Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 The Temper Trap “Trembling Hands”
 Koji Kondo “Overworld”
 Thunderclash “Dark Lord Bowser”
 The Verve “Lucky Man”
I’m sure we all know what it’s like to be in a funk. I’m not talking about front row seats at a Rick James concert, the funk in question isn’t about ants in your pants or jive in your hive. It’s that feeling that the world is playing some sort of sick game at your expense and for its own vile amusement. The walls come closing in, luck takes a short trip from bad to worse, and the only thing to do appears to entail waving a white flag frantically and praying for a merciful denouement. Life tends to find a way of turning the screw when the nipple clamps are already at their tightest and doesn’t seem to give half a fuck whether it is hurting your feelings in the process. We’ve all been there at some point I’m sure and, for the real unfortunates amongst us, it can feel pretty much like its funk all the way. Having a bad day is one thing but, when 365 of them are chained together in one almighty funk combo, it’s hard not to smell a rat. Surely this is preferential treatment we are receiving, only not the kind of V.I.P. passes we had in mind, something far more heinous. How does front row seats at your own wake sound? That’s when you know that the funk has got truly got its feelers out for you.
So at this point, I’m fairly assured that I’m suffering from the beginnings of C.O.P.D. For anyone who is unaware, this breaks down as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is all about poor airflow to our lungs. It’s an incurable affliction but is treatable , which is any good news in a nutshell. Other than that and a title that suggests a brand new detective series; C.O.P.D. sucks donkey balls and then kisses you smack on the lips with the very same mouth. At this point, nothing has been officially diagnosed and I know that we have a tendency to think the worst when we’re worrying over practically nothing but I’m already half way through the acceptance stage and don’t need a doctor to send me back to the starter’s square. Perhaps it’s paranoid delusion? Being the eternal optimist, I’m simply gagging to be misinformed. But as much as reality can bite, sooner or later, you have to check in on it. The signs are relatively clear and I am starting to understand my place in all of this. Okay so I’m just going to throw this out there and not just for a reaction either. Believe me when I say that there is nothing I want less than to play the part of drama queen but I’m sitting here in a frock and cannot remember for the life of me styling my hair in pig-tails this morning. I just have to come out and say it.
I have a horrible sneaking suspicion that I won’t be around six months from now. If I don’t say what I see, then that wouldn’t be me. Naturally, I’m more than open to being proved full of shit here but am starting to fear that my tale is destined to be laced with tragedy. I believe this is why I place so much emphasis on comedy and feel at my most content when raising a smile from my readership. You see, should my estimations be correct, then this right here is my legacy and the one gift I can bestow on the wonderful people who have remained by my side throughout this whole process. It’s also something that my six-year-old boy can read once he has come of age and know what kind of man his father was. We’re ridiculously close he and I, indeed, there could be no finer friend. Moreover, when he looks at me, I discern the reflection of his personal hero in his baby blues and there’s no achievement in life that has me so swollen with pride than knowing that I’ve done my own father proud. Charles Arthur Stevens was my Mad Max, my Batman, my William Wallace, and my John Shaft too. He was all of those things and more besides so I wish to be someone important to my own son. Someone that will never stop fighting his corner, lifting his spirits, and saving his day. Wanna know who I get to be? I’ll give you a clue – “it’sa me!”
How do you like my plumber’s overalls? I know right? You’re digging on the ‘tache, I just know it. The irony is that, if I had stockpiled my entire stubble clippings from the past twenty-five years, I still wouldn’t have enough to even loan this kind of facial growler. It actually seems kind of fitting as my dad possessed one of these furry fascinators and, by hook or by crook, I eventually acquired myself my very own. If you’re a little confused then allow me to enlighten further. You see, Jacob Nathaniel Stevens is something of a nut for a certain Italian and our time together primarily consists of defeating the evil Bowser if that’s any clue. If not, and the above image doesn’t give it away, then I’m afraid I simply can’t help you but thanks for stopping by. Mario is an icon to many and Nintendo’s platform hero has been scaling flagpoles for over thirty years now and all in the name of his damsel in distress, Princess Peach. In a few moments I shall introduce you to potentially the biggest cock tease in videogames and you tell me whether she’s worth risking life and limb for.
Pretty in pink huh? Don’t be fooled by the lustrous lashes or rose bud lips; this chick is the very epitome of wrong ‘un. That’s right, she’s bad news and it turns out that she carries Mario’s pocket stallion around in her clutch purse. Every single time she sends him off to the local 7-Eleven, bad shit goes down, and she invariably finds herself snatched away by the tyrannical Bowser. I shit you not, one trip to the trash can, and her dainty little ass is in shit so deep that she needs an umbrella just to stop the rain clouds coming down with diphtheria. You’d think a resourceful fella like Mario would have a little black book to fall back on or, at least, the minerals to call a spade a spade. His plumbing business is suffering, pizza ain’t getting any cheaper, and he’s getting too old for attempting to balance on wobbly toadstools and hopscotch speeding duck shells. Just for once, it would be nice if they could have one evening together that didn’t conclude with him up to his top box in piping hot lava. Mercifully, he doesn’t have to go it alone as Italians breed well and his brother Luigi always has his back in a fix.
Actually, he’s every bit as prone to pratfall, and has a habit of following his bro straight off the end of a clifftop without giving his death-defying antics anything like the consideration he really should have. That said, two heads are better than one. If the evil Bowser wants a fight, then he’d better prepare himself for the Italian job as Dumber & Dumberer are coming at him like a bag of rusty spanners. How dare he confiscate their girl, I mean, Mario’s girl. Let’s get this twisted shall we, I’m reasonably assured that Luigi is permitted to engage in a little game and watch as Mario & Peach enjoy their post-rescue coitus interactus and why the hell shouldn’t he? Think about it, he’s not getting any younger and has been single his whole life while his more illustrious other gets to smash in a princesses paddock night after night. It’s hardly fair is it? So he gets off at the end of a long shift, that’s hardly the mark of a seasoned sicko. Moreover, he is committed to the cause and that should grant him some kind of immunity to slander right?
Anyhoots, little old me is Mario. Jacob is more than happy playing the part of Luigi on our two-player excursions and here’s why I believe that is. I’m bona fide to him, far more than a zero, a highly decorated forty-one-year-old ex-gamer with rings on my fingers and bells on my toes. Dagnabbit, I was playing Mario games way back when Ronald Reagan was still in office and completed every last one of them up until my introduction to first-person shooters. I can hop and skip, jump too, and there are only so many times that a Goomba can sneak up on you surely. Actually there appears to be no limit on that one as I find out every time I blunder through each cunningly designed obstacle course. It’s all about rhythm, taking things easy, but not too easy and banking on those leaps of faith. Had I mentioned that terra firma is more unfirma than anything else? You ever skated on thin ice? How about pirouetting across a gaping chasm while moving platforms gleefully shift in the opposite direction to the convenient one. Time after time I fall for the same callous trick until I take a moment to recall what I actually did to seal my own fate.
However, sooner or later, that flagpole approaches and there’s no finer feeling than triple jumping to grab yourself some mast. It matters not whether you suffer extensive groin burns sliding down the thing as you’re one step closer to that cutie pie and starting to make a name for yourself. Luigi looks up to his brother and that is why it seems so fitting that Jacob has elected to don green for our adventures. Of course, just because I’m his personal hero, doesn’t mean I should be provided with preferential treatment or a silver spoon to suck on. As we huddle around Jacob’s Wii U with remotes in hand, game faces plastered, and the sweet scent of victory in our nostrils, something sinister plays out and, if I’m honest, I love every demented moment of it, despite the fact that the joke is pretty much always on daddy. Teamwork can go straight out of the window in a picosecond once that mischievous grin begins to show up front and center. His latest devious joy involves picking my up, running me over to certain peril, and lobbing me directly into the eye of whichever storm is brewing. Thwarted by the fruits of my very own loins and he just couldn’t help himself. God bless him for that.
You see, laughter follows shortly afterwards, and not just a vague chuckle of satisfaction either. We’re talking full-blown snorts, deep bellied chortles, and one fresh pair of briefs coming up if he doesn’t dash quick enough to relieve himself. Meanwhile, I’m being slowly digested by a venus fly trap or, worse still, trapped in a bubble just begging to be enabled my next short life. Unless he releases me, I’m trapped there ad infinitum, and this poses far too delicious a prospect for a young mischief-maker such as he to pass up. For the record, the smile is soon vanquished when daddy turns the tables, so I mirthfully take one for the team…then two…three…one hundred and forty seven…six thousand seven hundred and twelve…you’re getting my drift right? I’m the fall guy. Turns out that Luigi has indeed had enough of living in his brother’s shadow and has his own designs on the fair lady we’ve been tasked with rescuing. Never has the crushing disappointment of constant mutiny felt so absolutely glorious and we laugh more during our weekends together than blink.
This brings me tidily back to the elephant in the room, you know, the dude with the trunk who shat right in the center point of my third stanza and I feel duty bound to get back to the nitty-gritty, regardless of how much fun it is to recall any one of my numerous videogame demises. Did you know that a meal hasn’t tasted good for almost six months now. This just so happens to be one of the tell-tale symptoms of a particularly advanced case of C.O.P.D. With me I feel like it is more than just this that is serving my death warrant. My heart feels compromised, lungs weary, and entire infrastructure like it’s grinding to a gradual halt. Again I reiterate that I’m not looking to play shock jock here as, had that been the case, then I would have pulled this shit months ago. I speak with unerring honesty whenever I scribe and you know that; but I hold a fair share back for the exact opposite reason than to cause a stir. The reason for me sharing this intelligence now is elementary my dear Watsons – I wish for my legacy to be four things. True, real, clear, and sincere. That’s been my sign off since the very start of my tenure as Keeper of The Crimson Quill and I sleep better in my bed for having undertaken this wondrous pilgrimage.
If this is going to end in tears then my only stipulation is that they’re happy ones. I’ve achieved so much in my life that swells me up inside and glanced all manner of resplendent souls during that period. My father’s parting wish was to be granted a grandson to keep the Stevens ensign flying high and I made it to the very apex of that particular flagpole. Daddy may have passed a few years before his boy achieved this but, for the past three plus change, he’s been the Mario to my own Luigi and, hot damn, have we had some adventures together. I feel deeply blessed, regardless of any wobbly toadstools that have put in a shift, calm in the knowledge that I’ve done some living in that time. Some of that has felt fairly desolate but what adventure isn’t as we dash towards those next checkpoints? Every solitary piece of creative writing that overspills from the Crimson Quill represents a flag pole and I’ve gotten to meet some decidedly colorful characters along the way. In my book, that’s something to celebrate and that’s precisely the way I’ll be looking at it, regardless of how the next six stretch plays out.
I have to prise this free right now as it’s like a cancer eating me up inside and going out with a whimper just isn’t ever going to be my style. All I ask of those who know me is that you enable me to continue doing what I’m doing, draw a line under this for as hard as that may seem, and trust that I have no intention of winding down like a defeatist. As for life, well as I keep saying, I’d be only too happy to be proved wrong, if it’s reading this now. You see, Princess Peach may be more trouble than she’s worth well over half the time but I cherish those giggles so dearly. My six-year-old boy is a mini-me if ever there was one and I have promised him other adventures just like the ones he spends tipping me over cliff faces and hogging all the 1-UP mushrooms. I have taken the first step by visiting my local physician and the next is a game of waiting which I fully expect to end in harsh truths and undesirable enlightenment. You know what? I’m going to spend it smiling. I have in my possession one helluva kickass family, a similarly formidable extended family thanks to you fine people, friendships I will cherish way beyond dust, and a son whose personal hero means everything and more. Tally that up and I’m the luckiest guy on earth right? Here, take a look at this picture and tell me that isn’t the face of the luckiest guy on earth.