool. Told ya I worked for her, hehe..."

"Nice to meet you. You know, I hope to get into politics myself, someday..." said Mel, folding her arms.

"Good for you, good for you. Itís always nice to meet a new subject-"

"Iím sure," she wryly responded.

Peach winked at Toad. "Well... Toadís told me so much about you..."

"Really?" said Mel, turning to Toad.

"Well, ya know..." said Toad, who began to blush. "I may have mentioned you in passing..."

The princess knew it was time to take her leave. "I just remembered, I need to buy some Mushroom Blocks... Iíll leave you two alone for a while..."

After she had gone, Toad prepared to say something, but was interrupted by Mel.

"Donít you just hate working for her, Toad?"

"What?" asked the Mushroom, confused.

"Sheís an awful tyrant. So much suffering has come of her aimless whims. Itís terrible."

"Well-"

"As soon as I get out of Mushroom Community College, I wanna get into government and get her out of office!" she declaimed.

Toad bit his lip and gazed to the side. He didnít know what to say; he certainly didnít feel inclined to ask this belligerent woman on a date.

"Hmm... well, the pay is good. And ya get free soda, so... I think itís.. okay..."

Mel looked down at the ground.

"Aícourse its RC cola so itís not that great-"

"Toad..."

Toad paused and waited for her to continue.

"I... really shouldnít be taking my anger out on you. Itís just..." Mel looked from side to side. "Can I tell you something?"

"Uh... sure..."

"Iím... an adopted child. My parents were Koopas."

"Oh. Well..." Toad shrugged. "I donít care about that kinda thing, Mel."

"Iíve always been sorta ostracized for it-"

"Well ya donít have ta worry about that with me. The, uh... chamberlain at the castle?" Toad began, pointing in a certain direction. "He was raised by Koopas. Still hold the utmost respect for him."

"Really? Wow... thatís..."

"Itís true..."

"Thatís great." She giggled.

"Oh, and da Marios."

"Ugh..."

"Donít even get me started on them. Hate da Marios."

"Oh, theyíre terrible, arenít they? Yet everyone worships the ground they walk on..."

"I know, itís... itís just wrong."

Mel smiled. "You know, Toad, it makes me feel good to know that there are guys like you in the world."

"Ah, shucks..." he said, blushing.

"... Even if you do confuse cartoons with reality sometimes..."

"Hey, nothiní wrong with that. In fact, I learned everything I know about basketball from Magic Johnsonís Fastbreak..."

FlashbackÖ

Toad is seated with the princess and a few respected guests courtside at a basketball game, and is sobbing into his hands.

"What is going on...?"

Mel started to laugh, which made Toad feel a bit more at ease.

"So... you talk about me when Iím not there, ay?"

"Well, ya know..."

"Hey, Iím not doing anything later. I heard about this new casino that opened up, uh... would you... want to go see it with me?"

Toad felt his solar plexus ignite.

"Sure! Yeah, thatíd be... great!"

"Okay. Well, Iíve got a few things Iíve gotta take care of outta town. Letís say we meet back here in about... letís see, what time is it... say, five hours?"

"Yeah, uh... all right," he sputtered out.

"Okay. Well... Iím sure youíre busy with the princess... so, Iíll meet you back here later. Kay?"

"Yeah, uh... see ya later, Mel!"

Mel turned and left, leaving Toad struck dumb amidst the bustling traffic of the marketplace. The princess came up from behind him.

"So... howíd it go?"
 

Meanwhile, back at his hollow-tree hotel, we find Morton Koopa in a familiar predicament.

"Ugh! I cannot believe there isnít a single Dominoís in this entire phonebook. What am I supposed to do? I canít run into town!"

Morton leaned on his splintery, make-shift table and gazed over his right shoulder. The time had come to make good on his promise for pizza. Inconceivably, though, it seemed the Mushroom Kingdom was entirely destitute of this amenity, and the only means of honoring his word would be a crazed sojourn into town. He was also forced to consider the imminent possibility of a Mario attack, as well as the potential for the princessí inconvenient escape. Presently, his minions had been occupied in combat preparation for an hour or two, and were too busy to go out and pick up a couple of pizzas.

Weighing his options for a few moments, Morton came to a decision and headed downstairs to inform his squad. As he approached the stairwell, he could already sense the swelling wall of sound, comprised of the aggressive banter of the troops and the din of their activities. Halfway down the stairs, Morton had to shout over the noise.

"Hey... HEY! LISTEN UP!" he shouted.

The team stopped and looked up at their captain.

"Listen I gotta... go out and get pizzas, I guess..."

"Yes!" whispered the Fire Brother.

"One of you has to look after the princess up here, to make sure nothing happens. Whoís it going to be?"

The room flooded with murmuring of the troops. Convinced that nothing would come of this without his initiative, Morton raised his voice to interpose.

"HEY! Okay, let me put it this way. Which one of you is doing the least work?"

The underlings parted in a centrifugal motion, forming a clearing in the center of the room. There, Shy Guy was engaged in a struggle with several mechanical ďferret ball toysĒ, which were all in operation at once.

"Woah... woah... Hey guys, guys... Come on, help!"

Morton bellowed a deep groan.

"Ugh... Okay, you!" he hollered, pointing at his frazzled minion. The Shy Guy stopped and looked up.

"Get up here, Iíve... gotta job for you..."

The Shy Guy beamed. This was his opportunity to reconcile the ďpieĒ incident, and get on his commanderís good side. He scampered upstairs and waited at Mortonís heels in anticipation.

Morton was faced away from his minion, with his hands folded behind his back. He looked out over the meadow for a few moments, and then addressed the strange, masked creature.

"Okay... okay..."

He turned to face his flunky.

"I really... really need this to go over without a hitch."

Shy Guy nodded.

"I will be gone for thirty minutes. Iím not sure..." he paused, "what could happen in that time, but... do ya think..."

The Koopaling paused again and slowly drew himself closer to the Shy Guy.

"Do ya think that maybe... maybe, just this once..."

Suddenly, Morton stopped and began to laugh to himself. He was a nervous wreck.

"Ya know what, Shy Guy? This whole thing is crazy..."

The Shy Guy glanced nervously around the room.

"Well... ha!"

Morton moved slowly and silently over toward his uneasy minion. With an odd gesture, he put his arm around the Shy Guy and began to chuckle. He lowered his voice to a whisper.

"Oh, Shy Guy. Do you... like... working for the Koopa family? DO YA?!"

Beads of sweat dripped down the neck of this unfortunate fellow. It was becoming more and more difficult for him to maintain a composed facade.

"Well-"

"DONíT ANSWER THAT! DONíT DO IT!"

Shy Guy began to whimper.

"Ya ever been stomped on by the Marios? Ya ever, ya ever have to return home to the SAME... WRETCHED... SQUALOR... EVERY DAY?! HUH?! Ya ever seen your chance at happiness flattened again and again, until all you can do is despair?!"

The Shy Guy began to sob. His commander slapped him on the back of the head.

"SHUT UP!"

The Shy Guy fell to the ground. Morton walked over to him and crouched down.

"All ya gotta do... is make sure the princess doesnít escape. Then we can all be one big, happy family... Got it?"

"Y-y-es sir..."

"Good. Iíll be back with pizza," said Morton with a smile.

The agitated Koopaling turned and leapt out of the hotel, headed toward the nearest pizzeria.
 

Outside of Castle Toadstool, two attendants had been stationed on patrol duty.

As they rounded the perimeter of the castle, one of them spotted something off in the distance; two figures could be discerned traversing one of the flaxen pathways that formed rivulets in the rolling, verdant hillsides. As the travelers came closer, one of the guards recognized the princess, with her companion Toad.

One of the guards was a personal friend of the Royal Retainer, and addressed him directly.

"Well... Look whoís back!"

"Hey, donít strain yourself out here, Charlie," joked Toad.

"Preachiní to the choir, Squeaks."

"Oh... Hey, Iíve got news!" announced the Retainer.

"What?"

Toad paused for suspense.

"I have... a date this afternoon."

"You? No way. Donít believe it. This is a Mushroom female weíre talkiní Ďbout here, right?"

The other guard opened the front door for the princess.

"You bet. Oh, youíll hear about it later, donít worry."

"Oooh, look at you... swaggering like you go out in a top hat on weekdays."

"Yeah, well... have fun on guard duty, Chuck..." said Toad, patting his companion on the shoulder.

"Will do. Iím, uh... lookiní forward to the report."

"Yeah, yeah. Iíll see ya."

Toad left to catch up with the princess, who, inside, was being swarmed by a posse of concerned servants. This kind commotion was typically in attendance with a Peach kidnapping, though Toad himself never received much in the way of attention or gratitude. Still, he enjoyed his peculiar social stature, which, although certainly not glamorous, nonetheless provided him with a reliable network of friends and support. He pushed his way through the crowd, fighting to get the attention of the princess.

"Hey... HEY! Princess, I gotta get some shut eye, Iím gonna..."

"Oh, uh... will you check the answering machine before you go to sleep?" requested the princess.

"Er... yeah, fine."

Toad walked into the kitchen, which had finally started to come along over the course of the evening. After pulling a stool up to the counter, he seated himself with a notepad and pencil, and hit play on the answering machine.

"You have seven new messages."

"Ah, geez..."

*beep*
Hey Toad, itís Goombella. Iím just heading into Home Depot to pick up a few things. Call me back when you get the chance. Thanks.
*beep*
Incoming collect call from: In need of a few repairs? Weíve got great new deals on home renovation packages here at Koopa Construction. Remember - At Koopa Construction, weíre not in any way associated with Bowser Koopa!
*beep*
Hi, um... itís Toadette, just calling to see how my uncle is doing. If you see him, just... tell him to give me a ring... Thanks...

This puzzled Toad. It seemed unlikely that Toadsworth, as addled as his wits may have been, would have missed a call from his favorite niece.

*beep*
Hey, Goombella again. Just cominí out of Home Depot... You can still reach me if you like. Thanks.
*beep*
YOSHI SICK OF NONESENSE! YOSHI THINK DAISY BAD PERSON! DAISY PROUD OF BAD THINGS, YOSHI GET BACK AT DAISY! DAISY WATCH BACK! YOSHI NOT FORGET!

"Huh," mused Toad. "A little off the mark, there, dude."

*beep*
Hey, itís Goombella. Listen, I got this... toolkit at Home Depot. Itís got a lot of stuff in it... hmm... it looks like... more than one kind of hammer. Huh. Not sure what that is... Well anyway, I know youíre kitchen is in rough shape, so... Iíve got this toolkit, I just got it, uh... If you want to... use it, I guess I could lend it to you. If you just called me Iím sure we could work something out. If you wanted to call me tonight you still could... Iím not really sure what Iím doing tomorrow, but...

Toad glared at the machine in disbelief.

"Who... who leaves messages like this?"

...get one yourself, but since I already had one, I figured maybe you would want to use it. Or not. Hmm...

There was a pause in the recording.

"Hang up the phone, HANG UP THE PHONE!!!"

More silence.

Oh! Whoops. Well, I guess Iíll get going. Just another reminder about the tool thing again, give me a call. Thanks.

"Goombella needs a life, man."

*beep*
Uh... This Yoshi. Yoshi... make mistake last night, Yoshi sorry about that. Not sure what happened. Just dialed wrong number... God, Yoshi embarrassed. Please no tell Marios.

Presently the princess came into the kitchen.

"Hey, díwe miss anything?"

"Well, not much. Hey, listen to this..." said Toad, pointing at the machine.

He replayed the Yoshi messages for the princess.

"Whatís, uh... whadíya think is goiní on there?" he asked, with a chortle.

"Oh, I donít know. You know how Yoshi is."

"Yeah, I know, gotta forgive the little tyke, itís just weird, thatís all-"

"Little tyke?" Peach gave Toad a dubious glance.

"Uh..."

"Toad, Yoshi is thirty four."

"Oh... O-o-o-h..."

"Do you-"

"Okay, yeah, that explains a lot."

"Yeah, youíre not actually supposed to ride on the backs of Yoshis and make them eat blocks and stuff, theyíre sentient creatures."

"So..." began the Mushroom, "basically da Marios are so lazy that they... have... bamboozled a mentally retarded dinosaur into carrying them around."

"Yeah, basically."

"Why... hasnít anyone stopped this?"

"Eh... They all seem happy with the arrangement."

"Fine... whatever. Fine." Toad motioned toward the door, but hesitated.

"Oh, hey... Toadette called."

"Yeah?"

"She missed Toadsworth."

"Thatís weird... Ya know, I havenít seen him around anywhere since weíve gotten back."

"Eh... Probably got stuck in the endless stairs again. Iíll go look for him."

Suddenly, Toad and the princess were intruded upon by the bustle of a cadre of consternated castle attendants, which, ostensibly, was returning from some battle in the foyer. Apparently, someone was trying to force their way into the castle. Before any details could be gracelessly sputtered, however, the kitchen was breeched by Toadette, who pushed through the team like a hunter through elephant grass. It was clear that she was rather upset and had nearly abandoned herself to hysterics; her cheeks were glossy with tears, and her speech was garbled by the soggy palpitations of grief. Toad and Peach glanced at each other as the scene ensued.

"Woah, woah, whatís the problem here?" asked Toad.

"I went out... this morning... to pick... to..." heaved Toadette.

The princess came over and offered the unraveled Mushroom a handkerchief.

"Thank you," she sniffed.

They waited as she recovered herself.

"I went out this morning, to pick up a few things, ya know? And... and... when I got back to my house, I found this!"

Toadette held out a crumpled note. Toad took it and reviewed its contents.

Toadette,
Weíve taken your uncle. Give us 25,000 coins and we will return him. You can reach us at the old Mushroom Circuit.
Those Handsome Devils,
Iggy and Junior

"Youíve got to do something, Toad!" implored Toadette.

The Mushroom groaned and leaned on the counter. He hadnít slept in nearly a day, and he had promised to meet up with Mel in five hours. This type of job could easily hold him over, and, if that happened, it would make it seem as if he had stood-up his date. It was possible for him to run out to Castle Koopa and quickly retrieve the chamberlain, but he had a better idea.

"Donít worry, Toadette, Iíll call da Marios!"

"Really? You can get the Marios to do this?"

"Oh yeah, sure. Da Marios and I go way back. They donít make a move without me. Iíll call Ďem up right now."

Toad picked up the receiver and hit 2 on the speed dial. He took a moment to indulge Toadette.

"Itís ringing, itís ringing."

To be sure, it rang. And rang. Then, to his dismay, no one picked up. Toad was stupefied as he listened to Marioís voice on the answering machine.

Hello, and thank you for calling da Super Mario Hotline. Remember - leave your name, number, and time you called, or youíll end up - In the dog house!
*beep*

"... Dog house...?"

The Mushroom needed to do something, and quickly.

"Oh... hey Mario! How are ya?!"

Fortunately, Toad was a master of the one-sided phone conversation.

"Oh, fine, fine. Da princess? Oh yeah, sheís great, sheís, uh, right here actually!"

Toad laughed and gestured toward the princess.

"Well, ya know... I need a favor. Anything for me? Ah, shucks Mario..."

The company passed glances betwixt one another.

"Well, ya know Toadsworth? You love that guy, ya say? Oh, well, heís been captured, and we need someone to... what? *feigns surprised look* Youíll do it? Thatís real super of ya, Mario. Well, better get right on it... Yeah, Castle Koopa... Okay... Yeah, okay... And, uh, consider that debt you guys owe me repaid... You could never repay it, what... Oh, okay, if you say so. All right, gíbye."

Toad spun around on his stool and clapped his hands together.

"Well, itís all taken care of!"

"Really? Oh, youíre the greatest, Toad!"

She glomped the Mushroom and planted a convincing kiss on his right cheek. Toad decided that it was good Mel wasnít here to see this, and smiled as he relished the thought of women fighting over him.

After the room had cleared out, Toad retired to his quarters and prepared to get in bed. As he took his vest off, the princess poked in to express her curiosity.

"Hey. Iím, uh... surprised the Marios agreed to rescue Toadsworth so quickly..."

"Uh, yeah. I didnít get the Marios," Toad stated bluntly.

"What?"

"They werenít home. What was I supposed-"

"So you made that whole thing up?"

"Yup... yesiree," said the Retainer, nodding.

"So, what are you going to do?"

"Iím sure da Marios just went out ta Dave & Busterís or somethiní andíll be back in a half Ďn hour. Then, I just call Ďem up - weíre good."

"Hmm... well, if you say so," said the princess, unconvinced.

"Trust me. Just wake me up in like forty minutes."

"Well, all right. Have a nice nap, Toad."

The princess left, quietly closing the door behind her.
 

Iggy and Junior ambled down a dirt road, carrying a gagged and tied Toadsworth between them.

"This is great. This is a rush, man," said Iggy with a wide grin.

"Yeah, itís... pretty good-"

"I mean, who would ever suspect that Toadsworth would be kidnapped..." he continued, gesticulating in odd ways.

"Uh-huh..."

"I mean, we went there, we looked in a window, you said Why donít we disguise ourselves as carpenters and swipe the chamberlain while weíre inside, we got the clothes-"

"Yeah. Yeah, I know."

"You... you," said Iggy, pointing to his brother, "should be the head of the household, my friend."

"Well, itís... generous of you to believe that I should be compensated for my work, but..."

Iggy laughed. "Oh... oh, yeah... This guy still manages to be witty. Itís... HEY!"

Iggy accosted Rabbit, who was visiting from the Hundred Acre Woods.

"This guy! This... this is the guy, right here!"

"I donít want any trouble from a couple of young punks!" he snapped.

"What th- Did you hear that?"

"Yeah, I heard," nodded Junior.

"Eh... shmuck. Hey, could we, uh, stop at that Henny Penny up ahead?"

"Why?"

"Iím thirsty. I wanna get like a... Yoohoo! or something, I donít know."

Junior sighed. "Uh, okay, I guess, but youíd better be really quick about it-"

"Yeah... Iíll be quick."

Iggy ran inside, leaving Toadsworth and Junior alone. The latter sat down on the curb and gazed at the ground during the awkward moment. He turned to the hog-tied chamberlain.

"So... what happened to your kitchen?"
 

Some few miles away, in a drafty, quiet, and crudely furnished room, there was a modest wooden chair; and upon this chair sat Shy Guy, who nervously twiddled his thumbs as the moments passed. He didnít say anything. He just waited patiently, accompanied by the sound of muffled combat training and an occasional breeze.

It was funny to him how he clung on to these nuances in his anxious state.

Approximately twenty-five minutes had passed since he had been charged with overseeing the operation of the hotel, and nothing had yet gone awry. Perhaps Morton would return early - or perhaps not. In any case, he couldnít bear this nervous anticipation for much longer.

Shy Guy was occupied with these worries when he was surprised by the appearance of the strange woman.

"Oh, are you one of the bellhops?"

"Well... uh... actually..." he began, trembling.

"Because I am so hungry, and would love something to eat."

"Well, uh, Iím sorry, Miss, but I donít think there is anything to eat around here."

"Oh, silly goose, thatís okay. Iíll just have to go out and find something..."

Shy Guy had long been bereft of this kind of treatment, and was touched by the womanís kindness. Apropos, he also needed a way to pass the time, and decided to indulge the strange visitor.

"Hold on... Let me look around, Iím sure I can find something..."

"Oh, thatís so nice of you!"

Shy Guy got off his chair and commenced his search of the room. There werenít any refrigerators, but there were a few cabinets.

"Doesnít look like thereís anything in here..." he said, rummaging through one of the cabinets. "You see I... I... told Morton to... go out and get something to eat..."

"Oh, so youíre his boss?

"Well... weíve worked together before so... weíve established a pretty good relationship."

"Oh, good for you! Thatís nice!"

As his quest continued, Shy Guy noticed a sack lying on the couch, and decided to look inside. It was a potato sack, after all.

"Oh! What do we have here!"

Shy Guy pulled out the large bowl and displayed it for the woman.

"Miss? Excuse me... I found this mincemeat salad for you..."

"Oh..."

The woman took the bowl from Shy Guy and examined it. "You know, I had an aunt that used to make mincemeat pies when I was a little girl." She took the bowl over to the table and began to eat. "Oh, I haven't had this in a long time."

And so she ate. And ate.

Now, it must here be mentioned that the original creator of the Slim Jim had keen acumen for the potential danger of the snack, which had originally been intended as a prescription substance meant to desensitize and tease the bloodlust of nocturnal big game hunters. Accompanying its release to the general public was the design of special packaging, the cleverness of which lies in this, that the more one eats, the more difficult it becomes to open the next wrapper.

But on this day, and to the misfortune of the present company, there was an exceptional circumstance. The inventor of the Slim Jim had not anticipated this improbability, or perhaps the crass stupidity of some poor bloke who decided to take a box of these ďfever sticksĒ and mash them into a large glass bowl.

Well, as Shy Guy watched this woman gorge herself, he became witness to a frightening transformation. At first, the woman stopped as she began to sense acute pains in her chest. She began to cough and gag as the room spun around in circles, changed colors, and morphed into bizarre and terrifying images.

There were also, of course, the trademark Slim Jim voices. To compensate for the loss of sense and equilibrium, the woman flailed her arms around wildly, flipping the table and inevitably tumbling onto the floor, as a wild phantasmagoria raged through her head. In her mind she saw King Koopa, pacing in his throne room and declaiming to himself, and then seeing the same iterative sequence progressively accelerated. For a moment, all she could hear was his distorted voice, intoning It hasnít been invented yet! It hasnít been invent- hasnít been invent- hasnít been invent- and so on. Then, he was in the window of a middle class American home, watching the television in the living room, and started repeating Television! until the womanís vision became blurry and faded into a black and white static.

Finally, he was back in the throne room, musing to himself, saying Let me think - what did I learn in the Real World....

The unfortunate woman shrieked and crumpled to the floor.

She had simply dropped there, unconscious.

For a moment Shy Guy looked at the body lying on the floor. He glanced around the room in a full panorama, wondering if anyone else had been present to the scene.

No one was there. The quiet had returned, along with the noise from downstairs and the rustle of the breeze, as though nothing had happened. He scratched his head.

Still, he thought, it was a relief that nothing had gone wrong in the hotel. He slowly crept over to the woman and tried to shake her back to a waking state.

"Miss? Uh... Miss...?"

After this failed attempt, he pinched her nostrils together between his thumb and index finger, and the woman finally stirred.

As she sat up, she examined her surroundings and took particular interest in the pink gown she was wearing. She sat with a puzzled look for a moment, and then looked over at Shy Guy with a peculiar, vacuous expression.

"Are... the Marios coming here?"

"Uh... yeah, eventually..."

Suddenly, the woman had a strange twinkle in her eye.

"Good. I hope they come and rescue me very soon..."

Though it seemed inconsequential, Shy Guy couldnít help but feel a terrible misgiving about this comment.

Coincidentally, outside, the Marios finally arrived at the hotel. They barreled up the pathway, as was their wont.

"Looks kinda peaceful," observed Mario.

"Looks are deceiving - when Koopas are involved," commented his brother.

Luigi walked up to the trunk to provide a boost for Mario, who, in a single bound, jumped up to the top floor.

And, indeed, he beheld a strange scene.

"Mario! Itís me, Peach!"

Though the features of this woman were exaggerated to the point of dementia, and her only possible resemblance to the princess was her awful dress, this was quite enough evidence for Mario.

"Iím so glad youíve come to rescue me from the terrible Koopa fortress!"

Distracted by a butterfly, she stood up and walked out onto a branch of the tree.

"Uh... uh..." stuttered Shy Guy, who was becoming increasingly uneasy.

"Luigi, sheís up here!" indicated Mario.

"Looks like weíve made quick work of theseÖ quick-witted Koopas." replied Luigi.

While Luigi was pausing, the branch supporting the new ďpsuedo PeachĒ collapsed under her weight, and she fell to the ground.

"Hey, Princess!" shouted Mario.

Whilst this fiasco ensued, Roy, who had been waiting by a bush for some time, ran over to catch the princess. He become quite emotional over the ordeal.

"Iím donít know what happened up there, Morty... but Iím gonna do dis for you! I love you, man!"

The teary Koopaling caught the princess, and absconded with her to his abandoned warehouse in a mad dash. The Marios, however, were not far behind; and Shy Guy, well, he just stood there.

As the Marios approached Royís hotel, they could see that, not only were all the lights in the entire building switched on, but they were flickering sporadically as well.

"How are we gonna find da princess, with da power goiní out?" asked Luigi.

"Maybe thereís a switch in one of da rooms..." Mario looked at you. "Remind me to check!"
 

Date worries? Two Peaches on the loose? A Shy Guy in turmoil? Can anything come of all this?

Next time, The Toastís the Thing; or, Hats Off to (Roy) Koopa.

Read on!


 
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