I knew something had to be done when my new neighbors put a camera pointed at my backyard. A straightforward idea to teach children a lesson about privacy quickly devolved into a crazy performance that attracted the attention of the local authorities, with unanticipated repercussions.

I never imagined that my goal as an amateur actress would be to humiliate my inquisitive neighbors, but life has a way of taking you by surprise.

The beginning was when Frank and Carla moved in next door. At first, they seemed decent enough, although a little… strange.

I remarked, “Welcome to the neighborhood,” and extended a basket of tomatoes from my garden to them. “I’m Zoe.”

Carla’s eyes flitted wildly in alarm. “I’m grateful. We’re really worried about security. You know what I mean?”

Even if I didn’t, I still nodded. I had no idea what that would entail for me.


When I got back from seeing my mom a week later, there was something startling in my backyard. While I was relaxing in my bikini, taking care of my cherished tomatoes, I observed a tiny black item beneath their house’s eaves.

“Is that a camera?” I squinted at it and mumbled. When I saw it was aimed right at my yard, my blood raced cold.

Still in my bathing suit, I marched over to their home and banged on the door. Frank responded, appearing irritated.

“Why is there a camera pointed at my yard?” I insisted.

He gave a shrug. “It serves security purposes. We must ensure that nobody scales the fence.”

“That’s absurd,” I stammered. “You’re invading my privacy!”

Behind him, Carla materialized. “It is our right to defend our assets,” she replied icily.

Furious, I walked out. I could have sued them, but who has the resources or the time for that? No, I required an alternative strategy.

I then gave my friends a call.

I said, “Samantha, I need your help.” “How do you feel about a little… performance art?”

She chuckled. “This intrigues me. Tell me more.

I laid out my strategy, and before long, the entire crew was on board. Miguel, our in-house expert in special effects, and Harriet, who has never met a costume she didn’t enjoy.

I questioned whether I was going too far as we made our strategy. “Guys, are we sure about this?” During our last meeting, I inquired.

Samantha touched my shoulder with her hand. “They’ve been watching you for weeks, Zoe. They have a lesson to learn.”

Miguel gave a nod. And it’ll be enjoyable. When did we last act in such a bizarre manner?”

Harriet smiled. “I’ve already begun working on the outfits. There’s no turning back now!”

Their excitement spread to me, and I started to lose my doubts. “Alright, let’s do this.”

We got together in my lawn the following Saturday, dressed to the nines in the most absurd combinations. I had worn a tutu over a scuba suit and a neon green wig.

“Ready for the garden party of the century?” I smiled.

Samantha twitched her space suit. “Let’s give those creeps a show they’ll never forget.”

We began with standard party activities, if you can call anything standard while you’re disguised as circus escapees. We took sure to remain in the camera’s line of sight while dancing and playing games.

“Hey, Zoe,” Miguel said, his pirate cap awry, “how’s your mom doing?”

Recalling our recent visit, I grinned. “She is competent. Not giving up on attempting to introduce me to her friend’s son.”

With a swaying “Red Riding Hood” cape, Harriet laughed. “Traditional mother gesture. Have you discussed the camera matter with her?”

I gave a headshake. “Well, I didn’t want to frighten her. She would most likely come over here by herself and give them the cold shoulder.”

“To be honest,” Samantha added, “It could have been fun to watch.”

We all chuckled as we imagined my abrasive mother going up against Carla and Frank. The major event was about to happen, though.

“Oh no!” I pointed at Samantha and screamed. “She’s been stabbed!”

Miguel waved a ketchup-covered rubber knife. “Arrr, she had it coming!”

Samantha fell hard, ketchup “blood” dripping down her sides. We all began fighting and scurrying around in fear.

“Should we call the police?” With her cloak flying, Harriet bounced around and shrieked.

“No, we have to hide the body!” I yelled in response.

We heard sirens in the distance right then.

“Time for show,” I muttered. “Everyone inside, quick!”

In record time, we took Samantha inside, cleaned up the ketchup, and changed back into regular clothing. We were seated at the dining table, looking rather innocent, when the police came to knock on my door.

Looking perplexed, the officer questioned, “Is everything alright here?”

I pulled on my prettiest worried-citizen mask. Naturally, officer. Is there a problem?”

She clarified that there had been a violent crime reported at this address. I pretended to be shocked and then let “realization” creep into my expression.

“Ah! I remarked, “We were just acting improv in the backyard. “It must have looked pretty realistic, huh?”

The cop scowled. “How was your backyard visible to anyone? The fences are quite elevated.

I heaved a deep breath. Now, officer, that is the actual issue at hand. A camera owned by my neighbors is trained on my backyard. I have not given my permission for them to record me.”

Her brows shot upward. “Is that accurate? I believe we should speak with your neighbors.”

The police proceeded next door, and we observed it from my window. As they were questioned, Carla and Frank had a terrified expression.

The cop came back after an hour. “Ma’am, it appears that your neighbors have been secretly spying on you. Their equipment has been seized, and they will be prosecuted. Are you able to provide a statement?”

I attempted to appear astonished. “It’s awful! I didn’t realize it was so big. However, should the need arise, I will undoubtedly provide a statement and provide testimony in court.”

My companions and I celebrated our success when the police left.

“I can’t believe it worked!” Samantha chuckled.

Miguel lifted his chalice. “To Zoe, master of revenge!”

I smiled, but there was a nagging feeling. “Do you think we went too far?”

Harriet gave a headshake. “They spent weeks violating your privacy. They were awarded what was just.”


I was back in my yard the following day, basking in the sun without having to worry about onlookers. I watched Carla and Frank leave their house with their baggage in hand while I took care of my tomatoes.

I felt horrible for a while, but then I thought back to all the tapes they had of me. No, they had decided what to do. All I’d done was assist them deal with the fallout.

I smirked to myself as I selected a ripe tomato. Sometimes, using some creative problem-solving techniques is the best approach to deal with nosy neighbors instead of going through the legal system.

Hey, if nothing else, at least I now know that if gardening doesn’t work out, I have a career in community theater.

“So, any news about Carla and Frank?” Samantha asked me over coffee a week later.

I gave a headshake. “Not really. I watched them go, and since I haven’t heard anything from the police, perhaps they have decided against filing charges after all. Though I can’t say I miss them.”

Samantha grinned. “I bet they think twice before setting up cameras now.”

“Yes,” I replied before pausing. “You know, I’m not sure if we should feel horrible. We certainly gave them a complete 180-degree turn.”

Her eyebrow went up. “They were the ones disobeying the law, Zoe. We simply exposed them.

I nodded, but the sense of guilt stayed. “I am aware, I am aware. Simply put… I can’t help but notice how terrified they appeared when the police arrived.”

“Hey,” Samantha leaned over and spoke, “do you recall how violated you felt when you noticed that camera? How enraged were you? You were subjected to that for weeks.”

I exhaled. “You’re accurate. I suppose I’m simply not accustomed to playing the “bad guy.”

She chuckled. You’re not the terrible guy in this situation, I promise. You are the one who saved herself, the hero.”

Later that day, while I was watering my tomatoes, I noticed Carla and Frank’s house being approached by a moving truck. A young pair emerged with an expression of excitement.

They were laughing and talking as they unloaded boxes, and I observed. A part of me wanted to approach them, say hello, and possibly alert them to the prior occupants. However, a part of me was just ready to let go.

I decided as I turned back to my garden. With no preconceived notions or assumptions, I would give these new neighbors a chance. However, I would also keep an eye out. You never know when you could find yourself in need of another garden party, after all.