The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Little Follies
Life on the Bolotomy
Chapter 1: To the Source!
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy
Little Follies cover



If, as we suggested at the start of this book, life is like a river, then old age must be a period of loss of control, of foul-smelling discharges.  Certainly this is the case with the Bolotomy.  If one judged the river by its final stretch, one would have no notion at all of its earlier, upriver, beauty, for here it has been made to submit to the demeaning demands of men: its course is defined by wooden bulkheads, docks and piers intrude into it, and the offal of commerce fouls its waters.  As if in despair, its vital force sapped by these affronts, here the river ceases its constant forward motion and surrenders to the ebb and flow of Bolotomy Bay.  Here the river can be said to die.
Boating on the Bolotomy

RASKOLNIKOV AND I had become good friends in a short time.  As often as I was allowed to do so, on weekends or during school vacations, I would ride my bicycle from home, our tract house in a corner of Babbington far from the bay, to stay with my big grandparents, and while I was staying with them Raskol and I would hang around together.
    Many of the days of youth are sweet, but the sweetest of all may be those that friends, friends who are determined that they will be friends forever, spend doing nothing but sitting and dreaming, as Raskol and I were on the day that we decided to journey up the Bolotomy.
    Imagine, please, the lassitude of a summer day along the estuarial stretch of the river.  The sun is stuck in place directly overhead and seems to yawn there, dozing.  Heat is suspended in the air like fog.  The river is lying at slack tide, as relaxed and unhurried as a boy lying on his back and watching the clouds drift by, dreaming.  On the water, the sunlight collects in pools like the pools of melted butter that form on your cocoa when you dunk your toast in the morning, after your father has gone off to work, while your mother is dusting in the living room, when you can pretend for a while in the quiet that the house is yours, that you live alone.  Gasoline and motor oil shine on the water in rainbow swirls like those on the marbled endpapers of a fine book.  Across the river, a dark-haired girl about your age, a beauty in a white bathing suit, with eyes that even at this distance make your heart stop for a moment, lies on the deck of a lean blue sloop, stretching her legs out, turning her face to the sun, dozing, dreaming, going nowhere.
    Raskolnikov and I were sitting on the bulkhead on just such a summer day. With my finger, I was tracing the grain in the weathered planks, weathered to the color of dust. I was following one of the channels formed where the softer wood had worn away.  As I ran my finger along the channel, as if downriver, I pictured on the plank the landmarks that I knew downriver along the Bolotomy: empty slips where the clamboats that were now out on the bay docked, a few pleasure boats, the Flying A marine gas station, Whitey’s Boatyard, where Big Grandfather was at work, Dutch’s New ’n’ Used Boats, Curly’s Marine Supply, Frenchy’s Nautical Knickknacks, Corinne’s Fabulous Fruits of the Sea and Corinne’s Dockside Bordello, the clam processing plant, the ferry slip, the municipal dock.  I stopped to pull a splinter from my finger, then brought it back to its starting point and started upriver, past Leech’s Son’s Boatyard, and beyond it to the bridge where Main Street crossed the Bolotomy on the way to South Hargrove, and there I stopped.  It occurred to me that I had no idea what lay beyond the bridge.  I stood up on the bulkhead and shaded my eyes, but I couldn’t even see past the boatyard, for there was a bend in the river there, and what lay upstream was hidden, unknown, mysterious, and inviting.
    “Raskol,” I asked, “what’s past the bridge?”
    “Mmmm?” he asked.  He had been studying the dark-haired girl.  “What’s past the bridge?  I don’t know.”
    “Let’s find out,” I said.
    “Sure,” he said.  Some time passed before he added, “Let’s go.”
    Neither of us moved.
    “We’ll need a boat,” I said.
    “Yeah,” Raskol agreed.
    It would be fun having a boat of our own, I thought.  After we had completed the Bolotomy River trip, we could do some exploring a little farther afield.  Suppose we built our own boat!  If we did, we’d be able to brag to other boys our age that we had not only traveled the length of the Bolotomy but had done it in a boat that we had built ourselves.
    “We could build a boat,” I said, hesitantly, careful not to let my eagerness show.
    “You bet,” said Raskol.
    It would be the most beautiful boat on the bay, or at least on the river.  Of course, it would be small, but it would stand out.
    “We’ll paint it in bright colors,” I said.  “It’ll look great.”
    “Mmm,” said Raskol.
    There was a lot of planning to do, I realized.  For a moment, I felt nearly overwhelmed, but I told myself that if I went about it methodically I could get everything done in good time.  The first thing, clearly, was the boat, but it wasn’t too soon to start thinking about the things we would need on the trip.  Clothes, a tent, camp knives, maybe the machete that my father had bought at the army-navy store for clearing brush, food—
    “We’ll need plenty of food,” said Raskol.
    “And not just that,” I said, all my thoughts bursting from me.  “We’ll need maps, and a compass, extra socks, lots of stuff.  How long do you think it would take to go all the way up the river, all the way to the place where it starts?”
    “The source.”
    “The source.  That’s what you call the place where a river starts.”
    “How long would it take to get to the source?” I asked, adding a special emphasis to the last word, since it made me feel already intimate with the river, now that I knew a part of its vocabulary.
    Raskol thought for a while, then sucked air through his teeth, then squinted at the water, then pursed his lips, and then said, “Don’t know.”
    “We’d better figure on three days’ worth of food,” I said.
    “Bring five days’ worth, just in case,” said Raskol.
    As if a breeze had blown over me, the whole sequence of the trip swept past me—the excitement when we announced our plans, designing the boat, building the boat, launching the boat, the shakedown cruise, our departure, the trip itself, the surprises and discoveries, the hardships and struggles, the climactic thrill of arriving at the source.
    “It’s not every kid our age who can build a boat, paint it, stock it with provisions, and travel all the way to the source of a river in it,” I said.
    “That’s true,” said Raskol.
    “We’ll probably be the first kids our age to have done this ever,” I cried, slapping my hand on the planks, “or at least in hundreds of years.  People will be amazed when we tell them what we’re going to do.”
    “My father especially,” said Raskol.
    “This trip is going to create quite a stir,” I went on, and I knew that I was getting a little carried away, but I knew too that Black Jacques would have been proud of me.  “We’ll be the talk of the town.  When we start out, people will line the bulkhead, cheering us and wishing us well.”
    I stood up and swept my hands out toward the bay.  Raskol looked where I indicated, and the dark-haired girl across the way stirred when I raised my voice.
    “There will be bands playing,” I said, “and all the boats along here will be decked out with pennants and crepe paper and banners.  The mayor will give a speech from a barge decorated with flowers, and pretty girls will be throwing flowers into the river.”
    The girl across the way propped herself on an elbow and watched me with some curiosity.
    “Then we’ll come paddling by, and all the clamboats will pass by us in a line, as a salute.  Reporters will take our picture, and everyone will wonder how we got the nerve to take such a trip, and they’ll marvel at all the work that went into building the boat and planning the menu.  We’ll be in the paper, and we’ll be famous.”
    The girl across the way stood up, picked up her towel, and walked toward the house where she lived.

  Little Follies Dust Jacket

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Little Follies is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.

“My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” “The Static of the Spheres,” “The Fox and the Clam,” “The Girl with the White Fur Muff,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and “Call Me Larry” were originally published in paperback by Apple-Wood Books.

Little Follies was first published in hardcover by Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022. Member of the Crown Publishing Group.


For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail the author’s imaginary agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.

The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.

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