The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Little Follies
Life on the Bolotomy
Chapter 11: The End of the Beginning
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy
Little Follies cover



The Clam Fest, of course, includes a Queen, an adolescent who is made to wear an abbreviated costume and ride, at the head of a procession of clamboats, on the boat belonging to the oldest of the clamdiggers, in the bow, as far forward as possible, with her legs dangling overboard.  Since the oldest clamboats were once sailing vessels, she is likely to be straddling a bowsprit, in a display that is really too much for words.
Boating on the Bolotomy

RASKOL AND I waited beyond the Municipal Dock, on the bay side, away from the crowds on the river side, and there we went unnoticed.  After an hour or so, we heard a murmur rise from the crowd, and soon we could hear, over the murmurs of the crowd, the Babbington High School Band, playing the Bergomask from Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances for the Lute, scored for marching band by Babbington High’s own Timothy J. Courtney, a prodigy of some note. 
    “That’s our cue,” I said.  We pushed off.  I saw, approaching us, the Agnes My Dear, the oldest clamboat on the bay.  In the bow, straddling the bowsprit, was a girl with yellow hair, shining in the sun.  She was waving and smiling, and I was certain that much of her waving and smiling was for me.  I thought that I could see in her smile a little dreamy admiration for a fellow as young as I was who had such pluck.  I waved and smiled back at her.  Arranged along the deck were other girls, also waving and smiling.  Behind the boat full of girls was a barge, on which the band was standing, playing away and performing some drill routines.  People were lined up along the banks, many holding cameras.  In some places I could pick out whole families, sitting on folding chairs, with bright umbrellas stuck in the ground beside them.  Small children were waving tiny flags.  Here and there were girls my age, in ruffled dresses, throwing flowers into the river, and boys my age, awestruck and envious, throwing stones into the river and being cuffed by their parents.
    After the barge came the clamboats, decked out with flowers and banners.  The mayor stood on one, and Raskol and I saluted him as our boats passed each other.  He called out “Good luck, boys,” or something similar, as we passed.  A motorboat full of news photographers wound in and out of the procession.
    The band was charging into the grand, swelling, soaring conclusion to the Bergomask.  Raskol and I had nearly reached Leech’s Son’s Boatyard, and the end of the beginning of the journey.  I was ecstatic.  I had been elevated by the music and the crowd.  I stood in the boat and waved my paddle to them all.  In my enthusiasm, I waved a little too wildly, and for a moment I could imagine myself falling into the water as I had in “Do Clams Bite?”  It would be, I thought as I struggled to keep my balance, my luck to have the photographers come cruising by, with most of the formal procession past now and only the least attractive clamboats still to reach the dock, looking for some human interest shots, something like a couple of boys in a homemade boat, and capture this moment with their expensive cameras.  In the photograph I would be half in the water, my right half hidden below the surface, my left arm and leg flailing, my mouth and eyes wide, my paddle in the air above me, Raskol hiding his head in his hands. 
    But I recovered, and by shifting my weight and using my paddle as a counterweight I kept myself upright, and I let myself down carefully into the boat again.  My ears were burning.  I bent to the work of paddling the boat, and looked straight ahead, upriver, until we were past the boatyard and out of sight of everyone. 
    I cleared my throat. “Do you think anybody noticed?” I asked Raskol. 
    He burst out laughing. “Probably,” he said. 
    I could feel the blood rise to my face, and I could imagine the headline in the Babbington Reporter:

Clam Fest Almost Marred by Near-Tragedy
Boy Nearly Falls from Crude Boat

    We paddled the boat under the bridge, and left the music and the crowds behind us.  My embarrassment passed, and my heart swelled with excitement and pride.  Ahead of us lay a pond, nearly circular, with cattails around the edge.  This pond was the end of the estuarial stretch of the river, the Bay’s farthest penetration into the land.  The pond caught the fresh river water flowing downward and the bay water flowing in with the tide.
    “There’s a nice spot, over there,” said Raskol. 
    I turned back toward him, and he pointed out a sandy spot on the shore, a break in the cattails. 
    “That is a nice spot,” I said.  I was gushing with excitement and enthusiasm.  I would have agreed with anything.  Raskol began heading us toward the sandy spot. 
    “What are you doing?” I asked. 
    “I’m heading us over there,” he said, “toward that nice spot.” 
    “Why?” I asked. 
    “So we can eat our lunch,” he said, a note of surprise in his voice. 
    “Eat our lunch?” I cried.  “We just got started.  It’s only about nine in the morning.” 
    Raskol was silent for a while, but he stopped paddling.  “Did you eat breakfast?” he asked at last, and this time there was a note of concern in his voice. 
    “No,” I said.  “I was too excited to eat, and I had to get over to your house early, remember?” 
    “Hey, you must be starving,” he said.  “It’s not a good idea to start a journey like this on an empty stomach.  You got anything packed for breakfast?” 
    “Not for today’s breakfast,” I said, frowning.  I could see what was going to happen.  “Just tomorrow and the next day.” 
    “Hmmm,” he said, his brows knit.  He looked the way Gumma did when she was about to tell me that I was looking a little peaked.  “We’d better get something to eat. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.  Tell you what.  Why don’t we beach the boat over there and walk into town and get something at the diner?”
    I sighed, but I didn’t argue.  We paddled the boat to shore, hid it in the cattails, and walked downtown to the Babbington Diner, where Raskol had fried eggs, home fries, bacon, toast, and coffee.  I had a doughnut and a glass of milk. 

  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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