As far as anyone knew, the house at the end of the street had always belonged to Mr. Fritzche.
It was an old house, probably built back in the Depression era. It looked the part, too: the wooden fence was rotting and decrepit, the roof was missing a few shingles, and the porch stairs creaked when...
<p>As far as anyone knew, the house at the end of the street had always belonged to Mr. Fritzche.</p>
<p>It was an old house, probably built back in the Depression era. It looked the part, too: the wooden fence was rotting and decrepit, the roof was missing a few shingles, and the porch stairs creaked whenever someone walked up or down them. The whole property smelled vaguely of decay and raspberry air freshener.</p>
<p>In any other neighborhood, the house would probably have been the target of endless beautification committee citations and barrages of eggs thrown by bored schoolboys, but my friends and I always treated the house with a certain measure of respect. After all, it had stood there since before most of our parents had been born. It was a monument of sorts, a testament to times gone by and likely never to return. The least we could do was leave it unbothered, purely out of reverence.</p>
<p>The same could be said of the house’s owner. Mr. Fritzche was an enigma, a secretive man whom nobody really quite knew. All most people knew about him was that he was German, and that he had been there as long as the house had been. He never showed up to parties, or to any other social functions. He was content to leave well enough alone, extending his sphere of influence only as far as the faded rocking chair on the porch, where he would sit for hours on end when the weather was nice, glaring silently at passersby.</p>
<p>His wife, on the other hand, was quite simply the kindest, gentlest person you’d ever meet. She would never pass up an opportunity to chat happily with the neighbors, or offer a pleasant “how do you do” as she passed others on the street. On weekends, she always baked a huge tray of cookies for all of us kids playing in the cul-de-sac. She was a grandmother to everyone; even though she had no children of her own, she treated each and every one of us as though we were family. I’ll never forget the day when I scraped my knee trying to catch one of my friends during our usual game of tag. In an instant, she was next to me, cleaning off the scrape and applying lotion and bandages to it. It’s a silly thing to remember, maybe, but she did this for all of us. Whenever we were hurt or sad or scared, she’d always be there, ready to lend a listening ear and a helping hand.</p>
<p>Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky with Mr. Fritzche. He wasn’t exactly intimidating, at least not physi...