The Millers and the Stones live in apartments across a hallway from each other. The two couples appear to have lives fundamentally alike. Bill and Arlene Miller, however, feel they are missing out on the better things in life. They believe that the Stones’ lives are more satisfying, more exciting, than theirs. The Millers particularly envy the fact that the Stones frequently socialize and travel. When the Stones leave on a ten-day trip, they ask the Millers to care for their plants and cat. In the few days after the Stones depart, both Bill and Arlene are transformed by their explorations of the Stones’ home.
The responsibility of caring for the Stones’ household becomes an opportunity to take over their possessions, to occupy the spaces of their most private lives, to become the Stones. During the first evening of the Stones’ absence, Bill Miller enters their domain, delights in its very air, ogles at their ordinary treasures, pockets a bottle of Harriet’s prescription medicine, swigs their Chivas Regal, and stakes a strangely thrilling proprietary claim on their way of life.
Bill’s initial incursion into the Stones’ world arouses his sexual energy and leads him to break his own routines at home and at work. During a second visit to his neighbors’ apartment the next day, Bill rummages through their cupboards, refrigerator, and bedroom. He takes a pack of cigarettes before he is interrupted by his wife, who is sharply curious...
(The entire section is 498 words.)