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Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat
by
Roald Dahl

AMERICA IS THE LAND of opportunities for women. Already they own about eighty-five percent of the wealth of the nation. Soon they will have it all. Divorce has become a lucrative process, simple to arrange and easy to forget; and ambitious females can repeat it as often as they please and parlay their winnings to astronomical figures. Thehusband's death also brings satisfactory rewards and some ladies prefer to rely upon this method They know that the waiting period will not be unduly protracted for overwork and hypertension are bound to get the poor devil before long, and he will die at his desk with a bottle of benzedrines in one hand and a packet of tranquillisers in the other. Succeeding generations of youthful American males arenot deterred in the slightest by this terrifying pattern of divorce and death. The higher the divorce rate climbs, the more eager they become. Young men marry like mice, almost before they have reached the age of puberty, and a large proportion of them have at least two ex-wives on the payroll by the time they are thirty-six years old. To support these ladies in the manner to which they areaccustomed, the men must work like slaves, which is of course precisely what they are. But now at last, as they approach their premature middle age, a sense of disillusionment and fear begins to creep slowly into their hearts, and in the evenings they take to huddling together in little groups, in clubs and bars, drinking their whiskies and swallowing their pills, and trying to comfort one another withstories.
The basic theme of these stories never varies. There are always three main characters - the husband, the wife, and the dirty dog. The husband is a decent clean-living man working hard at his job. The wife is cunning, deceitful, and lecherous, and she is invariably up to some sort of jiggery-pokery with the dirty dog. The husband is too good a man even to suspect her. Things look black forthe husband. Will the poor man ever find out? Must he be a cuckold for the rest of his life? Yes, he must. But wait! Suddenly, by a brilliant manoeuvre, the husband completely turns the tables on his monstrous spouse. The woman is flabbergasted stupefied, humiliated defeated. The audience of men around the bar smiles quietly to itself and takes a little comfort from the fantasy.
There are many ofthese stories going around, these wonderful wishful-thinking dreamworld inventions of the unhappy male, but most of them are too fatuous to be worth repeating, and far too fruity to be put down on paper. there is one, however, that seems to be superior to the rest particularly as it has the merit of being true. It is extremely popular with twice- or thrice-bitten males in search of solace, and ifyou are one of them and if you haven't heard it before, you may enjoy the way it comes out. The story is called ‘Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat’, and it goes something like this:
Mr and Mrs Bixby lived in a smallish apartment somewhere in New York City. Mr Bixby was a dentist who made an average income. Mrs Bixby was a big vigorous woman with a wet mouth. Once a month, always on Fridayafternoons, Mrs Bixby would board the train at Pennsylvania Station and travel to Baltimore to visit her old aunt. She would spend the night with the aunt and return to New York on the following day in time to cook supper for her husband. Mr Bixby accepted this arrangement goodnaturedly. He knew that Aunt Maude lived in Baltimore, and that his wife was very fond of the old lady, and certainly itwould be unreasonable to deny either of them the pleasure of a monthly meeting.
'Just so long as you don't ever expect me to accompany you' Mr Bixby had said in the
beginning.
'Of course not, darling,' Mrs Bixby had answered `After all, she is not your aunt. She's mine.'
So far so good.
As it turned out, however, the aunt was little more than a convenient alibi for Mrs Bixby. The dirty dog,...
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