Neighbors (short story)

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"Neighbors" is a short story written by Raymond Carver in 1971. It first appeared in Esquire magazine in 1971.[1] It was published in the collection Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? in 1976, in the compilation Where I'm Calling From in 1989, and again in Short Cuts in 1993.

Plot summary[edit]

A happy couple, Bill and Arlene Miller, live in an apartment across the hall from Harriet and Jim Stone, the neighbors of the title. Bill and Arlene tacitly envy the Stones' lifestyle. The Millers are asked to watch over the Stones' apartment while they are out on a business trip.

The night of the Stones' departure, Bill enters the Stones' apartment to feed their cat. After leaving the cat to pick at her food, Bill explores the Stones’ medicine cabinet and ends up taking a container of Harriet’s pills. After taking one, Bill takes two drinks from a bottle of Chivas Regal taken from the Stones’ liquor cabinet.

The next day, Bill leaves work early to make love to Arlene. Afterward, he returns to the Stones’ apartment to feed the cat. After, Bill becomes sidetracked as he eats the Stones’ food, steals their cigarettes, and uses their bathroom. Arlene goes over to see what is taking him so long, and reminds him that he has been there for over an hour. Bill and Arlene return to their own apartment and make love.

Bill has Arlene call in for him at work the next morning. Bill goes back over to the Stones’ apartment for no apparent reason. He takes more drinks and tries on the Stones’ clothes - both Jim’s and Harriet’s. Afterward, Bill puts everything away and returns to his own apartment.

Arlene is the next to go over and feed Kitty. Bill goes to check on her; they talk about the oddness of their situation. They wonder - somewhat hopefully - what will happen if the Stones never return. It is then that they realize they have left the key to the Stones' apartment inside and are now locked out. The story concludes as the Millers' sudden exposure becomes apparent to them.