January 28, 2013


By Kevin Canty
~4600 words

A reunion between old friends produces unexpected complications.

The main character, James, drives with his unemployed and rather fragile fiancée, Molly, from Montana to Colorado, where they are to stay at the home of James's college roommate, Sam, his wife, Jenny, and their three kids. Sam, having remembered his friend's arrival date incorrectly, has to depart the next day on a road trip to Denver, on which Molly decides to accompany him. James begins to imagine Molly and Sam running off together and ends up having sex with Jenny. The next morning Molly and Sam return, James realizes that Molly was not unfaithful to him, and things go back to normal.

The highlight of the story is the opening scene, in which Molly and James stop the car in a swarm of migrating Monarch butterflies:
He looked at the tangle of wings and bodies in the grille of the car. Some of them were still moving, or maybe it was just the wind. Butterflies landed on his arm, his face, his hair, creeping him out. But Molly's eyes were wet. Let her sort it out, he thought. Let Molly figure it out for herself.
The writing is strong throughout. Canty is particularly good at capturing the wide-open spaces of the west; in addition to the opening scene there is a gorgeous description of trout fishing. But the storytelling runs aground on a series of aimless clichés: James is bored with his job, he misses his parents (both deceased), he wants to think that he and Molly will "live happily ever after," but he is done taking care of her. Even the epiphany sounds like a cliché: "the cup is already broken, and no one cares," James thinks.

Beautiful writing isn't enough to save "Mayfly" from a banal plot and unremarkable characters.


Reader poll: I found "Mayfly" to be ___.


  1. I found this story likeable, despite its clichés. The one thing that really bothered me, however, was the ending. A woman who can't remember buying a certain pair of panties? My friend, this is pure fantasy. Molly doesn't appear to be baiting James with her comment (she is, after all, drawn as a completely naive character), but that sentiment rings false for me. A woman who discovered a strange pair of panties, especially in her fiancé's suitcase, would immediately want to know who he's been fucking behind her back.

    1. Great point. I also found it odd that we don't learn she is writing a play (or even that she is a writer, or wants to be one) until the last sentence.

  2. But that was the point of the ending. In the beginning of the story, "she had taken this little setback [losing her job] as permission to surrender." But in the very last sentence, we learn that she is focused enough to be regularly working on a play.

  3. i thought the panties were supposed to symbolize james' longing for a simple life, i.e. like Jennys': just loving her kids etc., which he has now 'transferred' along with the panties into his life with molly. i do agree though that women always know from whence their panties come *s*