The narrator describes men in America as victims of scheming women and divorce, slaves forced to work in order to send payments to their ex-wives. These sorry men in middle age are able to console one another, usually in bars, by telling made-up stories about how a man gets the better of his unfaithful wife. These stories are by and large "fatuous" and "fruity", the narrator says, except for one "superior" story which is also true, "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat", which he then proceeds to tell.
Mrs. Bixby and her husband, a dentist, live in a flat. Unknown to Mr. Bixby, his wife has a boyfriend called the Colonel whom she sees once a month, whilst claiming to visit her aunt.
One day, Mrs. Bixby gets a rare and expensive present from the Colonel: a black and blue, lustrous, and quite extravagant mink coat. A letter from the Colonel that came in the box with the coat informs Mrs. Bixby that they can no longer see each other, and suggests she tells her husband the mink coat was a present from her aunt for Christmas. She is clearly in despair as she reads the letter.
Mrs. Bixby however knows that her aunt is far too poor to be given credit for the purchase of the coat, and is intent on keeping it. She decides to go to a pawn-broker, and sells the coat for $50. The pawn-broker gives her a pawn ticket, which she declines to mark with any kind of name, or description. The ticket does however guarantee 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 pleas.
The next day Mr. Bixby goes to the pawn shop to redeem the ticket and claim the object it stands for. Mrs. Bixby gets her all excited about it and rushes to her husband's office after he's claimed it. Just before she opens her eyes to see it, he says " It's real mink!". She then opens her eyes to find it is mink, but that it is merely a small, mangy stole, and not her coat. Mr. Bixby notes both that he will be coming home late that night, and that since he spent $50 redeeming the ticket, that he will not be able to buy Mrs. Bixby a Christmas present.
Mrs. Bixby is initially angry at the pawn-broker, thinking that he cheated her and kept the coat. But as Mrs. Bixby leaves her husband's office a few moments later, Miss Pulteney the secretary walks proudly out of the office, wearing the black and rare mink coat that the Colonel gave to Mrs. Bixby. It is implied that Mr. Bixby is having an affair with Miss Pulteney and decided to give her the coat, buying a tacky fur hat for his wife instead.