Last Updated on June 15, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 516
Bill and Arlene Miller live across the hall from Harriet and Jim Stone. The Millers believe that the Stones’ lives are more interesting and fulfilling than their own. They have agreed to keep an eye on the Stones’ apartment, cat, and plants, despite the fact that they seriously envy the Stones’ vacations. That first night, Bill goes over to feed the cat, and he snoops around. He looks in the Stones’ medicine cabinet, taking a bottle of Harriet’s pills and even helping himself to a couple of swigs of their expensive alcohol, right from the bottle. When Arlene wants to know what kept him, Bill claims that he was playing with the cat. He has, evidently, become sexually aroused by his time at the Stones’, and now he touches his wife’s breasts and takes her to bed.
The next day, Bill comes home a bit early, surprising Arlene, and he wants to have sex with her immediately. She is shocked by his actions, and this shows that Bill’s exploits at the Stones’ seem to have impacted his routine. That night, he returns to his neighbors’ apartment, going through their kitchen cabinets and refrigerator and helping himself to some food. He goes to their bedroom, noting their “fluffy white bedspread” and the contents of their nightstand—again stealing something (this time, a pack of cigarettes)—and, finally, Arlene knocks at the door because he has been there for so long. He lies and says he was on the toilet.
On the third day, Bill has Arlene call him out from work—another major deviation from his normal routine. He fiddles around for a while and then heads to the Stones’. He examines their furniture and belongings, and then he puts the cat in the bathroom. He lies down on the bed and “move[s] his hand under his belt”; when he is finished masturbating, he goes into the Stones’ closet, trying on first Jim’s clothes and then Harriet’s. He even puts on a pair of her underwear and one of her bras. Later, Arlene leaves their apartment to go feed the Stones’ cat, and she stays for a very long time as well. When Bill comes for her, she says she has been playing with the cat, but there is “white lint clinging to the back of her sweater,” indicating that she, too, was lying upon the bed. Further, “the color was high in her cheeks”: this is a clue that she also masturbated in the Stones’ bedroom. Moreover, she found some pictures, telling Bill that he “can see for [him]self” what they depict, hinting that they are pictures of the Stones doing private, perhaps even sexual, things.
In the end, Bill and Arlene leave the apartment to return, briefly, to their own, and they inadvertently lock themselves out of the Stones’ apartment with the key inside. Tellingly, they appear less concerned about the cat or the things Arlene may have disturbed and more concerned that they won’t be able to get back in to enjoy the Stones’ things anymore.