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The Misadventures of a Blackmailer

Updated on June 26, 2010


Rollo Mouldboard had not started out to be a blackmailer. It was just a conscious deliberate decision, made at the age of ten, the blackmailing part that is.
The Mouldboard family lived, at that time, in Sinking Hope, Pennsylvania, a slag-grey town built atop a coal seam several miles outside of Scranton. The coal had petered-out a generation earlier, but the people had stayed on, having nowhere else to go nor any knowledge of how to undertake something that complicated. They were mainly a people of Welsh, Cornish, Polish, Irish and Bavarian extraction, and were not truly happy in sunlight or above ground. The primary activities of the people of Sinking Hope were listening to Polka Party on the radio, and collecting subsidy checks from the unions and the various government agencies which pay people not to work.
Young Rollo Mouldboard, an only child, was a shy and secretive boy given to reading lurid pulp magazines and cheap paperbacks featuring covers on which multi-legged monsters slavered over terrestial women as scantily clad as the censors would allow. Rollo kept these publications in a box under his bed to save them from periodic bookburnings through which the citizens of Sinking Hope reaffirmed their ancient cultural heritage.
He obtained these books and magazines from Miss Cavendish, the Library Lady. Miss Cavendish was a field workeer for the Carnegie Foundation, which was then attempting to bring books into Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania faster than the residents could burn them. Miss Cavendish had come down from Conneticut to set up the Sinking Hope Library, and had stayed to become the guardian of both of its books.
Young Rollo Mouldboard was one of her favorite patrons...very nearly her only patron. She freqyently passed the long after-school twilights with Rollo on her lap, there in the library, stroking his hair and thin chest and telling him about the great world outside. Rollo listened attentively, enjoying the feel of Miss Cavendish's hard little nipples where pressed against his body.
It was rare that anyone visited the library, but it did happen from time to time, and twice, the doorbell tinkled while Rollo was still on Miss Cavendish's lap. Since her desk was behind the bookshelf, she always had time to push him off and brush her skirt before the intruder came into view.
Rollo didn't know why Miss Cavendish was so afraid to be caught with him on her thighs, but he understood that she was afraid, and in a flash of insight, he realized her fear was something he could use. Two days later, he uttered for the first time the phrase which was to be the guiding actuator of his life: "I'll tell." Within a week, he had his first shipment of science fiction paperbacks. He did not even know the world "blackmail", yet.
He soon learned it, and learned to apply it. By selective loitering, he managed to catch Mister Phaltz, the baker, with his strudel in Widow Penny's eclair, and thereafter had an endless supply of baked sweets. Shortly thereafter, he caught Mister Pediski siphoning gas out of the pumps at the Texaco station. Mister Pediski owned the bicycle shop, and contributed a new Schwinn.
By age sixteen, Rollo Mouldboard had an endless supply of almost everything Sinking Hope could supply. He owned a slightly-used Ford Sedan, an elegant Robert Hall wardrobe, and the largest collection of science fiction in the Northeastern United States. He made straight "A"s in school, though he only attended only once about one day a month. He knew every alley, every bedroom window and every license plate in the county. He was universally loathed and feared, and it was taken for granted that he would go into politics.
Not bad for a kid born on Friday, the 13th!


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