Gerald Wilcox is an otolaryngologist who lives with his wife and daughter in a small town in Montana in 1959. Dr. Wilcox has a weakness for women, alcohol, and, lately, morphine (with which he injects himself about once every six weeks). He enjoys writing in his journal almost every evening yet rarely reviews what he has previously written.

Although high on morphine, Dr. Wilcox repays a debt by making a house call late one night to treat a young boy with mastoiditis. On returning home, the doctor decides to bake a coffee cake for his wife at 5 o'clock in the morning while musing on what will happen to his journals after he dies.


This brief story offers an interesting glimpse into the life of an impaired physician who finds solace in both morphine and writing. The tale suggests that the doctor (like most everyone else) has a secret life. It is this hidden life that seems to provide Dr. Wilcox with most of the pleasure, danger, and satisfaction that is unattainable from his proper, exterior, and ordinary existence. The story also portrays how life slips from moment to moment.

Primary Source

The New Yorker


Condé Nast

Place Published

New York


July 20, 1998, pp. 64-69

Page Count