I had to wait until my birthday to get Super Mario Bros. 3. The game came out in March. My birthday is June 7th. The wait was unbearable. I was angry at my parents for not buying it for me.
They must have rented it for me ten times.
The first time was on the Friday night the game came out.
We didn’t have Blockbuster Video in Kansas, back then. We had a little place called “Pop'n'go Video.” Horrible name, I know. The guys who ran the place looked like Trekkies. The floor was as if made of plywood, covered with carpet a millimeter thick. The building was probably a converted house.
The video store was just outside McConnell air force base in Wichita, Kansas. Airplane capital of the world, you know.
Because it's so flat.
Super Mario Bros. 3 debuted alongside the B-1 bomber. Judging by the earth-shaking sound it made during test flights, the B-1 bomber was far more important than Super Mario Bros. 3.
The guys at the video store didn’t admit they had the game. My always-angry mother heard noise in the back room -- what might have been a kitchen before the place was converted. When one of the guys came out of the back room, she saw inside for a second. There were three guys -- brothers? friends? bandmates? -- seated around a television, playing Super Mario Bros. 3. I looked in, too. I could see it.
My mother got angrier than usual. I got the store's last copy of Mario 3 to take home. They'd stocked four, which was a lot for back then. I got to watch as the guy affixed a big, red, “Property of Pop'n'go Video” sticker onto the cartridge. It was almost like having the game new. On the drive home, it started raining. The passenger’s side window of my mother’s car was cold.
I took the game inside and showed it to my big brother Roy. He was shocked that we’d gotten it. We took it into the basement, and played past midnight. I got the warp whistle on my first trek through the World One minifortress, just like the kid in The Wizard.
Months later, it would be summer, and I would be playing my own personal copy until past midnight every night, scolded by my mother about having to wake up the next morning for baseball practice.
I bought Super Mario Bros. 3 with the $50 my grandmother sent me for my birthday. It was amazing. Usually, she only sent $25.
I demanded to be driven to Children's Palace toy store near the Towne East Square Mall. I was driven.
They didn’t have it.
Neither did Toys R Us, nor Target.
We found it at K-Mart. It was on layaway. We took some poor bastard's layaway. My mom had screamed until she got it.
She's persuasive, sometimes.
When my little brother takes email dictation for my mom, I'm almost scared.
“When you go to Taiwan, see if I send you a package, you ungrateful bastard. You’ll call us then, won’t you, damn you?”
My mother likes using “damn you?” as a tag question.