The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Little Follies
Life on the Bolotomy
Chapter 6: Cap’n Leech
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy
Little Follies cover



As you approach Babbington, note the large and unattractive water tower rising from the center of town.  Topped by a winking red light, this tower serves as a beacon for ships at sea, much as a lighthouse would, though God knows a lighthouse would have been much quainter and more attractive, and one can’t help but wonder why, if a water tower had to be constructed in the center of the town, those responsible for it could not have had the good sense to disguise it as a lighthouse, or an obelisk, or a tree, or something.
Boating on the Bolotomy

CAP’N ANDREW LEECH lived alone in a shack under the water tower that dominated the skyline of Babbington.  The tower stood on four thick, tubular legs, up one of which a small and fragile-looking ladder ran.  At the top, the tank, an enormous sphere, slightly oblate, rested on the legs.  Around its equator was a narrow walkway.  The names of daring adolescents were painted all over the sphere, those of more recent generations obscuring those of boys who had long ago become men and, in some cases, legends.  Largest of all, still discernible in fat black letters beneath the newer names, running all the way around the sphere, was


which Black Jacques had painted on the day the tower was dedicated, August 13, 1905, when he was sixty-nine and probably should have been beyond such pranks.  Except where it had been painted with names, the structure had gone unpainted, since there were no daring adolescents in the Babbington Department of Public Works to climb the rickety ladder.  The tower had rusted to a ruddy orange, and in the setting sun it was a magnificent sight, as magnificent as the sun itself.  A boatman on the bay, when the day was done and the desire to be at home and at rest became so tangible that he could feel the cold glass in his hand, would see the tower above the roofs of the town, burnished by the late sunlight, more magnificent in its way than any cathedral—earthy, not ethereal, speaking of the simple comforts of this life, of home, a shower, a comfy chair, a full glass, a full stomach.
    Raskol took me to visit Cap’n Leech one night when he was delivering half a peck of chowder clams to him.  Raskol’s father, like many another clammy, sent the Cap’n a sack of clams now and then, and once in a while a few dollars too.  When he was younger, Cap’n Leech had owned the boatyard at the end of the street where my big grandparents lived, the boatyard that was now run by his son: Leech’s Son’s Boatyard.  “Cap’n” was an honorary title.
    It was dark when we reached the shack.  A dim light showed through the one window.  When Raskol knocked on the door, the whole shack shook.
    “Hey, Raskol, take it easy,”  I whispered.
    “What’s the matter?” he asked.
    “You’re being too rough.  Look—the whole place shakes when you bang on the door like that.  You’re going to knock the shack down, and then we’ll be blamed for it.  My father would go wild if I ever got into any trouble like that.  The police would arrest us, and the whole story would be in the paper:

BABBINGTON—Police remain baffled this morning as to the probable motive behind the senseless destruction of the humble shack that was all Captain Andrew Leech, retired, could call home.  The Captain, discovered beneath the rubble, was also at a loss to explain why two unidentified youths had flattened his modest hovel.  (Continued, with photos, on page 18.)

    “Ye gods, I can see my father now, tromping up and down the living room, waving the paper at me and raving:
    “‘What’s the matter with you?  Huh?  Answer me that!  What’s the matter with you, knocking down a poor old geezer’s only home and shelter from the elements!  Just what is the matter with you?’
    “And he’d never let me go on the boat trip—”
    The door flew open, and a skinny old man in boxer shorts, a sleeveless undershirt, and a blue cap stood outlined by the feeble light.
    “Who the hell is out there?” he demanded.
    “It’s me, Cap’n,” said Raskol.
    “Oh, hello there, boy.  Who’s this lunatic you have with you?”  He looked me up and down.  I seemed to worry him.  I think he thought I might fly out of control and begin breaking things.  “Where are those little girls?”
    “The Glynn twins?” Raskol asked.  “I’m sorry,  I forgot to tell them that I was coming to see you.”  The captain’s face fell.  “But I’ve got some clams for you, and Peter and I want to talk to you about the trip.”
    Cap’n Leech brightened at this.  “I’ve got your boat all built,” he cried.  He cackled with pleasure and waved at us impatiently, urging us into the shack.  “Come on, come on,” he said.
    Inside, the place looked worse than it did from the outside.  If I had kept my room the way Cap’n Leech kept his hovel, my mother would have thrown me out of the house.  For furniture, he had a few burlap sacks stuffed with what I guessed was shredded paper.  These served as chairs and beds.  He had some packing crates here and there.  One was an end table, another a coffee table.  Two made a kitchen counter, on which he had a tiny gasoline-fired burner, a small version of the one that Gumma and Guppa used when they went camping.
    “Now,” the captain said, taking the clams and tossing them aside impatiently, “let’s talk about the kind of boat you need.  It’s got to hold two boys your size—”
    “—and their gear,” I said.
    The captain and Raskol gave me looks.
    “You know, food, tent, first-aid kit—”
    “Yeah,” snapped the captain.  “It’s got to hold two boys your size and their gear.  It’s got to be narrow enough to squeeze between the banks in the upper reaches of the Bolotomy—”
    “That’s right,” I said. “That’s why I was thinking that a canoe—”
    They were giving me looks again.  I shrugged and kept quiet.
    “It must draw very little water,” the captain went on, in a much louder voice.  “It must be light enough for two boys your size to carry around or over obstacles.”
    Raskol and I waited for him to say something else, but for a while he did nothing but giggle and rub his hands together.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had vanished in a puff of smoke, leaving behind the dying echo of his giggle.  Finally, he shouted, “I’ve got just the thing!”
    He spun around and began throwing junk out of a low pine box, about eight feet long, two feet wide, and two feet deep.  It was a rich mix of junk, but because socks, underwear, and torn shirts made up the majority of it, I decided that this box must be his dresser.  The top of the box was propped behind it.  Stenciled in a corner of the top was



Merry Christmas Dad Your Son Raoul

was written across the top in red crayon.
    “I’ve been saving this box to use as a coffin,” said the captain, “but there’s no reason why you boys can’t use it in the meantime.  Grab hold, and we’ll bring her out into the light.”
    Raskol and I grabbed the box by the ends and lifted.  He got his end up, but his face began turning red.  I couldn’t lift mine.
    “Heave!” shouted the captain.  Raskol let his end fall to the floor with a crash.
    “It’s too heavy, Cap’n,”  said Raskol.
    Cap’n Leech rubbed the gray stubble on his chin for a bit, and then he climbed into the box and stretched out on his back.  “I’m pretty thin,” he said.  “This is a lot deeper box than I need.  I’d say she’s a little less than two foot deep.  Now suppose you cut off about a foot from the top part of the box.  That’d leave me about nine inches depth, which should be plenty, because I don’t eat as much as I used to, and by the time I need the box I’m likely to be thin enough to just flatten right out in it.”
    Raskol and the captain snapped a line around the box, and we took turns sawing off the upper foot or so.  The captain made a watery chowder from the clams, an onion, and a couple of potatoes, and we ate this from cups while we worked.  When we finished, we had a long shallow box that Raskol and I could carry, some spare lumber from which the captain promised to carve a pair of paddles, and lots of sawdust, which I swept through the cracks in the floor.

  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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