(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Pet Fly” is a first-person story told by African American Rufus Coombs, a recent college graduate who was relegated to the mailroom of Carter’s Home Insurance despite applying for a professional-trainee position. It opens with his appreciation of the vivacious Mona Donelli, a flashy dresser with a gregarious attitude. Although he notices her on his first day on his new job, he works his mail route for three weeks before he decides to get to know her better.

Rufus has had generally friendly but not intimate relationships with his coworkers, and he mistakes Mona Donelli’s friendliness as an invitation. After meeting a rather chilling reception when he tries to strike up a conversation with her, he asks Ernie, his immediate supervisor and sometime confidant, for answers. Ernie reveals that Mona’s identical twin Lana works for the same company, which explains the mixed messages Rufus has received.

Vaguely stirred by his recollections of the two sisters, Rufus soon finds excuses to drop by Lana’s third-floor mortgage department as often as possible. Trouble ensues when he good-naturedly comments on her attire and quickly buys her a succession of increasingly expensive presents, which he leaves on her desk. Too late, he discovers that his advances are unwanted. Without warning, he is summoned to Mr. Drew’s office, where he is shown the pink sexual harassment slip that Lana had filed.

Rufus is a man who would not hurt a...

(The entire section is 566 words.)