Welcome to The Miller House
Don Lehman, 2018


Cover Index
Chapter 01
Chapter 02
Chapter 03
Chapter 04
Chapter 05
Chapter 06
Chapter 07
Chapter 08
Chapter 09
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21

Chapter Fourteen

Riding back into town, it was the first time Carl saw where Ozzie lived. It was near supper and Carl said, “see you later,” outside a small, pale yellow house with a black mutt that started to bark when Ozzie came into view and continued until Ozzie shouted, “OK, Sammy!” The dog stopped barking and danced in an excited circle. Ozzie said, “see you later too!” When Carl arrived back at the Miller House, the garage door was open and Cappy was tinkering at the work table. He asked Carl about his trip and Carl told him that they had rode out to Duncan. Cappy said he knew people who live in Duncan. Carl told Cappy that the grocery clerk thought he was a Cherokee, Cappy laughed and said, “You’ve got the Cherokee style, maybe you’ve got a little Cherokee blood, lots of people around here have some Cherokee. Hell, look at me!” Carl had never thought of Cappy as a Native American but when he thought about it, it was possible but he certainly wasn’t a full blood. They walked into the house together. Carl held the door for Cappy as he worked his way up the steps with his cane.

Francis had dinner on the table. When Carl came in through the ballroom there was a girl standing next to her. Francis said, Carl, I want you to meet Emma Ford, she helped me with dinner. Then she added, “Emma, this is my son, Carl.” She smiled and nodded her head. Carl had no clue who Emma was and why she was helping. He just said a quick hello and went to wash his hands and face for dinner. He brushed his long hair back and tied it with the thin piece of leather. The young girl sat and had dinner with the group including two guests. She was about Carl’s height and had long, light brown hair which she had pulled back and plaited into one pigtail. She did not speak at dinner and there were no further introductions. No one said much of anything except the guests commented about how much they enjoyed the food. Cappy asked Carl how that bike was holding up - the one that he gave to the Lorry boy? Carl just said, “f-fine,” without stammering too much. It suddenly occurred to Carl that he had heard that name, Lorry, before. It was the same name as the man accused of sealing Mr. Sutton’s cameras. It was like a electric shock going through Carl. He wondered if it was a relative to Ozzie. He remembered that Ozzie seemed to know a lot about the stealing and he also new something about the detective that had come to the door. Carl remembered that Ozzie said that the man was not a detective. Carl had questions for Ozzie. He also had questions for his mother about this girl, Emma.

That evening after the dishes were put away and the guests had either retired to their rooms or were in the ballroom play cards or watching the television, and after Emma had gone home, Francis and Carl sat at the little cafe table in the corner of the kitchen with hot tea. Francis reached across the table and toughed Carl’s hand. “I should have talked with you about Emma,” she started. “I know that now, but she is part of a bigger surprise I wanted to give you on Thursday, your fourteenth birthday.” Carl could not imagine what was coming! What was she thinking? “You have been working seven days a week since you were five or six years old. Our guest house has done well and you have had a lot to do with it. Cappy also has been a big help, especially at the beginning.” She stopped for a moment, then added, “I may not have had the idea or the courage to start the business if not for Cappy. I want Emma to come and work for us part time. She has finished high school and she has not yet decided what she wants to do next. This will make our lives a little easier.” Carl asked, “Is th-that the surprise?” Francis smiled and said no, that’s not the main surprise but I will tell you now.” She started with a question, “Did you like going off today on the bike trip?” Carl said that he did like it very much. “Well I want you to have many opportunities to have adventures, That’s one of the reason I’m asking Emma to come and help. But here is the surprise. Now you can think it over, but I have arranged for you to spend several weeks in Baltimore, this summer. You can stay with your Uncle Wilson and Aunt Sharon. They want you to come and you will meet your three cousins and your grandmother.”

Carl looked at his mother. He did like his bike trip with Ozzie but a trip to Baltimore, by himself, to spend several weeks, with people he did not know - there was no comparison. He said, “May I have some time to think about it?” She answered, “Of course. You understand I would like to go with you but we cannot both go. Maybe soon, if Emma learns quickly, You can run the house with Emma and Cappy and I can go.” This even gave Carl more to think about. His brain was shutting down and he needed time to work out his thoughts.

He gave his mother a quick hug and went to his room. He didn’t think to say a thank you - maybe it was because he didn’t know if he wanted to accept the gift his mother was offering. Without turning on the light he kicked off his shoes and laid on his back, on the bed and stared into the dark. What was it going to be like - being fourteen? He thought about Ozzie. Clearly Ozzie knew things he was not telling. He thought about Emm. Who was this girl and what would be her role? All his life, it had been Francis, Cappy and him, now it would include Emma. He thought about his father and wondered who put that gun in his mother’s hand. Did she pull the trigger on purpose or was it a tragic accident? How well was the Miller House doing? Francis has never talked to him about money. They had a big house and a television set but they shared everything with the guests so it all seemed like part of the business. He thought about Baltimore. Today he had been out of Greenville for the first time and now he faced the possibility of a trip, on a train, to a city. He could be traveling to the city where his mother lived as a child - to meet her brother, his uncle who he had only heard stories about. Would his cousins think he looked like a Cherokee? Cappy had suggested that he might be part Cherokee and that he had “Cherokee style”. Carl wondered what “Cherokee style even was. He wondered if his father was Cherokee, Pollone was not an Indian name. He woke up sometime in the night and realized he was fully dressed. He pulled off his clothes and crawled into bed.

The next morning everything seemed back to normal. Carl woke up a little later than usual and when he came out, the breakfast table was set and Francis was frying bacon. Carl said , “Good morning,” and started coffee.

One of the guests at breakfast was a man Carl had noticed at dinner the night before. He was one of the shortest men he had ever seen in person. Carl was 5 foot and 6 inches and this man did not come to his shoulders. Maybe he was less than 5 feet tall. He was old and had a large bald head with curly white sideburns. His name was Dr. Willard and he was a veterinarian, on his way to a convention in Atlanta. He talked about animals at breakfast. He ate three eggs, sunny side up with toast, but he passed on the bacon claiming to be a vegetarian. Some guy named Tex who checked in under the name Alvin McCann was dressed like a cowboy. Tex was sitting next to Dr. Willard and helped himself to the extra bacon. He said, “How about that? I’m going to the same convention.” Then he looked at the Dr. and added,” First you said you were a veterinarian, now you say you’re a vegetarian. You’re gonna have to make up your mind, mister!” The Dr. retorted, “Well, I’m also a sexagenarian. Tex looked over at the Dr. and said, “ I don’t think I’m gonna ask you what that means.” The Dr. just laughed. Tex said that he was going to perform cowboy rope tricks as entertainment at the convention. He asked Carl if he knew how to lasso a calf. Carl said “No.” He said, “Ooh, too bad, I’ve got to learn how to do that before tomorrow evening.” Everybody laughed. Carl thought he was pretty funny. The cowboy entertainer got the veterinarian joking. He asked Tex if he would lend him $10. Tex asked why, and the Dr. said, “Because I’m a little short.” Everybody laughed at that. It was great to hear the Dr. make a joke about how short he was. Carl had noticed that he didn’t look that short, sitting at the table, it was his legs that were short. Cappy was enjoying the jokes.

After breakfast Francis and Carl cleaned the rooms and made the beds. Carl swept the ballroom floor, picked up the newspapers and emptied the ashtrays.

Before the cowboy entertainer left for the veterinarian convention in Atlanta, he did some rope tricks in in the front yard. Carl stood on the front porch with the short doctor, Cappy and Francis. Tex twirled the rope over his head and dropped the lasso around his own body then back up, twirling overhead! Again he twirled the lasso overhead and brought it down over his body but this time he jumped out of the rope and twirled it in circles around his body. Everyone on the porch, clapped for him. Then he asked Carl if he was brave enough to be lassoed. Carl said that he was! Tex placed Carl about twenty feet away from him and started twirling the rope then suddenly he let go and the rope fell perfectly over Carl with out touching him. Everyone clapped again. Then the cowboy and the doctor both said goodbye.

Later in the afternoon Carl planned to set up a ladder and wash some windows but now he went out to the garage. He intended to go upstairs and read but Cappy was there in the garage and started a conversation. First he said, “I see Francis hired some help.” Carl waited for him to go on but he didn’t say anything else so Carl said, “Yep. Emma.” Then Carl said, “She wants me to g-go to B-Baltimore f-for a f-few w-weeks this s-summer.” Cappy didn’t say anything. Carl went on, “T-to stay with h-her b-brother, Uncle W-W-Wilson.” Cappy just kept messing with the file he was using to sharpen the lawnmower blade. Cappy said, “That girl’s gonna be a good helper.” Carl said, “I guess.” He still didn’t like the idea of someone coming in and doing some of his work.” Then Carl changed the subject and asked, “D-Do you think Ozzie had a-a-anything to do with stealing Mr. Sutton’s c-cameras?” Cappy just shook his head, then added, “looks like his uncle did though. Lester Lorry is Ozzie’s uncle and the police have him in the jail and have charged him with the theft. He was living at Ozzie’s house. He must have told someone that he did it because that someone turned him in and they found the camera’s in the Lorry’s garage attic.” Carl thought, that explained how Ozzie knew so much about the situation. Carl remembered that Ozzie said the detective that came to the door was, “no detective,” and he wondered what that meant.

Carl sat on an old wooden box and watched Cappy put the sharpened blade back on the lawnmower. Then Cappy wiped his hands and headed back to the house and Carl went up the garage steps and sat in his big chair by the window. He was surrounded by books, old magazines and stacks of sketchbooks. He picked up the book he was reading, Amos Fortune, Free Man. Carl already knew quite a lot about slavery from Cappy and other books like Huck Finn but Amos Fortune was a difficult subject and on this day Carl just couldn’t concentrate. He was thinking about getting on a train by himself and going north to Baltimore. What would he do at his uncle’s house? Would he have chores? Then he started thinking about Emma doing his chores. She had just graduated from high school. Carl had started thinking about going to school since he met Ozzie. He rode his bike past the school many times but never when kids were leaving or hanging around outside. Carl liked to imagine being invisible when he was riding in town. Then Carl’s mind drifted on to even bigger questions like would he move out of the Miller House some day and what would he do with his life? Maybe he would take over the house and Francis and Cappy could continue to life there. He guessed that it was turning fourteen that was making life seem so complicated but it seemed that everything was changing and he wasn’t ready.

He started reading again, then fell asleep for awhile. He woke up suddenly. The wind was gusting and Carl stood up and looked out the window at the tall oak tree across the street blowing little helicopter seedlings. That’s when he saw Ozzie standing in his spot looking toward the garage. He was just standing there next to his red bike. Ozzie must have come by while Carl was sleeping. He wondered how long Ozzie had been standing there. Carl didn’t want to talk to Ozzie right then. He still had a lot to sort out in his mind so he quickly stepped back and sat in the chair. When he checked a few minutes later, Ozzie was gone. It was too windy to get on a ladder and wash windows so he decided to sketch some pictures from a movie magazine.

  Chapter 15