The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Little Follies
Life on the Bolotomy
Chapter 14: Peter and the Nymphs, an Idyll
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy
Little Follies cover



Just north of Hargrove Road is a spot that we must admit is lovely, where the river runs clear and cool and deep through a small clearing.  On a summer day, with iridescent dragonflies gleaming in the sun, it can be an idyllic spot for a cooling swim.  Unfortunately, the locals know all about it, so the traveler is likely to have to share the idyll.
Boating on the Bolotomy

THE NEXT DAY DAWNED still and hot.  May was gone, and Raskol had traces of her lipstick on his mouth and cheeks. 
    I ate quickly.  I had some Spam on one of the biscuits that I had brought along.  In a snit, Raskol crashed off through the bushes; eleven minutes later, still in a snit, he crashed back through the bushes, carrying a cardboard cup of coffee.
    All our provisions were a mess.  We threw the wet things into the boat and pushed it out into the river.  Here the river was shallow and not much wider than the boat.  Bushes grew right to the banks on both sides, making the space above the water narrower than the river itself.  We pushed the boat into the middle of the river and climbed in.  The boat bottom crunched on the river bottom.
    Raskol sighed. “We’ve got to jettison some of this rubbish,” he said.  He reached for the nearest bag and tossed it over the side. 
    “Hey, wait!” I cried.  “Don’t just toss things out indiscriminately.  We’re going to need some of this stuff.  We’ve got to go through each of the bags and sort out the essentials from the inessential items.  Then we’ve got to figure out a plan for rationing our food and water so that we know how much we can do without.” 
    “All right,” he said.  “Here’s the plan—we’ll throw out all the food and trust to luck.” 
    I sighed.  I began picking through the supplies and packing the nonessentials into one of the bags.  Raskol sat in his end of the boat and watched.  When I came to the machete, his eyes lit up. 
    “Where’d you get this?” he asked, snatching it from me. 
    “It was in the cellar at home,” I said.  “My father bought it at the army-navy store.  He uses it for clearing brush.” 
    “Now this is the sort of thing we’re likely to need,” he said.  He gave me a nod and a grin, and I could see that some of his faith in me had returned.  He stuck the sheath into his belt and practiced flourishing the machete while I finished lightening the load.  When I had us down to the bare necessities, I loaded the boat again.  We pushed it out into the stream.  We climbed in.  The boat floated. 
    The water purled along the banks, dragonflies flew alongside the boat, and water striders skittered out of our way.  We began pushing ourselves along, pushing with our paddles against the river bottom, and at once we began to sweat.
    “This is going to be a bitch of a day,” predicted Raskol.  He peeled off his shirt, soaked it in the water, wrung it out, and put it back on.  He did this with such verve, such style, that I knew he’d learned it along the docks, and it looked to me like the savviest bit of clammy know-how that I’d ever seen, so I did the same.  My wet shirt stuck to my back and chest and chafed my armpits while I worked at pushing with my paddle, and as the cloth dried it became stiff and rough and chafed worse and worse. 
    Raskol pushed along in grim silence.  I was sure that he was angry with me for having gotten him to agree to come along on this trip, and that he was taking his anger out on the river.  His pushes were strong and regular, and he spoke only when he had to, to warn me of a rock or a low-hanging branch. 
    The river began to narrow.  We made our way now through a tunnel of overarching bushes, and in the tunnel the heat lay like fog, heavy and unmoving.  The leaves overhead were pale, translucent green, sunlight burning through them.  The interstices between the leaves flamed with pale, lemon fire.  Sweat ran from me continually now.  It ran from my hair, down my back, down the sides of my face, across my forehead, and into my eyes.  Mosquitoes buzzed around my head.  They had bitten the upper curve of my ears so often that I looked like a pixie.  While Raskol kept pushing on, staunch and rhythmical, I squirmed and twisted, slapping mosquitoes and wiping the sweat from my eyes, and when I did get a push in, it was a clumsy and ineffective effort, my paddle striking the side of the boat or catching the river bottom too early in the stroke, so that I was actually working against Raskol. 
    The sun rose higher, the heat and light grew stronger.  I began to feel lightheaded and dizzy. 
    “Whew!” cried Raskol.  “It’s too hot to keep this up.  Let’s take a break.  We’ll pull the boat out over there.” 
    He headed for the bank.  I was too hot and tired and sick to answer him or to help push the boat ahead.
    When the boat was out of the water, Raskol looked me over with some concern. “Peter,” he said, “you don’t look right.  Lie down on the bank here and put your feet in the water.  Rest for a while.  I’m going to look for a place to buy some lunch.  You rest and cool off for a while.” 
    I heard him walk off through the woods. After the sound of his footsteps had passed away, woodsy sounds—birds and locusts and the river—rushed in around me.  The river water, flowing along the banks, burbled.  It was a soft and cool and soothing sound, as pleasant as a chuckle.  Every once in a while I’d catch another sound from the river, at a higher pitch, more like a giggle than a chuckle.  While I lay there listening, the giggles seemed to increase in number and to draw nearer to me.  Curious to know what caused these sounds, I thought of sitting up and opening my eyes, but I did not, partly because the heat still pressed me to the ground like an enormous hand, and partly because the thought struck me that it would be amusing first to make a good guess about the origin of the sounds, and then open my eyes to see whether my guess was correct.  This I did.  I decided that the sound probably came from the random collisions of a number of small wooden objects, such as twigs, spools, or billiard balls, that had entered the river somewhere upstream and were washing past me now.
    I sat up and opened my eyes.  The giggling sounds were coming from a dozen or so beautiful young girls who were bathing in the river.  Their clothes lay in piles on the opposite bank, but they had made their way across the river, and they stood in the clear water only a short distance from me.  In my memory, they are all lovely, but you know how it is in a situation like that—the surprise at seeing them there when I opened my eyes, the sunlight playing over them through the leaves, their wide eyes, my fatigue and dizziness, may have made some of them a little lovelier then than they would ever be again.  One of them, however, has always been as beautiful as she seemed that day.  She was the only one that I recognized; she was the dark-haired girl about my age, who had been lying on the deck of a lean blue sloop, stretching her legs out, turning her face to the sun, dozing, dreaming, going nowhere, on the day that Raskol and I decided to journey up the Bolotomy.
    She—or perhaps it was another of the girls—reached out toward me and took my hand.  She pulled me, tugging me toward the water.  Soon they were all tugging at me and urging me to come into the water with them, and I decided that I would.  It would be cool.  It would refresh and relax me.  It would probably be just what I needed.

  Little Follies Dust Jacket
Hylas and the Nymphs

John William Waterhouse, Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896

    From behind me came the sound of crashing footsteps.  The girls looked up with alarm.  They scrambled for the opposite bank, clambered out of the river, snatched up their clothes and disappeared into the woods.  The dark-haired one paused for a moment, I think, just a moment, before she too slipped out of sight.  Raskol burst from the bushes.  He had woven leaves and branches into his hair as camouflage, and he was holding the machete in his teeth. 
    “Raskol,” I said.  “You won’t believe what—” 
    He said something. 
    “I can’t understand you when you talk with a machete in your mouth,” I said. 
    He took the machete out of his mouth.  “We’re almost there!” he shouted.  He was grinning with delight. 
    “Almost there?” I asked. 
    “Yeah,” he said.  “Our journey is nearly over.” 
    I looked upriver.  The Bolotomy disappeared into a mass of greenery. 
    “But I thought it would take much longer,” I said.  I was smiling, because I didn’t want Raskol to know that I was disappointed.  I had planned for three days and two nights, but in my heart I had been hoping that it would take us four days and three nights, and that for one night and day we’d have to live off the land.

Candi Lee Manning and Alec "Nick" Rafter
Here are a couple of swell ideas from Eric Kraft's vivacious publicist, Candi Lee Manning: 

Tip the author.
You can toss a little something Kraft's way through the Honor System or PayPal. Honor System

Add yourself to our e-mailing list.
We'll send you notifications of site updates, new serials, and Eric Kraft's public lectures and readings. Just fill in this form and click the send-it button.


You'll find more swell ideas from Candi Lee here.

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.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
. .