Chapter 1 - Tears of a Plumber
It's a warm, sunny day in Mushroom Kingdom. As I walk up to Mario's modest shack on the outskirts of civilization, I recall the myriad tales of his great adventures told to me by his fans over the years.
"Surely," I think to myself, "a man of such renown could afford to live in something a little less ramshackle."
I knock a few times and wait to hear the squeak of his old Jump Boots as he walks to greet me. After a few moments of silence, I assume he isn't home and take a seat on the porch steps. I open the cooler I had dragged along and pop the top on an ice cold Chuckola Cola to enjoy while I wait for his return.
"I wonder where he's run off to? I sure hope the princess didn't get kidnapped again."
A few minutes pass and my worry starts to grow. I play a few rounds of Dr. Mario on my phone, which is oddly comforting.
"I don't have to worry too much," I laugh to myself. "He is a doctor after all!"
After a particularly good round of Dr. Mario (I'm ranked #3 on the leaderboard, only after Peach and Bowser Jr.), I stand up to have a stretch. I close my eyes and take a deep breath of that good, good Mushroom Kingdom air, feeling energized and ready for our planned day at Cheep Cheep Beach. When I opened my eyes, however, I felt all the positive beach vibes drain from my body at the mere sight of my best friend Mario's panicked sprint down the road.
While I could sense his distress from afar, nothing could have prepared me for seeing him up close. Tears in his eyes. Overalls soaked in sweat. I had never seen Mario cry before. I had never seen Mario sweat before. The most fearless plumber I know, capable of fixing any leak, was seemingly unable to control the most important leaks of all: the leaks of oneself.
I drop my half-drank Chuckola Cola to the ground; it shatters behind me as I run to meet my distressed friend.
I catch his gloved hand, moist with sweat, just as he collapses to his knees. I take a knee before him, trying to match his stature.
"Mario?" I ask, a tremble in my voice. "Mario, what happened? Is it Peach? Did she get kidnapped again?"
Amongst Mario's labored breathing, I can hear failed attempts to make the words happen. His head remains turned down toward the dirt, unable to muster the strength to provide me a direct answer. He weakly shakes it left to right, indicating that the Princess is safe.
"No? Was it....did Bowser get kidnapped, then? I know you two have something of a rivalry, but deep down you really care about each other. Frienemies, if you will."
Mario shakes his head again, with slightly more energy this time. I can tell he's starting to catch his breath.
"It's okay, Mario. Whatever happened, I'm sure you'll be able to save the day. You always do. Goombas, Koopas, Boos, Bullet Bills....ain't nothin' the Great Hero of the Mushroom Kingdom can't handle. I bet you could look Death itself right in the eye and not show the least bit of concern!"
Just then, Mario reaches up with his left hand and grabs my shoulder. "No," he coughs, his breathing still a bit labored. "Not-a Death."
His quiet, weak words shake me to my core. "Mario?" I sputter meekly.
After what felt like an eternity, he finally looks up at me, his face red and swollen from crying. His mustache, a disheveled mess. I stare deep into Mario's giant blue eyes, acutely aware that these same eyes had witnessed something truly terrible that day. Something uniquely horrible, something even the myriad tales of this man's great adventures I had been told over the years could not have prepared me for. Mario had battled so many great evils and emerged victorious so many times, but even never for a moment did his one of his adventures take a turn like this.
"It's-a Luigi," Mario sputters out, tears beginning to well up once again. "My brother, he's-a fucking dead!"