The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy
Little Follies
Life on the Bolotomy
Preface: Something Like Clam Chowder
by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy
Little Follies cover  
It has often seemed to us that life, in several respects at any rate, is much like a river.
Susanna and Elizabeth Christensen
Boating on the Bolotomy

I KNOW THAT many people agree with the Christensen sisters, but it has always seemed to me that life, in several respects at any rate, is more like clam chowder.  My development of the exposition of this notion reached its zenith one evening not long ago when I was chatting with Porky White, the entrepreneur responsible for the Kap’n Klam chain of bivalve-shaped fast-food huts, and Congo Red, the bartender at Corinne’s Fabulous Fruits of the Sea.
    A surprising snowstorm had struck Babbington in the morning, and Red was complaining about how long the trip from Hargrove to Babbington had taken on the Hargrove-to-Babbington bus.
    Suddenly, Porky poked me on the shoulder and asked, “It’s a lot like life, isn’t it?  A bus ride, that is.”
    “Mmmmm?” I asked.
    “Sure,” he said.  “Just think about it.  You’re always on your way from one goddamned place to another, and you have to pay for the trip, and nobody cares whether you get there or not, and you feel miserable the whole time, and when you get there nobody’s there to meet you, and like as not you step off the bus into some dog shit.”
    Porky and Red collapsed into phlegmy, racking laughter.  I thought about what Porky had said.
    “It seems to me,” I put forth, “that life is more like clam chowder.”
    They stopped laughing and regarded me with some curiosity.
    “Some people’s lives are the kind of chowder made with cream,” I said, “which is quite acceptable, but others are the kind made with tomatoes, which can be superb, especially with a little cayenne.  Each life is like an individual batch of chowder: some have too many potatoes, and others have too much cayenne.  Each has its high points—”
    “The clams!” suggested Red.
    “Of course,” I said.  “And each has its low points—”
    “The potatoes!” offered Porky.
    “Mmmmm—not necessarily,” said Red.  “What about the grains of sand that collect at the bottom of the bowl?”
    “Oh, yeah, I forgot about that,” admitted Porky.
 “Those may be the dark, gritty bits at the bottom of any life that one would really rather forget,” I suggested.  “Any dark, gritty bits at the bottom of your life, Porky?”
    Red and I enjoyed a little snickering at Porky’s expense.
    “Of course,” I said, pushing my empty glass toward Red, “some lives have no sand at all, because they’re made with canned clams, but they’re a bland bunch.  Now here comes the real secret to a good chowder or a good life—a good broth.  Why?  Because in any life, even the richest, one finds so very many moments that are neither high nor low, those times when you scoop up a spoonful of broth without any clams or potatoes or dark, gritty bits at all.”
    “Amen,” said Porky, and I knew that he was convinced.
    And yet, the Christensen sisters and all the people who agree with them may be right.  I will admit that part of my life, my youth, has had at least a geographic resemblance to the course of the Bolotomy River.
    The Bolotomy flows from a spring-fed pond several miles north of Babbington.  This pond is at the heart of the Mayor Harvey (“Heavy Harv”) McGee Memorial Park.  At the center of the pond is a tiny wooded island where, I believe, I was, on a January night, during a skating party, just beyond the light and warmth of a bonfire, conceived.
    In its early stretches, the Bolotomy is narrow and shallow, barely a stream, but at one point, suddenly and surprisingly, the river broadens and deepens, and for a short stretch it is an idyllic swimming spot.  When I was a boy, I often rode my bicycle to this spot from my parents’ house.  There the water was pellucid and cold, the bottom was covered with small rounded stones, and the bank on one side was flat and grassy.  This spot was supposed to be a secret.  I was taught its location by a neighbor, an older boy who later broke my foot for me by jumping on it.  To reach the swimming spot, one rode or walked along a well-used trail to a certain place where the sides of the trail seemed to be closed by impenetrable bushes; then one stopped as if to tie a shoe, looked over one’s shoulder and, if no one was in sight, parted one pair of bushes carefully to open the way to another trail, a narrow, damp one that led to the secret spot.
    From time to time, the spot would be violated by older boys and girls, who smoked and drank and frightened the rest of us, and once a family arrived and spread out a blanket and ate a picnic lunch, but most of the time children my age were the only swimmers.
    Later, as a boy, and even more as a young man, I spent a lot of time along the estuarial stretch of the Bolotomy, learning things, talking, working, and wondering about the world outside Babbington.
    And now, as I write this, some time after youth, I’m on an island in Bolotomy Bay, surrounded by the river’s water, though by the time it reaches this island the river water is no longer part of the river.  From where I work, I can look back across the bay and a little way up the Bolotomy, back toward my beginnings.
    I began planning “Life on the Bolotomy” while I was sitting where I am sitting now, looking across the bay and up the river.  I remembered that I had wanted, as a boy, to travel the length of the river and see what I could see.  It would have been a perfect trip for Raskol and me.  I was taken at once with the idea of making the trip now, of traveling up the river to find out where it began, how it became what it was.  If I were to make such a journey, I thought, I would need a boat, a specialized boat, one that could navigate the narrow upper reaches.  I began sketching such a boat at once.

Peter Leroy
Small’s Island
December 17, 1982

  Little Follies Dust Jacket

Candi Lee Manning and Alec "Nick" Rafter
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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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