The Good, the Bad, and the Torpor; or, the Request:
Raptured in the dazzling euphoria which accompanies an exhibition of Hulk Hogan's rap album, Larry lost his way to his own hotel and decamped with prog rock guru, Ludwig, while the Marios mingled in some mine-cart monkey business. Putting his bongo career on hiatus, Diddy Kong guided the Marios through the perilous passageways of Larry's hotel, earning the trust and veneration of his hard-staring, instruction book-sharing companions. Unfortunately, he would later take a permanent lunch break as he was pummeled into the unknown by a belligerent Kremling.
Diddy's sacrifice, however, was not in vain.
while Mario was wondering where he was, Toad was wondering what he was
going to do with his date. In a bizarre twist, the Mushroom's romantic
getaway turned out to be a Koopa Casino, commissioned with the aim of healing
some of the economic and political wounds of the kingdom. Of course, if
the Royal Retainer ran into a Koopa and his history of blackmail, violent
crimes, and slander against them was exposed, it would likely undermine
his position as a Koopa sympathizer. Here was the conondrum!
As a codfish on the lamb breaks for water, so did Mario flop and tumble as his flabby essence was channeled through the reaches of a mysterious orange warp pipe he had found. Most warp pipes were little more than sophisticated air vents, their efficacy misrepresented by the flawless control they exhibit in the many Mario games. So, this rough-and-tumble ride was nothing out of the ordinary for our hero; yet what was most remarkable about this pipe was, firstly, in an astonishing display of engineering prowess, the entire pipe was one, continuous piece of lead. And if that weren't enough, in a display of engineering prowess even more astonishing than the last, there was no apparatus whatsoever that provided the necessary suction power to the pipe.
Once Mario reached the end of the tunnel, he was jaunted into a well-kept room with a smooth, tiger-striped floor. He sat up.
"Where am I?"
Lemmy leaned forward in anticipation as a Paratroopa with a deadpan look waved his claw over a picture. "I don't know... All over the place, I guess..."
"No!" bounced Lemmy. "Only one of them is really me. The rest are imposters."
The Troopa cupped the side of his head in his hand. "All right. Well, um... It might be... ugh... Hey, wait! Lemmy imposters? What is this anyway?"
Lemmy and a collection of minions were seated, cross-legged (as far as it was possible), before a large painting that had been lain flat on the floor of the atrium of the sky hotel.
"Okay, okay," Lemmy began urgently, "do you remember that 'Waldoland' picture from the Great Waldo search?"
"Yeah... was that the yellow one?"
"Well...?" Lemmy nodded eagerly at his new painting, trying to lead his underlings to one of many conclusions. They began to mumble and pass helpless glances between each other, for no one was quite sure how to respond. The Paratroopa held his hand up to his mouth and furrowed his brow.
Inspired by the most well-known picture from the Waldo canon, Lemmy in boredom had undertaken to create a close replica of the classic shot, substituting himself for Waldo; and as a transformer grapples in combat, so did he grapple vainly for the attention of the company, under the misguided impression that it would be fun to look for someone in a horde of look-alike clones.
"Just try!" demanded Lemmy. "You're not doing anything anyway!"
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean you can just make me do whatever you want, like I owe it to you or something."
"Okay..." pouted Lemmy. "But the next time you want me to look at something, I'm not going to..."
The Yroopa bit his lip. He didn't want to do it, but as bored as he was, who knew what he might want Lemmy to look at?
"Whatever." He leaned over and gave the painting a cursory inspection. "Uh... That one...?"
"Hmm... That one?"
"Stop guessing!" rebuked the Koopaling. "Use the clues to find the real me."
"Hey, you asked us if we wanted to do something fun..." contended the winged turtle. "This isn't fun! Luigi's Mansion is fun... this just stinks," he whined. "Oh wait, they both do."
"I'm the fun-loving Koopaling, what can I say?" said he, palpably miffed. "I thought this was fun. I can't tell what you'll think is fun."
"These don't even really look like you," he chortled, scrutinizing the picture. "Look at this..." he asked a companion.
"Where's the ball?" asked a Paragoomba.
"Yeah, and the eyes aren't all googley and silly," noted one of the grunts.
"Well Paratroopa," Lemmy began facetiously, "I never ride a ball. And I don't have some lazy eye, as you all seem to think."
"Come on," he grinned, nodding to the company, "that's like classic Lemmy. You know, he could do something silly at any moment!"
The team bubbled with mirth as Lemmy sat scowling the Paratroopa.
"Yeah, except... I'm not really like that, and if anything it's even sillier to make up things about people. Actually it's stupid."
Guffaws erupted from the underlings. "That's your shtick, though, it's not us!"
"You see, if you weren't idiots you would know that Bowser only uses the Shtick to mask his embarassment for having so many kids. But you'd rather act like morons, so... that's why you're stuck in your mindless, dead-end jobs."
An uncomfortable quiet came over the room. After some time had passed, the Paratroopa broke the ice.
"What are the clues?"
"The real me," explained Lemmy, "is standing on both feet, has a closed-mouth smile, is wearing a wristband on his right wrist, and is holding a wand in the left."
The Paratroopa sighed and went back to the picture. "You know, I feel like there is something we're forgetting about, here."
At that moment, there was a knock on the door. Lemmy hurried excitedly to the source of the noise.
"Please be the Six Flags guy, please be the Six Flags guy," prayed a Paragoomba.
Lemmy opened the door.
Before him stood the very same strange-looking reptillian creature that - do you remember? - had taken so much pleasure as the Marios passed through the threshold of the Mushroom Kingdom.
"HELLO," quaked the peculiar visitor.
Lemmy recoiled at the loud response. "... Ugh... Can I help you?"
"Yes, excuse me..." he began, clearing his throat. "I have the habit of speaking loudly," he explained with a thespian flair, "I think it gives me... authority..."
He wafted past Lemmy into the room, while the Koopaling rung out his left ear.
"Okay... I think it makes you annoying."
"I had heard that there was a Koopa casino being opened today as a form of propitiation to Koopa kind on behalf of the Mushroom Crown, and I have come here in search of a Koopa."
He darted a quick glance at Lemmy, then walked over and knelt before him. He smiled and placed his hands on Lemmy's shoulders.
"I am fortunate to have found you, for you are the most fun-loving Koopaling," he said, grinning affectionately at Lemmy.
Lemmy made a sidelong pass. "Okay... I'm just going to walk away."
The stranger laughed heartily. "I should explain who I am. My name is Rudy, and I am a friend and admirer of your father's."
"Yeah... so is Angelica Pickles. What of it?"
"Ah, don't you see?" Rudy stood up. "I am a Koopa too!"
Rudy sort of resembled a Koopa. It would be easier to see if, before partaking in the dubious pleasure of his company, one were to apply a copious amount of medicated shampoo to one's eyes. He looked like Bowser, mark II, if an anvil had been repeatedly dropped on his head. The colors were a bit off, too... really he looked more like a deformed alligator on stimulants than a Koopa.
"Okay, cool," said Lemmy. "How did you find this place, anyway?"
"Well," he began, "I was travelling in one of my many hotair balloons when a noticed that there was a cloud which seemed to be a permanent fixture in the sky, no matter what the weather. It was very odd, really."
"Yeah," chuckled Lemmy, "it's not much more than a floating Getty Mart."
"I knew that only a Koopa would bunker in a location so off-the-wall and impractical. Here I am."
"Hey, did you even remember to put a real Lemmy in this picture?!" shouted the Paragoomba.
"Yup... It's there all right."
"So," Rudy started as he began to inspect the hotel, "once the Marios are taken care of this should be... quite profitable, eh?"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about the Marios," said Lemmy, mindful of the presence of his minions.
Rudy made a strange look. "Well, I saw them coming into the Kingdom."
A hush fell over the room as the underlings suddenly remembered what they had forgotten.
"They were on their way. In fact... they seemed to posses a means of squashing this whole operation. They were speaking in some sort of code... something about an instruction book for defeating Koopas."
Panic swept the room.
"I knew we should have been preparing!"
"All this time, our lives, wasted on this picture!" said a Paratroopa, pounding the painting with his fist.
"... The Marios had it all planned out!"
"I heard they have Goku with them!"
"No..." groaned Lemmy. "I'm sure they were already defeated or are okay with us having hotels."
The troops were skeptical of this.
"Besides, how could they even get up here, anyway?"
The team paused as the soldiers fell into thought.
"They've got a hotair balloon!" shouted a Paragoomba.
"Go! Scan the skies! Scramble! Scramble!" shouted a Lakitu as the troops dispersed, making a loud din.
Rudy walked over to the picture on the floor.
"Is this supposed to be you?"
Thus panted foot-racer of repute, Koopa T. Quick. As he became aggrieved by the reproaches of fatigue, he had gone from striding to pacing to bumbling, and was at last reaching his limit. This was particularly disagreeable for a turtle who staked his reputation on being indefatigable, and withal quick; and this was not a moniker which had come facile to him.
Mr. Quick looked about for a place to rest, something comfortable and removed from the public view. Up ahead he spotted a stone column surrounded by a few other rocky formations and, although it pained him to do so, decided to take respite there. But he would not find relief from the throes of self-doubt.
"Look at you, Zarathustra," (for this was his real name), "you can't even beat him!"
He paused to catch his breath.
"Maybe you should just go back to the hospital bed..."
As he upbraided himself, he sensed his balance begin to falter, at first imputing it to exhaustion. However, he soon realized that the ground beneath him had started to shake.
"Woah," he stammered, falling to one knee, "what the-"
While he struggled to recover himself, the Marios sallied past him in a blur.
"Cave's gonna blow no time for explanations," blurted Mario, apparently without any time to explain.
Poor Mr. Quick was curtailed by a fiery explosion, which surged flame and rock as a Fanta gushes froth after having been dropped four times or more; he was tossed forcefully against a jagged stone, gashing his left leg. He cried as he fell to the ground, singed and bruised.
Meanwhile, Prune was fired like a potato out of the tunnel, unharmed into the sky.
"She's not comin' down!" observed Luigi over the ululations of Mr. Quick.
"She's up there!" shouted Mario, pointing in the sky. Two clouds parted to reveal Lemmy's sky hotel, from which a very bizarre strain of music rang through the air. It was like Pee Wee's Playhouse meets a cursed Merry-Go-Round.
Would the Marios have to devise some clever plan to ascend the clouds? Would they go on a memorable adventure, or discover some wonderous object to help them in their journey? Maybe they would set their own ambitions aside and aid their fallen friend, Mr. Quick?
Nope. Luigi kicked a box, and a climbing vine came out of it.
"It's hard to see through those clouds," Mario explains to you. "I hope we can get rid of 'em..."
"Get the hint?"
The princess was busy fumbling with a pink sweatband, and was not paying attention to her servant. "Stupid thing..."
She turned around. "What?"
"Do you, uh... 'dig' this plan of mine?"
"Okay," he interrupted her. "I need ya ta take this Daisy costume, fly into town, and take my mother hostage. Then, when all the pieces are in place..."
The priness had gone back to her mirror. "You really need to... learn to solve your problems without resorting to scams and costumes."
Toad didn't speak.
"Besides," she continued, squeezing the wiring of her tennis racket, "what were you going to do anyway? You can't have your first date turn into a hostage situation. It's not a good sign."
"Well I gotta do something!" exclaimed the Royal Retainer. He sighed. "I wish there were a way to... make her enthralled with me without actually knowing anything about me. Yeah, dat would be a sweet gig."
"Do what you gotta do," sighed the princess as she picked up a dufflebag full of equipment. "Oh, by the way... did you know that Toadsworth was kidnapped and then rescued by the Marios this afternoon?"
"Yeah. Yeah I know."
"Good thing, too, otherwise you would probably be out there."
Toad thought for a moment. "Huh... I just got an idea."
"Don't worry about it. You just hit the courts and... swoon over the Prince of Tennis, or whatever you do."
The princess gave Toad a quizzical stare. "What is wrong with you?"
"As a child I used to lick the ends of batteries, 'cause of the, uh... weird feelin' it gave me..."
Peach shook her head. "To think of all the times we've put you in charge of children."
Folding his costume, Toad glared at the princess.
"Would you like a Hawaiian Punch?"
"Just... mix 'em all together..."
The store clerk gave Iggy a very caustic look. "Mix them all?"
"Er... yeah. See what it's like. What's the big deal?"
"That's like taking all of the condements and mixing them together. It's wasteful and disgusting."
"Okay, ya know what? I'm not having a moral hang-up about ordering a drink, buddy. Can ya just do it?"
The clerk shook his head and turned to the soft drink dispenser. Iggy leaned on the counter and looked up at the television, which was switched on the news.
...moments ago, when Koopa T. Quick arrived on a stretcher. There are not a lot of details at this moment, Bill...
Iggy raised an eyebrow.
He was found in a fiery rubble and was rushed to the E.R. at Mushroom Hospital. We will report as we get more information...
It was not surprising that Mr. Quick's unfortunate accident had made headlines. He had become a public figure years ago following a courageous struggle with Ace Ventura Condition (or AVC, for lack of a better term), a postural complex that leads to scoliosis and rapid deterioration of the visceral organs. His triumph over it was well publicized, and to consumate his success he became a jogger, and eventually, took up foot-racing. Controversy erupted when he had the descriptive epithet "Quick" legally appended to his name. Most dissenters found grounds for objection in the obvious absurdity that he had recovered from a hitherto unknown illness predicated on the antics of a fictitious pet detective portrayed by Jim Carrey. Others argued that in their races with Mr. Quick (which suspiciously took them through dangerous areas), they intentionally lost as not to humiliate an athlete who had struggled so valiantly against adversity.
Some suggested a comprimise, perhaps"'relatively quick" instead, but how could a man who had overcome a terminal disease be denied? The dispute became so heated that accusations rose concerning whether Mr. Quick actually suffered from a disease, or whether in fact he was one of the biggest frauds in recent history.
Foot-racing hadn't become a full occupation for Mr. Quick until Mario, in wantonness, had beat him so badly (reports say he was actually doing backflips in the air as Mr. Quick lagged behind) that the poor turtle became disillusioned, and vowed to defeat everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom in a race.
Since he had nothing better to do that afternoon, Iggy decided to visit the hospital and view the unfolding scene for himself.
"Hey, thanks." He took his Big Gulp and handed the store clerk some change.
Iggy was not beset by admirers when he hit the streets, as his siblings were, and thus enjoyed a very comfortable excursion through the business sector of the kingdom. They would still recognize his face when he entered the hospital, however, as the Koopa family was notorious for the sheer frequency of their hospital visits. Whether he was being gored by a bull, getting a loose drumstick lodged in his mouth, or slipping on a wet Mushroom (or perhaps some combination of the three), King Koopa was a candidate for the coveted Tim Taylor award, established by Richard Karn. And if it wasn't the king, it was one of his children: that time Larry was thrashed by Kirby with an umbrella, incurring welts all over his body; or when Wendy was attacked by a gang of dragons.
And so Iggy found himself in that very same lobby once again, this time for a casual visit. One might suppose that only a deeply depraved person would visit a hospital for recreation, but then again, who are you to judge?
"I'd like to visit Koopa T. Quick," explained Iggy at the reception desk.
"Why?" asked the receptionist.
"I don't know." Iggy shrugged and screwed up his eyes. "I guess I just want to see him... It is Koopa T. Quick, after all."
"But you see him in the media all the time..."
Iggy paused for a moment. "Are you new here?"
"Yes, sir. But I don't see-"
"Wait, wait. See, my family - someone in my family is almost always in here at all times. I basically have a season pass."
"A season pass? What, is this a game for you?"
"Sir... sir! Please!" she said, standing up. "Don't become beligerent with me. You clearly enjoy seeing people injured and sick, and I won't tolerate it."
"If you could just get someone that works here..."
The receptionist had gone back to her work and was ignoring Iggy. He rolled his eyes and prepared to leave, when at that moment he caught Angelica Pickles coming down the corridor.
"Oh, hey!" he said, vying for her attention.
"Oh, hey Iggy," she said as she approached. "D'he call you here too?"
Iggy smiled politely. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh brother. Don't you know anything? Your daddy's calling everyone in town to help his perdicament[sic]."
"H'yeah. He's tryin' to get everyone to help him with his 'scheme' now that he's in the hospital. But he's not gettin' us. Isn't that right, Cynthia?"
Angelica looked over at her right hand, which was empty.
Iggy turned to the receptionist and gloated. "See, I told you, there's always someone in here." He turned and made his way up the corridor, thinking to himself.
A small chimpanzee clad in a white tuxedo tarried about a large clearing in a dank, purple cave.
"Well... I suppose this isn't so bad... as long as I can keep-"
He was too late, however, and was interrupted by a melancholy strain of music. Donkey Kong stood by, shaking his head as he stared at the ground.
"...Donkey Kong from entering the banana horde," sighed the chimp servant. "Oh well, its still salvagable. There's still-"
Once again, our poor fellow was stopped by the same, sad theme, as Diddy had appeared, stomping his hat in rage.
Wait... Diddy's alive! But it's unfortunate we couldn't be seeing him on better terms.
"Who took all these bananas, anyway?" thought the chimp to himself. "And for that matter..."
"How did this happen?"
Iggy declaimed to himself as he wended through a tandem of astonished and confused glances.
"Is the plan over? How could he screw up this quickly? This has got to be a new record."
When at last he arrived at the end of the hallway, and had checked the room number to be sure he was in the correct place, he began to fondle a packet of information that had been lying in a plastic recepticle attached to the door. He scanned the details of the case inside to prepare himself, and, with a shrug, entered the room.
Bowser's hospital room was dimly lit (all curtains were drawn) and reeked of an unpleasant odor. Gifts and balloons, which had been donated by well-wishers, were scattered about, and the only lighting was the flickering glow of a television mounted in the corner. Cynthia sat on a small table at the king's bedside. As Iggy passed under the TV, he listened to the program.
The lid... the lid... the lid, the lid, the lid, thelid thelid thelid thelid thelid...
The king himself was presently engaged in what sounded like important business on a cell phone, and so as not to interrupt him Iggy crept quietly to his bedside and waited patiently. Meanwhile, he inspected his father's condition: there were bruises all over his face, and a shiner in the left eye. Sure enough his left leg was in a cast, and there were several IV units attached to his right arm. A fat lip impeded his speech, and caused him to sound even less intelligable than usual.
"Yeth... yeth... I underthtand, I juth need thomeone to help me..." He sighed. "Ahlight. Well, thanks anyway."
Bowser hit a button on his phone and closed it in his hand, holding it there for a few moments. Then, with a sigh, he rested his head on his pillow.
He turned slowly and gazed up at his son, who stared without reply. Iggy took a sip from his Big Gulp.
"Dr. Robotnik..." explained Bowser, nodding at the phone. "Oh, yeah, he saths you left your Coke unfinithed lasth time you vithited... He told me he wathn't going to buy thodas if you weren't going to dwink 'em..."
Iggy was fastened with the same expression and didn't speak.
"I didn't want to get in the middle of it, just reporting."
"Look at you," Iggy shook his head. "How the mighty have fallen."
Bowser groaned and made some defensive gestures with his arms.
"Beaten up by a cartoon beagle. Well, I must say, that was unexpected."
His father sighed deeply to himself and gazed pensively into the corner of the room. "Ehk... My boy, my boy... what a buthiness thith ith that you're coming into."
No... This is Patrick!
"Hey... do you mind if I turn this off?" Iggy pointed at the television with his thumb. The King of Koopas closed his eyes and lifted his open palm in the direction of the television, granting permission.
"World conquest is a cruel and confuthing mithtress..." he went on, "just like your mother. Did you know I onthe wanted to conquer the world? The whole world?"
Iggy sat back down.
"Now," he said ruefully, "I'm happy if I can juth get my pants on in the morning. Hmm... Where did I go wrong?"
Iggy shrugged. "Total incompetence? I guess it's just one of those life lessons that you can't just say you're a king and rule the whole world. Like, what is this thing?"
Iggy took the tiny crown that nested always on the top of his father's head for a closer look.
"Hey, leave the crown out of thith!" barked Bowser, snatching it back. "The point ith, that one day you'll be in thith bed juth like your ol' man."
"No I won't."
"No..." said Iggy, shaking his head. "This has nothing to do with being assaulted by Snoopy."
"That guy'th a lunatic, I tell ya! And ya didn't let me finith," said Bowser, clearing his throat. "I wath going to thay... thith ith where you'll be thomeday, if you don't help me pull thith plan together right now."
Iggy cocked his head.
"I need ya to go to my hotel, and make thure the Marios are defeated onthe they get there. I have dith great plan, there'th no way it can fail. Thomeone's juth gotta be there..."
"Wait..." chortled Iggy, "so now you want me to help you with this stupid plan? I thought you said you couldn't think of anything for me to do?! Like it was some problem because I don't have much of a shtick."
"It ith," said Bowser. "That'th why you'll be drething up like me!"
"This is a joke, right?"
"Nope. Take thith..." Bowser reached over the side of his bead and pulled out a large, green something. "Thith ith a cothtume of yourth truly."
Iggy took it from him and looked it over. "But... this is just your head..."
"That'th all you'll need."
"So wait... The Marios are going to think that this giant Bowser head walking around with tiny legs under it is you?"
"... Er... well, yeah..."
Iggy sat and thought for a moment. He was prepared to decline the ridiculous request, when suddenly he realized that this assignment would place him as, essentially, the arbiter of the entire operation. He remembered Junior's advice, and suddenly had an idea.
"Yes..." he mused to himself, rolling his hands. "All goes accordiansic to plan..."
"I said, I'll do it. Gladly. For the welfare of the family!"
"Huh... Well that'th juth great," smiled Bowser. "Did I ever tell you that my grandfather wath the world'th greatetht fisherman?"
"I think I'm done here." Iggy stood up and made for the door. "Next time we meet, big guy."
Bowser furrowed his brow. "Uh oh..."
"I think I'm going to soil myself!"
Thus gleefully chirped a Paratroopa as he raced through the sky.
"Lemmy is going to flip when he sees what we have found."
Behind him trailed a team of Paratroopas, engaged in hauling a cloud with a very large fan loaded on the top.
"Are you sure?" asked one of the workers. "I mean, it's okay... It's kinda dumb, though... I'm your biggest fan?"
"He loves that kind of stuff. I suspect that we will at least get a lol out of this."
"Er... I would be happier with a rofl."
"Well, you never know. It depends on what mood he's be in."
While out on patrol, one of the Paratroopas had encountered this bizarre anamoly: a large, novelty-sized fan with a mediocre one-liner attached. Although they had their work ahead of them, the Paratroopas were compelled by boredom to show it to their master, who, meanwhile, was back at the hotel chatting with Rudy.
"So then I say, Well, I gotta take a shower, but I promise I'll put it right back".
Rudy laughed politely. "Oh, Lemmy, the next time I have to tell someone I'm taking a shower, I'll use that one."
Lemmy frowned. "No you won't."
A Paratroopa burst through the door, panting.
"Lemmy... Lemmy... you've got to see this. We found this awesome thing while we were on patrol."
"What is it?"
"I'm not telling you, you have to see it," said the turtle indignantly.
"I don't know..." said Lemmy. "You sure didn't want to look at what I wanted to show you... I don't see why I should..."
"Come on!" begged the Paratroopa. "I looked!"
"Yeah, but you just complained the whole time-"
"That was never part of the deal! You never said!"
"Right, and being rude to me is only going to make me want to see it more."
Outside, a climbing vine had finally brought the Marios to their destination. As they landed on the fluffy platform, they noticed the large fan hovering in front of Lemmy's hotel. Mario bumbled over and read the card.
"I'm your biggest fan. Huh. Pretty funny, eh Luigi?"
"No, it's stupid," he said, pausing.
"Now look at that," said Mario, glaring at the hotel. "When will these people learn? We aren't going to have any clouds left, if this kind of development continues."
Back inside, the argument proceeded.
"But it's really funny!"
"If you look, I'll look at something of yours, no complaints."
"Fine," conceded Lemmy. He stood up and rushed out of the hotel to see what he had been missing.
"Hey, you!" shouted Mario. "Get off of my cloud!"
He switched the fan on medium, blowing the hotel gently aside and sending Lemmy on his first impromptu skydiving excursion. Rudy and the others watched him fall from a window in the hotel.
"Ah, shoot." mumbled Rudy.
"Of imaginext!" cried Lemmy.
To their great fortune, the Marios found that Prune had suddenly appeared in between them. But just as quickly, and inexplicably, she disappeared in a pink flash.
"It's been one of those days."
Toad sliced through flock after flock of local inhabitants, in a way only a man of experience could slice through crowds of buggy-eyed monsters. The traffic at Mushroom Square was motley and representitive as usual, but our hero was not charmed in his struggle, and he rued the beautiful afternoon that had become the occassion for so many colorful speed bumps.
He stopped and leaned against a lamppost to catch his breath, and pulled out a pocket watch.
Although it aggravated him to check the time, the Royal Retainer was accustomed to tight situations and wasn't prepared to take any chances. It was essential for him to promptly terminate his date, and he worried that if he lingered for any longer he would accidentally stand her up.
It wasn't that he didn't like Mel - he did - but it was, forsooth, too great a risk to spend even a small amount of time at a casino run by Koopas. He had reasoned that, were he able to postpone the date, Mel would visit the casino of her own intiative, making it possible to go somewhere else on a different night.
Toad suddenly felt himself lift into the air. He quickly came to his senses.
"Ooh... Hi Toad!"
"Er... Yoshi! Put me down!"
Yoshi had grabbed Toad by the waist and was, presently, carrying him slowly about as his captive wriggled in place.
"Ya got the wrong guy, ya putz!"
Yoshi glanced around the square and saw a familiar orange rabbit hopping away, relishing his escape.
"So long, sucker!"
"Ah..." whined Yoshi. "Rabbit escape... but not next time..."
He dropped Toad square on the buttocks and followed with a bizarre little dance. He turned excitedly to Toad, who was dusting himself off.
"Yoshi go to square and find friends." He paused and frowned. "Ah... but Yoshi die if touch water..."
Yoshi was weird like that: one moment, optimistic, cheerful - the next saddened by the reminder of his own mortality.
Yoshi was not invited to many parties.
"Yoshi dude," grumbled Toad, "now is not the time."
Yoshi laughed and smiled at his companion.
"What are ya doin' out here, shouldn't ya have someone accompanying ya?" he asked, venting anger rather than gathering information.
Yoshi did another little dance, and then proceeded: "Yoshi find Koopa T. Quick, and Yoshi race!" he said with a wet chuckle. "Race lead Yoshi to Rabbit, and Yoshi lose Koopa T, Quick. But Yoshi no care," shrugged he. "Then, Yoshi find nice lady, help me find Rabbit! Call Yoshi 'poor thing' and give Yoshi stickers. She said she waiting for someone!"
Toad perked up.
"Of course, Yoshi no like Lisa Frank. So then, Yoshi trade stickers with mysterious pedaler on street for old lamp-"
"Wait, wait," interrupted Toad, holding a hand up, "what did the lady look like?"
Yoshi smiled innocently. "Er... lady?"
"Yeah, yeah... the nice lady. What did she look like?"
"Hmm... well, short, uh... Mushroom, with polka dots. Plain face with beady eyes... no legs..."
"Could you be more specific?"
"Er... like Toad, only girl. Carrying pink purse... Oh! Wearing adorable pinafore!"
"All right... all right..." Toad stopped him, trying to take control of the situation. "Look, Yosh, you gotta take me to the nice lady."
"Sure... Climb on Yoshi's back!"
"That's... okay..." Toad took Yoshi's hand. "Just... lead me to her..."
So the magic Mushroom and the retarded dinosaur began their journey through the bustling pathways of Mushroom Square, taking in the rich culture and good-will that surrounded them.
After having waited patiently at several pocki stands, Toad became nervous of being truant for his appointment, and after paying for a suspicious-looking mustachioed eggplant for the fourth time, he groaned and prompted his comrade for information.
"Mmm... Pocki!" Yoshi funneled down another box. "Ooh... Pocki!"
"Yosh, uh... I'm startin' ta get a little worried here. Where is the nice lady?"
Yoshi was savoring his pocki and didn't answer for a few moments. He licked his fingers and was raptured in pockiness. "Mmm... over by fountain."
Toad groaned and massaged the corners of his eyes. "Okay... thank you." He left in the direction of the fountain without Yoshi, but his dinosaur pal soon tagged along. They bumped into a Whomp on a cell phone.
"Hey, uh... buddy? Excuse me?!"
The fellow turned around, revealing a crooked-tooth grin.
"I'm tryin' to get by..." He squeezed past the cement monster, who stood aside for Yoshi.
"No thanks..." declined Toad. "Ugh... ya know, Yoshi..." he began, "bein' around all of these people in such a... big crowd... doesn't it just make you hate all of creation?"
Yoshi's face was buried in a box of pocki. "Er... what?"
"I mean, normally I'm pretty patient, but with all these people gathered in one place... I just wish some great misfortune would befall them all. You feel that way?"
"Oh, hi nice lady!"
Toad stopped and looked up. There was Mel.
"Hey! Is this a friend of yours?" she giggled, nodding to Yoshi.
"Yoshi and I?" began the oleaginous Mushroom. "Best buds. In fact, he helped me find you."
Yoshi danced forward. "Hehe... Toad buy Yoshi pocki! Nice lady want pocki?"
Yoshi's mouth was encrusted in pocki syrup, and was dripping with saliva. The box had seen better days.
"Uh... No thanks. Hey, why don't you sing the Mushroom Kingdom national anthem for me again? Toad, have you heard this?"
He had, and wasn't looking forward to another rehearsal. "Yeah, yeah. He doesn't have to-"
Yoshi began his awful recital, as Toad waited with his hands in his pockets. When it was over, Mel smiled and clapped while Yoshi (who was excited enough to jump out of his own skin) did a sickeningly juanty shuffle. He held out a high-five for Toad, who indulged unenthusiastically.
"Er..." Yoshi stopped, "Toad do Yoshi favor? Yoshi want go to Radioshack... but... Yoshi shy of Radioshack man," he said blushing, poking his index fingers together. "Toad go in with Yoshi?"
"Actually, Yosh, it's funny you bring that up..." He turned to Mel and made a few false starts. Finally, he said, "I... I can't go with you... tonight, to the, uh..."
Mel waited for Toad to finish, although she knew what he was going to say.
Toad shrugged, innocently. "Something came up. The chamberlain... remember I told ya about him? Well, he got kidnapped, so ya know who's gotta rescue him."
Mel looked down. "Oh... right... That's too bad..."
"But, hey! Ya can still go with Yoshi!"
Yoshi had discovered a band of troubadors in the market square, and was prancing about to the enjoyment of a small audience to a festive medieval jig.
Mel sighed. "I like Yoshi, but I was really looking forward to spending an evening with someone I can talk to. I'm always either that Koopa Mushroom or the ditzy waitress."
Toad had not intended to upset Mel, and felt compunction for the pain he had caused her. "Well, Mel, I-"
"No, no," she held her hands up to interpose, "you have your work, and I shouldn't make you feel guilty for-"
Mel would have continued, if Toadette hadn't crashlanded between her and Toad.
"Toad!" exclaimed the fiesty young Mushroom. "I'm so glad to see you!"
She walked over and embraced Toad as he stood in place, stiff as a board.
"I just wanted to thank you for rescuing my uncle Toadsworth," she said, taking his hands. "To be honest with you, I didn't believe it when you told me you you got the Marios to do it on the spot! You really do know everyone."
Toad smiled uncomfortably.
Toadette was backing up and nearly bumped into Mel. "Oh! Who is this? A lady friend...?" she teased, nudging Toad.
Toad ran the palm of his hand over his face and yielded to the circumstance. "Toadette, this is Mel... Mel, Toadette..."
"Mel," nodded Toadette.
"Toadette," replied Mel under her breath with her arms folded.
"Hey, I gotta run. Nice meeting you... Thanks again!" she said, wearing a wide grin. She ran off into the crowd.
"What? What, Toad?" came a tremoring voice. When Mel looked up it was clear that there were tears streaming down her cheeks, and Toad was at a loss for words.
"You could have just said you didn't want to go out with a Koopa!" she growled.
She turned and shoved her way through the crowd, and ran straight into a Radioshack. Toad followed her.
To Be Continued...
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