The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Little Follies
Life on the Bolotomy
Chapter 8: “A Blood-Curdling Scream”
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy
Little Follies cover



The Bolotomy, like most rivers, is said to be haunted by all manner of sprites and goblins and witches, some benign, some malevolent.  What is it that makes people who live beside rivers think that they see things at night —disembodied faces floating above the water and the like?  Is it the purling of the water that drives them mad?
Boating on the Bolotomy

WE DECIDED to take the boat on its shakedown cruise at night, so that none of the adults, seeing the boat, would see how small our boatbuilding talents and aspirations were.  I knew that Big Grandfather had already ordered a lot of lumber for the schooner he was planning, and Guppa had bought a second-hand welding rig and was furiously working to finish converting the Studebaker into a vacation trailer so that he could start right in on the Adventurer’s Bubble.  Raskol’s father hadn’t done much of anything yet, but there was a strong likelihood that he’d consider our boat not suitable for a voyage of such metaphoric importance anyway.
    There was another reason for trying the boat out at night, a reason that neither of us admitted to the other, though I’m certain that Raskol considered it as important a reason as I did.  Testing the boat in the daytime, with an anxious crowd of onlookers following us in craft of several descriptions, watching us through binoculars, taking notes, arguing about the box’s river-worthiness, calling out advice, standing ready to fish us out of the water if anything untoward should occur, would not have been an adventure, and the point of the trip was that it was to be an adventure.
    I slipped out of my grandparents’ house and found my way to Raskol’s.  We had chosen the perfect night.  Fog lay over the bay, so thick that it drifted past us in the breeze like rain turned sideways.  From the spot in the cattails near Raskol’s house where we had hidden the boat, we couldn’t even see the river.  We carried the boat toward the sound of the water, and when Raskol cried “Shit!” and I heard a splash and felt his end drop, I knew that we had launched her.
    With the paddles that Cap’n Leech had carved, we got the boat offshore a little way.  In the night and fog we were nearly invisible.  Our taupe boat was indistinguishable from the water and the fog, and Raskol and I were wearing watch caps and navy sweaters that we had bought at the army-navy surplus store, so we disappeared too, except for our faces.
    “Where do we go from here?” I asked Raskol.
    “I haven’t got any idea,” he said after a while.  “I’ve lost track of which way is downriver.  Let’s just paddle for a while.  We’re pretty likely to run into one bank or the other.”
    We paddled for a while, slowly and quietly.
    “Where do you think we are now?”  I asked Raskol in a whisper.  It seemed right to whisper in the fog.
    “I have no idea,” he answered.  Our voices had a curiously hollow, echoing quality.
    “Do you notice that strange echo?”  I asked.
    “Yeah,” he answered.  “You know, this is going to sound pretty unlikely to you, but I think that we—”
    With a jarring thud the boat struck something hard, and I fell overboard.  I sank below the surface of the water into darkness darker than the fog, and when I came up I couldn’t find Raskol, or the boat, or anything.
    “Raskol!”  I called.  My voice echoed back, muffled and distorted, but loud.
    “Peter!” he answered.  To find each other, we kept calling and paddling toward the sound, but the echoes misdirected us, and what seemed like ten minutes passed before our flailing hands touched.  Then we set out to find the boat.  We had just begun looking when I heard what sounded exactly like a door opening very near me, just in front of us.
    “That sounded like a door,” I whispered.
    A deep voice in front of us demanded, “Who’s there?”
    A flashlight beam shone suddenly on Raskol, and I caught a glimpse of him, or rather of his face, floating in the fog over the water as if it were attached to nothing.  Then there was a really terrifying scream, the kind that people have in mind when they say “a blood-curdling scream,” the kind that makes your blood turn to soft, mushy lumps, like cottage cheese.  Whoever had been holding the flashlight, the same person who had screamed, dropped the light into the water and ran off, still screaming.  In the moment that the light had shone on us, I had been able to see that we were inside a boathouse, probably one of the ones across the river from where we had launched the boat.  The flashlight continued to shine from under the water, and it gave enough light for us to find the boat, scramble into it, find our paddles, and get started back across the river.  For a while we could see the dim glow of the flashlight, before the fog absorbed it.
    “That’s a pretty good flashlight,” Raskol said after a long while.  “Waterproof.  Do you think that they have that kind at the army-navy store?”

  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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