Bowser slept off most the day after the outing with the Pseudo Bros. He woke up once or twice and saw a text from Wario that said “there was pcp in that joint look out”. There were a lot of notifications from Instagram and Twitter but Bowser just couldn’t manage to read them until he had recovered more.
The next day he had some coffee and finally took a look at his notifications. Someone near the gas station had taken some video of Bowser and posted it. Bowser searched the postings and comments to see if anyone was making Bowsette jokes. Not many people were, and the ones that were didn’t seem to be picking up traction. He guessed that no one had made the Bowsette taunts part of the story. All over the internet people were just talking about Bowser wrecking the gas station. Ganondorf had given him some likes, and the Pseudo Bros were actively in flame wars with people on the comments for the last 36 hours.
Bowser cruised through the comments for about an hour in a sort of haze. Some of the comments seemed to affirm him “BOWSER IS STILL THE BOWSS”. Others felt derisive “what a fucking loser”. The ones that messed with him the most were the supportive ones, the ones that seemed to mean well. “Good 4 u Bowser! Don’t let anyone get you down!” It was seeing those comments that made him close the app and focus on cleaning the castle until he felt better.
Over the next few weeks, he went into a sort of social media frenzy, surveilling the story of his own rampage to see it shift, change, get memed, become a short-lived meme, and then recede into the background fog of the internet. Then he did a “social media fast” to try to get his head clear. The pseudo bros hadn’t called him in a while, and when they did he didn’t pick up. He was low on groceries and decided to make one more outing, just to get some basics. He put on some sunglasses and tried to convince himself he needed them for the sun, and not as something to hide behind. He wore a big hoodie. All the nondescript stuff he could find. He knew that none of it did anything to hide him from the public, but it still felt like a disguise or a defense. Something.
At Trader Joe’s he had to move very slowly. Regardless of his size, people tried to squeeze around him. He liked to walk down aisles and slowly press everyone out of his way just by proximity. Most people obliged, and he had a fairly private shopping experience. No one seemed scared, and for that he was glad, strangely. He just didn’t wanna deal with any of it. He rounded the corner to frozen foods and saw another bulky form in his way.
“Yo, DK!” The words jumped from his mouth before he had even considered whether or not he wanted to speak them. He saw Donkey Kong jump idiotically, surprised, and then waddle in place, turning, craning his neck to see who he was talking to.
“Bowser? Bowser! No shit! Hey how’s it going?”
Bowser searched DK’s face to see if DK was referring to anything particular, maybe from social media, but DK seemed unaware, to Bowser’s relief.
“Aw things are good, things are good. You know, just making dungeons, burning stuff, fucking with Mario, you know how that goes!” DK laughed but didn’t seem to react to the name “Mario” like Bowser thought he would.
“That’s great, man.” Bowser eyed DK’s cart. It was all veggies and whole foods, with one large chocolate bar. Almost no carbs. “Wow DK look at you! Health nut, huh? Ganondorf got you on his program?” Bowser teased.
DK bashfully rubbed his neck and patted his belly. “Well, you know, I don’t throw too many barrels these days, I gotta do what I can to stay healthy. But Ganondorf? No way man he’s on another level, have you seen him? he’s shredded!”
“Dude I went to his house, he’s got an in-house gym called The Dungeon, he’s got a contract with Life Water!” They were laughing, it felt easy.
DK continued and shook a bundle of bananas “I’m about to do my lunch break, you wanna eat?”
“Yeah, sure,” fell out of Bowser’s mouth ore easily than to any invitation he had gotten in a year.
They sat down in a park nearby. DK ate bananas and cabbages. Bowser worked through a pre-made sushi platter. They talked about Ganondorf, about how the game characters are way hornier these days.
“I dunno, stuff just seems different to me these days. I was out with Wario and Waluigi the other night-” Bowser had lost his guard and brought up that night. He stopped mid-sentence and stared at the ground.
“I wasn’t gonna say anything!” DK laughed warmly and slapped Bowser’s back. “That was WILD, dude, you were on some old-school shit!” Bowser didn’t feel like DK was teasing him. This was friendly. They laughed together about it, about how crazy the pseudo bros were.
“But you gotta hand it to them, they’ve still got the energy, they’re doing the villain thing! They’re keeping it alive!” Bowser said.
DK scoffed “I don’t gotta give those guys anything. They’re crazy. Always were.”
Bowser asked, “Well, DK, how do you do it? You’re one of the first villains, and you seem pretty calm about things. You’re keeping trim, keeping relaxed, how are you doing it?” Bowser turned to look into the middle distance. “You seem really well. Even Ganondorf, I mean, he’s doing GREAT, but he’s like, stressful to be around. Everything measured. You seem to have villainy balanced well.”
DK put five bananas in his mouth. “If you really wanna know, I don’t even think of myself as a villain anymore.”
Bowser’s shoulders fell. Hearing this from DK is crushing. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“No, no I don’t think you do. I don’t miss it. Like, I wouldn’t take back anything I’ve done, and I hate Mario. I hate him! I don’t even know why! People try to say it’s some kind of thing about Italians but it’s him, I just fucking hate him. I can be professional, but I will never have a drink with him. But that’s not who I am. My life isn’t about getting Mario, or abducting Pauline. I mean that would be a felony, she’s a politician these days. No, things just sort of naturally shifted for me, I’ve got Diddy and Deedee to look after, and Cranky needs more and more help these days.”
A couple of girls interrupted DK. “Excuse me, you’re…” DK smiles at Bowser and then back to the girls. “Yeah, yeah we’re them.”
“OMG” The girls scream.
“Well, do you want a pic or not?” DK asked generously. The two big bads took a few pictures with the girls, the best one was of Bowser and DK pretending to punch them into the ground like they were in a fight. The girls graciously thanked them and left on their way.
“That was fun,” said DK. “But like I was saying, I think people called me a villain. I mean, I’m sure I’m still the villain in someone’s story. I can be ok with that. But it’s not what I see when I look in the mirror, is all”
Bowser simply nodded and furrowed his brow.
“You’re doing fine, Bowser, you’ll be fine. Maybe you’re not feeling villainous because you’re not a villain these days. Maybe that’s fine. You don’t have to be a hero.”
“I just don’t want to be an NPC.” Bowser’s voice trembled
DK let a long silence sit in the air. He just nodded his head and put a big hand on Bowser’s shell. “You’re not an NPC, man. You don’t have to steal a princess or save her to know that. You’re not an NPC.”
They sat in silence together for a while after that, just sitting. Bowser heaved a sigh. DK nodded some more. When sitting began to cramp their legs they stood up and stretched, said some nice words to part ways, and left.
“Hey man, hit me up when you can, this was good,” DK said.
“Yeah, man, I’ll do that,” said Bowser. And he knew he would.