Joan Vixer made this statement in response to an inquiry from her daughter.
“Oh?” Ann asked for elaboration.
“They only come out at night,” Joan said. “They moved in two weeks ago and the only time we’ve ever seen them is after dark.”
Joan and Ann were sitting in Joan’s small living room. Ann and her husband, Steven, were visiting from Minneapolis for the weekend. The house next to Joan’s had been for sale for well over a year. It was your average suburban bi-level house. The vinyl siding was a taupe color that blended in with all the other vinyl-sided houses in Joan’s neighborhood. It was not in the least bit scary.
Ann enjoyed listening to her parents talk about their lives in South Fargo. Ann had grown up in a small town in North Dakota with her parents and her younger brother. She had had a great childhood. Normal. She loved her parents but, like many children, only really got to appreciate them as people after she had grown up herself. Her mom and dad had moved to Fargo several years earlier after Ann and Steven had gotten married. Her younger brother, Craig, lived with his wife if West Fargo. Since Ann’s mother and father had moved into their suburban, South Fargo home, they had come up with entertaining nicknames for many of their neighbors.
First, there was Bob the Viking Guy. The Viking Guy referred to Bob’s love of the football team the Minnesota Vikings, not to any resemblance Bob may or may not have had to a blonde, sea-faring raider. Bob the Viking Guy lived on the other side of what was now the Vampire house.
Next, Ann’s dad, Barney, had named the man living two houses north of them Doug Voler. The origination of this nickname was more complicated. Voles are small rodents that live in the ground. During the winter, they make tunnels. After the snow melts in the spring (or summer, you never know in Fargo, N.D.) many people in Barney’s neighborhood discovered vole marks in their yards. One particular spring the voles had been very busy. On a fine Saturday Barney stood looking out his front window. The vantage point allowed him a clear view in to Doug, Soon-to-be-Voler’s backyard. Doug Soon-to-be-Voler was on his hands and knees, attempting to repair vole damage. Suddenly, he leapt up, grabbed a nearby rake, and began frantically beating at the lawn. Barney laughed, guessing that Doug’s quest to eradicate the vole damage had uncovered one of the little, rodent vandals. Because of Doug’s entertaining dance, he had been coined Doug Voler.
Finally, there were Joan and Barney’s neighbors to the back. Ann had been amused when her mother referred to the new neighbors as the Rolley-Polleys. Then she had been a little ashamed of herself for being amused. Mr. Rolley-Polley liked to mow the lawn without his shirt on. Soon after the Rolley-Polley’s moved in, Barney planted a row of fast-growing trees in their backyard on the property line between their house and the neighboring house.
Needless to say, Ann was not surprised that the new neighbors had been christened with a nickname. She wasn’t even surprised that the new neighbors nocturnal habits had lead to the Vampire moniker. Both her parents liked bad scary movies and her mom loved horror novels. Ann left one of the over-sized living room chairs to peek out the kitchen window at the Vampire house.
“They have a garden.”
“I don’t think vampires would need a garden,” Ann was smiling. She knew her parents didn’t believe the neighbors were really vampires.
What would vampires do with a garden?
“They garden at night. The only time we’ve seen them out there is after dark.”
“Anything else?” Ann asked as she returned to the living room.
“No, they’ve only been here a few weeks. Dad talked to the them for a few minutes right after they moved in.”
“Hmmm. Was Dad also out doing some nocturnal gardening at the time?”
“He was putting out the garbage. He saw Mr. Vampire in the driveway so he went over to say ‘hi.’”
“Did he find out their actual name?”
“He didn’t remember it. It’s Karnak or Kardasian or something.”
“Kardasian? Like Kim Kardasian?”
Joan shook her head. “What should we have for supper?”
Barney was working in the yard. Barney liked his yard. He had planted a garden in the back and he spent a lot of time gardening and doing lawn work in the summer and shoveling the driveway in the winter. The grass in Barney’s yard was thick and green and cut twice a week to a precise two-inch height. The lawn was his kingdom and he was the king.
Because Barney was so frequently in the lawn, he noticed when the Vampires began making some strange alterations to their yard. They removed the deck on the back of the house and boarded up the sliding door. They put a large padlock on the backdoor to the garage. And, strangest of all, one of their garden level window wells was filled in with dirt until none of the glass was visible. The vampires didn’t even reseed the filled-in window well with grass. The dirt was like a scar on an otherwise well-kept lawn. A dirty, grass-less, dirt scar. King Barney hated it.
“Dad won’t quit complaining about that window-well,” Joan said to Ann on the phone one evening. Joan looked out the window in the kitchen, the one that looked out on the Vampire house.
“They just filled it in with dirt?” Ann asked.
“Yes,” said Joan. “You have to admit, it is weird.”
“It is,” said Ann. “I’m sure there is a good reason. Maybe they converted that space in the basement into a media room. You don’t want windows in a media room.”
“Media rooms are really popular now,” admitted Joan. “You brother keeps saying that he is going to have one in his next house. Remember that house we looked at during the Parade of Homes? The one with the big media room in the basement?”
“Yes, I remember.”
“That was nice.”
Ann sighed. “Yes, it was.”
The story behind the name:
One evening, at the Old Broadway Grill in Fargo, North Dakota, my brother caught the end of a Mountain Dew commercial. In the commercial, a Mountain Dew drinker was riding a shark in the ocean. My brother exclaimed in surprise, not realizing that it was a commercial. When I told him he declared "All I saw was a guy coming out of the shower with a shark." Of course, he meant water, but the idea of showering with sharks has been with me ever since.