The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Little Follies
Life on the Bolotomy
Chapter 5: Bound for Disappointment
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy
Little Follies cover



In Babbington you will find no shortage of fellows who will tell you a good lie for the price of a beer.  We have collected a number of their tales.  Our favorite concerns the clamdigger who became lost in a fog on the bay one day while chugging along in his boat hunting for a bed of clams worth digging.  He kept chugging and hunting, and before he knew it he was far out at sea.  Well, he figured that since he was already on his way he might as well continue on to the South Seas, where he had dreamed of going since he was a boy.  A year later, he came chugging back into the bay full of tales of the islands and their women and the unusual clams that flourished there, Antigona lamellaris and Tapes literata.  So seductive were his stories that they have been passed along from generation to generation.  Even today, many a male Babbingtonian gets a faraway look in his eyes if the name of one of the islands in that area—say Pago Pago, Puka Puka, Rarotonga, or Disappointment—happens to come up in conversation.
Boating on the Bolotomy

BIG GRANDFATHER, my father’s father, was at first much less enthusiastic about the trip than Guppa had been.  I told him on a Saturday, while he was mowing his lawn and I was sitting in the crotch of an enormous weeping willow that grew behind his house.  Windblown dust had accumulated in the crotch over the years until it had become a layer of soil.  Then windblown grass seed had lodged in the soil and sprouted, and now the crotch was padded with soft grass and made a comfortable seat, where I sometimes whiled away afternoon hours by myself.  Since Grandfather was moving up and down the lawn, pushing his mower, and I was stationary, I had to get the essential information out in short bursts as he trundled past, short bursts shouted over the whirring of the mower blade against the cutting bar.
    “Raskol and I are going to travel the whole length of the Bolotomy, by boat,” I shouted.
    “No kidding?” he said.  There was grandfatherly indulgence in his voice, I thought.  He pushed on down to the end of the lawn and turned back toward me.  I thought he looked skeptical.
    “We’ve got it all planned,” I assured him.
    “Great,” he said.
    I watched him move on, and his nonchalance about what to me seemed an adventure, a considerable undertaking, especially for a boy my age, brought a sinking disappointment to my heart.  Only later did the thought occur to me that he had heard this sort of thing before, that my father, trying to please him, had planned voyages on the bay and elsewhere and perhaps had even proposed the very trip that Raskol and I intended to make, but that my father had never taken any of them, and that Grandfather, nobody’s fool, had hardened his heart against such boyish schemes.  At the time, I could only think that he didn’t consider me capable of making the journey, and I was hurt.  I wanted to show him how much work I was going to put into this.
    “We’re going to build our own boat,” I shouted as he pushed past.
    He snorted.  He pushed on and turned at the edge of the driveway.  He started back toward me, looking at the line of his last cut, concentrating on making his path straight.
    “We’re not quite sure what kind of boat we should build,”  I shouted on his next pass.
    He said nothing, and I thought of giving up, but when he turned at the fence and began moving toward me again I could see that he was smiling and his eyes were bright.
    “It ought to be good and sturdy,” he shouted as he went by, and I knew that he was hooked.  I watched him move back and forth, cutting swaths farther and farther away from me.  His mouth was moving: he was discussing boat plans with himself.  From time to time he’d snap his fingers or smile at a particularly happy idea.  When he had mowed about two-thirds of the lawn, he stopped, left the mower where it was, and walked away.  He went to his workshop in the cellar, and no one saw him for hours.
    After Grandmother and I had eaten dinner, she made a plate of sandwiches, and I carried them to Grandfather, down the steep, worn wooden stairs that led to the cellar, where a coal furnace stood squat and staunch in the middle of the cement floor that Grandfather had poured, a floor level and smooth and swept clean.  Grandfather’s workbench stretched the length of one wall.  Above it was a shelf that held a row of jars, each labeled, holding nails, screws, nuts, bolts, washers, and the like.  Grandfather was sitting at his drawing table.  He hardly noticed me when I came down the stairs.  He was bent over the table, smiling, drawing rapidly on wrapping paper.  He had The Boys’ Book of Boatbuilding and a worn atlas beside him.  He was drawing plans for a boat.  Other large sheets of paper lay around him on the floor, earlier versions that he had rejected or abandoned.  I picked one of these up.  It showed a tidy rowboat, neatly drawn in a steady hand, with some additions in a heavier, hastier hand.  I picked up another.  It showed a larger sailing vessel, far too big to navigate the upper reaches of the Bolotomy.   When I set the sandwiches down, I stood a moment at Grandfather’s side, looking at what he was drawing.  He was bent so close to it that I couldn’t make out much, but I did catch sight of the words CREW’S QUARTERS lettered on one section, and in the upper right corner of the sheet he had listed:
    Pago Pago?
    Puka Puka?

  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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