The Swallowtail

Of a Mayfly

That Had an Off Day

Louise had only just emerged from her cocoon. She hung on a leaf upside down, drying her wings. She stared at the world, in wonder, for everything was new to her. What wat that golden thing over there, high up in the sky, shining so brightly? An elderly peacock butterfly flew past. He landed on a large flower just below the branch she resided at.

“Welcome to our butterfly garden, young lady. The fiery glowing sphere you are looking at is a nearby star. A huge fireball. It provides us light and warmth. Nevertheless, as friendly as it may seem from a distance, you’d better stop staring at it. Might make you blind and life is already short.”

“Let me tell you a story about that,” little Heather Rose said, another butterfly who joined the company. “A golden butterfly once was frolicking around in our garden, longing to get more out of his life. He had barely celebrated his third day of birth when he recklessly announced his plans of a journey towards the sun. He took off immediately, higher and higher… and we have never seen him again. Do not follow his example, young lady. His story did not have a happy ending. The sun comfortably warms our garden on earth, but high up in the sky it will burn you to ashes. Take it easy, little one. Confine yourself to our flowers, enjoy their nectars. And don’t you worry, there is plenty to discover within the borders of our own garden.”

Silver Tip who had accompanied Heather nodded. "What kind of butterfly are you?" he asked. Yet Louise had no idea. Her wings had too many wrinkles to find out.

“Members of my species can live for weeks,” Heather said. “If we're lucky, that is. An acquaintance of mine was recently caught by a raven. That's what befalls you when you get too close to the woodland edge. You’d better stay among these flowers dear; the birds won't find you here. Hope you will be one of my kind, then you will have plenty of time to discover the garden.”

“Look at you, the colours in your wings are already getting brighter,” said peacock. “I can see a few black spots now and a touch of blue. Could it be… could you be a Swallowtail? Wouldn't that be great? A rare species in our garden.”

“Might be. Heaven forbid she emerges as a Black and Blue,” Grumbling Chub said, who had just arrived at the scene. He took a sip of honey dew and waited for the others to respond.

“What do you mean, Grumbling Chub,” all replied in unison. "What’s wrong with being a Black and Blue?"

“Well, first of all it ain’t family and secondly these mediocre mayflies only have one day to live. One day I tell you. And do you know how a Black and Blue spends its precious time? By doing nothing. Nothing at all! Do you remember the kid that was born in this garden last week? The little fellow had stepped out of his cocoon with a foul mood, the one day he'd been given. He lingered on his branch sighing in minor, thus the morning vanished in oblivion. He kept on worrying in the afternoon and in the evening he was so tired of his own complaints that he decided to go to bed before the sun had set. Never woke up again of course.”

“They're not all like that, our mayflies,” Heather said.

“How heroic!” Silver Tip said. “To be a mayfly with an off day."

"There is nothing to laugh about, Silver," said Mourning Cloak, hoovering solemnly.

“Well, if only he had laughed a bit more often himself, poor Black and Blue,” Peacock sighed.


Louise gazed anxiously at her wings. What would become of her? What if she only had one day to live? She wouldn't fly to the sun or carelessly defy the forest edge. However, lamenting was not her cup of nectar either. She hopped on the flower below, took a sip of its golden drank, exercised her wings carefully, fluttering up and down and finally she jumped forward to ride a breeze of spring. She flew away, in great expectation of all the beauty she would encounter on her maiden flight.