The Widow Schidler
by Princess Artemis
A short Real Ghostbusters fanfiction.
RGB copyright someone else, story copyright S.D. Green, 1999. Note: Schidler is pronounced 'shy-dler'.
Some time ago, there lived a kindly old widow by the name of Kathryn Schidler. She owned an ornately trimmed blue two-story house with a white picket fence and a shaded porch. The lawn was well kept and there was a row of old roses along the front of the house. She lived by herself and had many neighbors. The house on the left was also a two-story, less ornate and brown, and it sat relatively close to the property line. She usually slept in the second-story bedroom, as she had for many years. The house next door also had an upstairs bedroom, and the windows of the two rooms were quite close to each other, close enough that she could see into the next room if the shades were open. She had very little contact with the family that lived in that house; they were quiet and kept to themselves for the most part. They had a young son, perhaps five or six, a shy little boy, but sharp as a tack and then some. He slept in the room across from hers.
At least, he did on the nights he wasn't crying about the monster in his closet.
* * *
Mrs. Schidler was sitting on her porch, enjoying the late spring weather and the gentle scent of roses. It was an absolutely stunning afternoon. No clouds to mar the rich cobalt sky, it wasn't too hot or too cold…and the tall glass of cool, fresh-squeezed lemonade in her hand just set it all off perfectly. She watched cars roll by on the quiet street, children laughing and racing on their roller-skates, and birds twittering in the warm air. She saw the neighbor boy walking home from school, carrying a little black backpack and a lunch pail and wearing a white shirt and black pants. He walked in front of her property, running his hand along the pickets, his head down. His curly blond hair seemed ill suited to any sort of style—it stuck out a little in the front, flopping over his face from the deep widow's peak, and everywhere else it just did what it wanted. It looked to be in desperate need of a trim.
She watched as the boy went into his house, apparently to drop off his school supplies and change out of his school clothes, then come back out and walk to his side of the fence that bordered the two yards. Now he was wearing a dark green shirt and black shorts. He squatted down and started poking the moist bit of mud that seemed to perpetually appear there. Now she was sure it was covered with a thin coat of algae and probably populated by all the types of insects and garden creatures that tended to fascinate young children his age. Mrs. Schidler observed him for a little while as she sipped at her glass of lemonade. He hadn't slept well the night before, she knew; she had heard him crying about the thing he thought was in his closet for a good hour and a half, and the light hadn't gone out for long after that. That had been going on for some time, occasionally as often as twice a week, for at least a year or so. She furrowed her brow in thought. She wondered if his parents had taken him to a doctor about that. It didn't seem right for a child to have those sorts of nightmares or hallucinations so often. They probably had; the doctor had probably told them it was just a phase, or an ill-behaved attempt for attention that they should ignore lest they encourage it. She knew about things like that; two of her children had had imaginary friends when they were little, and she supposed it must be the same sort of thing…
Some old motherly instinct stirred in her and she decided to humor it. No harm in being friendly to a little boy who could probably use it, was there? So she went into the house to get a glass and poured some lemonade from the pitcher into it then went back outside. She walked over to the fence, her gait not in the least slowed by her seventy-five years. The boy didn't look up from his intense examination of the daddy-long-legs and rolly-pollies crawling around the damp spot. Slowly she sat down across from him and cleared her throat. He still didn't respond. Mrs. Schidler smiled fondly, realizing that this one was probably one of those that could so focus their attention that it excluded all else. Her own sister had been just like that when she was alive; she was completely clueless about her surroundings whenever she was wrapped up in something. After another moment, she said, "Hello."
At that the boy's head shot up, startled. For a brief instant, she saw a haunted panic in his clear blue eyes, but it was quickly smothered. It was an expression that had no business whatsoever being on a child's face. He opened and closed his mouth for a few seconds, apparently unsure how he should respond.Mrs. Schidler grinned and said, "You're supposed to greet me now." Her voice was kind and gentle, full of good humor.
He fumbled for a second longer then finally said in a small voice, "Hello." Oh, he was a shy one, that was for sure, she thought to herself. He looked around for a second, again fumbling for something to say.
The old widow offered the fresh glass of lemonade to the boy. "I thought you might be thirsty," she explained. After an unsure second, he took the proffered glass through the wide space between pickets and muttered a thank you. After a sip, he smiled a little. She knew well enough that her famous lemonade would make anyone smile.
After a sip of her own lemonade, Mrs. Schidler asked, "What's your name?"
"My name?" the boy repeated.
"Why of course. If we're going to be friends, I have to know your name."
"Friends?" he repeated again, looking around nervously as if the whole concept of friendship had never occurred to him.
"Yes. Isn't that how young people do it? Just by saying 'let's be friends'? My name's Kathryn Schidler, but you can call me Kathy," she explained kindly.
The boy shrugged a little, looking a little confused but willing to go with the flow for now. "...I'm Egon."
"It's nice to make your acquaintance, Egon," Mrs. Schidler said formally as she extended her right hand. Egon took it and shook it as he was supposed to. Then the widow asked, "What's that that you're looking at?" This was the right thing to say, apparently; Egon launched himself into a long and very detailed description about the daddy-long-legs and the pill bugs (which she found out weren't really insects at all, but rather crustaceans) then went on to explain what type of algae was growing on the mud spot and what other sorts of insects might frequent it. Mrs. Schidler enjoyed it, although she had never cared for biology; it was a wonder to listen to a child speak with such a beautiful mix of precision and delight. In his words she could almost feel the delicate web of ideas and relationships that characterized his thinking. And that more than the subject is what interested her.
She could see in his growing enthusiasm that he also was delighted to find someone who would listen to him with such undivided attention and interest. She smiled to herself, happy that she could be a bright spot in his day. A little while latter, Egon's mother called for him to come in and do his homework. He handed Mrs. Schidler the now-empty glass and obediently went in the house. His mother waved a greeting to her and the widow waved back as she stood.
As Mrs. Schidler walked back to her house, she made a note to herself to bring a lawn chair next time she went to talk to Egon.
* * *
The next several days were much the same. The weather held; Mrs. Schidler knew it would soon turn hot, but for now it was perfect. Everyday after school, Egon would come over to the fence and talk with her. Sometimes they retired to her front porch when they were in want of shade. She found him to be a very polite child, just as willing to sit quietly and soak up all the stories she had to tell as he was to share his latest discoveries. They would drink her famous lemonade; she taught him how to make it one afternoon. He seemed to enjoy himself well enough. And she certainly enjoyed getting to know him better; he was going to be quite a man when he grew up.
The elderly widow wondered a bit why Egon didn't seem to have any friends his age, but she shortly realized that his mind worked on a level much higher than other children's that he would find it very difficult to relate to them. Then she found out he went to a special school and that there were no children his age there.
On top of that, he was very guarded for a boy his age. Egon was good at hiding his feelings, but not to the point that Mrs. Schidler couldn't see some of them. She could tell he didn't get along well with his parents, especially his father. She wouldn't hazard a guess as to why, for she had never really spoken to the Spenglers except when she introduced herself. But she could hear the anger in his voice, and she also saw that he was unaware of it. He didn't realize just how angry he was; perhaps it was because he was ashamed of it and thus had pushed it aside.
She was glad, however, to note that at least for the last several days, he hadn't woke up screaming in the middle of the night from nightmares or hallucinations or what ever it was that plagued him. She could see it in his face; the haunted look had dwindled, although it never totally disappeared. That was good to see.
Everything was going fine for about two weeks. Then, on a Friday night, two hours after Mrs. Schidler had gone to bed, she was startled to hear the long-familiar and slightly muffled sound of Egon's cries. She wished for all the world there was something she could do for that poor little boy.
The next day she offered to babysit when she found out the Spenglers were going to go out to dinner for their anniversary.
* * *
Mrs. Schidler set aside the book she was reading and turned the light out in the living room. It was about 8:30 PM and she had just sent Egon to bed. Egon's parents wouldn't be back for a few hours. They planned to be back by midnight, and had offered the guestroom for her to sleep in that night when she offered to babysit for them. They had wanted Egon to stay at their house rather than spend the night somewhere else, thinking he would be more comfortable in familiar surroundings. She agreed with them; she thought he was too young to be staying the night at other people's houses. She walked into the guestroom and opened the windows. It was a nice, warm night, perfect for letting in and enjoying. She then lay down on the bed, falling asleep almost immediately.
A shrill cry disturbed her and instantly woke her up. She got out of bed as quickly as she could and mounted the stairs as fast as she was able. When she reached the door to Egon's room, she threw it open and rushed in. Egon was sitting curled up at the top of his bed, his hands over his head and clinging to his pointed white nightcap, and he was shivering hard. He peeked out from under his arms, his face full of terror.
A second later he rushed over to Mrs. Schidler and nearly knocked her over. He clung to her for all he was worth and started sobbing. Through his loud crying, she heard him say over and over, "You came, you came, you came…."
The old widow's heart broke to hear him cry like that. She maneuvered herself until she was sitting on the ground and Egon was sitting in her lap. "Of course I came! How could I not?"
For a long while the little boy just sat there and cried on Mrs. Schidler's shoulder. She nearly cried herself, but she held back and just rocked him while he wept. After a while, Egon whispered, "Mother and Father never come…."
She felt a sudden chill crawl down her back. "Why not?" she blurted out harshly, then instantly regretted it. She shouldn't be questioning his parent's actions or lack thereof in front of him, no matter how much it riled her.
Egon whimpered, "They won't believe me."
"The Bogeyman. Monster in my closet…it comes out and scares me sometimes…." He started shivering anew.
Without thinking, she said, "There's no such thing as a boogieman." It was out before she could catch it, and she hated herself for saying it. Egon stiffened then quickly stood. He glared at the old widow with undisguised fury mixed with bitter betrayal. He was so angry and hurt he was shaking, his hands balled up into little fists and fresh tears welling up in his blue eyes.
"You don't believe me!!" he shouted in shock.
Mrs. Schidler winced. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. It's obviously real to you—"
"HE IS REAL!!" Egon shrieked. "REAL REAL REAL!!" The young boy had no idea what to do with his sudden rage. The widow could see in his face that she had deeply hurt him by telling him there was no boogieman.
He turned his back at her and climbed back in his bed, curled up in a tiny little ball. He swallowed all that hurt and fury down, having no outlet for it. "Go away," he muttered, his voice still shaking.
Kathy Schidler stood up and lingered in the doorway for a long moment. He and his parents were in an awful situation, and she felt sorry for both them and him. What could his parents do for him? They probably tried everything they could think of to relieve him of his awful hallucinations, and all he could see was that they didn't believe him. They all were helpless. But Egon was by far the deepest in that trap. He was by turns terrified, enraged, hurt…and there was nothing he could do with any of it. Her throat constricted and her eyes misted in sympathy; now she had the faintest taste of what this family must feel, and she hated it.
She stepped softly out of the room and closed the door.
* * *
The next day, Sunday, was hot. Summer had hit the ground running. Every window in her house was open and every fan was blowing. Mrs. Schidler had an air-conditioner, but it wasn't quite hot enough to justify the expense in her mind. For a while, she sat on her front porch, sipping her lemonade, hoping her little neighbor would come over to visit. She hoped he would forgive her for her careless remark, but it didn't look like he would, at least not yet. Egon never came out of his house. She was sad to see it, but she supposed it my take him a few days to get over his hurt. Children were very resilient, she knew, and she hoped that the budding friendship they shared was enough to hold up to this strain.
She smiled to herself after a moment, thinking about how odd most people would see it that she, a seventy-five year old widow would ever care to become friends with a five year-old child prodigy. Well, those people can just stuff it, she thought with humor, anyone who can't be a friend to a child is a silly old codger. She chuckled silently at the thought. Besides, those hypothetical codgers had never met Egon, the little neighbor boy who could make an old mud puddle sound interesting.
For the rest of the afternoon, Mrs. Schidler puttered around her house, making more lemonade, as she was running low, and crocheting a doily for one of her many grandchildren. It was a quiet afternoon.
Soon afternoon turned to evening, then to night. The elderly widow set her crocheting aside when it got too dark, then went upstairs to bed. For a little while longer she read her book. Soon that too was set aside and she flipped off the lamp on her nightstand and settled in to sleep. A gentle breeze caught her window shades and fluttered them.
Again, as it had happened many nights before, she was roused by Egon's crying. It wasn't muffled this time; his bedroom window was also open. Something was different about it this time. She heard a second voice, a raspy one. It was too soft for her to hear what it said, but she knew as certain as the stars were in the sky that the voice did not belong to a human. She sat still in on her bed for a long moment, listening to that faint voice and to Egon's crying. Was she hallucinating, hearing things? Or could there really be a monster in his closet…?
She threw her covers aside and stepped over to her window. With one hand holding her lace shades aside and the other leaning on the window sill, she looked out the window and into the bedroom across the way. "Egon!" she shouted, "come to the window!"
For a second nothing happened. Then she saw Egon's face appear at the window, white as a sheet. He didn't say anything; his expression was scared and confused.
Kathy Schidler leaned a little way out the window and said in a loud, strong voice, "You tell that boogieman that the next time he bothers you, I'm gonna come right over there and beat the tar out of him with my bare hands if I have to!"
Egon just blinked for a second. Mrs. Schidler heard an angry, sibilant hiss and the click of a door latching shut. Egon's eyes went wide and he quickly turned to look in the direction of his closet. His jaw dropped in shock. Mrs. Schidler smiled triumphantly. "He heard me, didn't he?"
Egon nodded slowly. Then he turned back to the window, a faint smile on his face. "He's gone…."
Kathy Schidler's smile widened, then she laughed. Egon joined her.
* * *
Seven months later, Mrs. Schidler died suddenly. She came down with a bad case of pneumonia, and although she had been quite healthy up to that point, she succumbed three days later. Up until she died, however, she and Egon continued their fence-side talks and lemonade making, swapping stories and generally enjoying themselves.
And in all those seven months, not once did the Bogeyman show up in Egon's closet.
Special thanks to Labidolemur, and Elctrowolf, who looked this over and told me about my stupid typos : ) ...and told me an easy way to stick illos in...: )