Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat

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"Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" is a short story by Roald Dahl that first appeared in the 1959 issue of Nugget. The story is Dahl's variation on a popular anecdote dating back at least to 1939:[1] a married woman receives a glamorous mink coat from a man with whom she had an affair. She hopes to sneak the coat into her home without arousing her husband's suspicions, but soon discovers that her husband has plans of his own.

Synopsis[edit]

Mrs. Bixby and her dentist husband live in a New York apartment. Once a month, Mrs. Bixby travels from New York City to Baltimore, supposedly visiting her elderly aunt; in fact, she is having an affair with the Colonel.

One day, Mrs. Bixby arrives in Baltimore and receives a package from the Colonel containing a letter and an expensive gift: a dark mink coat. The Colonel's letter informs Mrs. Bixby that they can no longer see each other, and suggests she tell her husband the mink coat is a Christmas present from her aunt. Mrs. Bixby is in despair as she reads the letter: her aunt is far too poor to be given credit for the gift. However, Mrs. Bixby is intent on keeping the coat and devises a plan. On her return to New York she visits a pawnbroker and pawns the coat for $50. The pawnbroker gives her a pawn ticket, which she declines to mark with any kind of name or description. The ticket guarantees her right to claim the coat at any time. She tells her husband that she found the pawn ticket in the taxi, and he decides it would be best if he redeemed the ticket, in spite of Mrs. Bixby's objections.

The next day, Mr. Bixby goes to the pawn shop to redeem the ticket and claim the item it stands for. Mrs. Bixby is excited and rushes to her husband's office after he has collected it. He announces to her that it is real mink, but she is horrified when he proudly shows her a small, mangy stole, and not her coat.

Mrs. Bixby initially believes the pawnbroker has cheated her of her coat and intends to confront him. But as Mrs. Bixby leaves her husband's office, Mr. Bixby's secretary, Miss Pulteney, walks proudly past her, wearing the same mink coat that the Colonel had given to Mrs. Bixby. It is implied that Mr. Bixby is having an affair with Miss Pulteney, decided to give her the coat, and purchased a cheap stole for his wife instead. As Mrs. Bixby cannot demand the coat back without revealing her own affair, she is hoist with her own petard.[2]

Television adaptations[edit]

Year TV show Episode Starring Notes
1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Season 6, Episode 1 Audrey Meadows[3] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
1965 Thirty-Minute Theatre Season 1, Episode 9 Shelley Winters[4] This episode is believed lost.[5]
1979 Tales of the Unexpected Season 1, Episode 2 Julie Harris[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara. "Spoils of Whore". Snopes. Retrieved 28 December 2015. 
  2. ^ Sharma, Amrendra K; Roy, Manju (2008). "The Sociology of Roald Dahl's 'Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat'" (PDF). Indian Review of World Literature in English. 4 (2): 59–64. ISSN 0974-097X. Retrieved 25 December 2015. 
  3. ^ "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat (1960)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 26 December 2015. 
  4. ^ "Thirty-Minute Theatre: Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat (1965)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 26 December 2015. 
  5. ^ "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme THIRTY MINUTE THEATRE". Lost UK TV Shows. Kaleidoscope Research Guides. Retrieved 26 December 2015. 
  6. ^ "Tales of the Unexpected: Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat (1979)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 26 December 2015.