Scenes from the Writing of a Novel, with Illustrations (Scene 39, Illustration 8a)

Sitting outside today, "working on my novel", I noticed two flies having sex. They were the varicolored kind, metallic exoskeletons shining with the colors of gas spilt in a parking lot. The illustration below is my quick rendition of the proceedings. What struck me is how surprisingly long it took: these two Olympians were at it a good three minutes, I reckon, and considering the lifespan of a fly weighs in at only seven days... simple math suggests their coital episode is equivalent to eight straight days of human sex.

(The calculation explained: 7 days * 24 hours/day * 60 min/hour = 10,080 minutes per avg[fly lifespan]. Let us call this β. 3 minutes of sex/β = .0003. That is to say, an episode of fly coitus takes about .03% of the fly's life. To figure out the human equivalent, we need merely calculate how long .03% of a human lifetime is. Let us say the avg[human lifespan] = Ω = 75 years. Ω * .0003 = .002 years, or about eight days of the hot stuff. QED.)

During this love marathon--which unfolded before me like a porn--a third fly settled down beside the action. Was he queuing up for the next round, or a jealous spectator? Or--you're lying if you claim you hadn't thought it--was he a would-be interloper looking to join the party? After a moment, though, he flew away; too shy, I suppose. Or maybe it's just that an act so public cannot maintain its mystique for long.

The two dipteran copulators remained nigh stationary for a good long time, suggesting to me--and my heart just shattered, thinking this--that fly love was a dispassionate thing. But I was wrong. As the clock ticked the male's legs did begin to noticeably twitter, and twitch; they rose up and down and round and round; about the table, about the female, about himself, as if he were rehearsing for a tap dance. Then the action really took off, as the male lifted all legs off the table and, with an enviable virtuoso technique, balanced himself on his wings. He jerked his missus around, thrusting hither and thither. She, I should note, seemed not at all amused, remaining mostly immobile, save for her steadying reactions to his wild flailings. It was a spectacle of the highest order.

I killed them with a swift flick of my manuscript and took a break for lunch.


About the author:

Daniel Brauer spent most of the last three years in his parents' attic working on his novel, and when he was not in the attic he was in the yard. His fiction is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner.