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 Fifteen
Later when Carl entered the house, Emma was setting up the table and working between the kitchen where Francis was cooking and the table. She was wearing one of the dark blue service coats with the Miller House monogram on the breast pocket. The same type coat that Carl wore then he worked in the kitchen and served at breakfast and dinner. Today she had her hair pulled up in a bun, the same way Francis wore her’s when she was working.

Instead of going to the kitchen, Carl sat on the sofa next to the chair where Cappy was sitting. Cappy was watching tv and it was something about Elvis Presley. Elvis was in all the magazines and Cappy didn’t like the new music much and kept the radio station to big bands in the afternoon. Carl liked Elvis and Little Richard but he also liked Buddy Holly. He had a radio in his bedroom and he listened to his music at night. Carl sat there a while and watched. He didn’t know what to do because Emma was helping Francis. He decided to see if he could help anyway. He walked over and said, “hello,” to Emma, she smiled and said hello back to him. Carl walked into the kitchen and Francis was peeling potatoes. Chicken parts were laying in a big pan of flour ready to be fried. Francis turned and smiled. Carl asked if there was anything he could do and she just said, “Oh, we’re fine, we will be eating an about an hour.” Carl said, “I was planning to wash windows this afternoon but it was so windy, maybe I’ll do some windows tomorrow.” Then the door bell rang and Francis said, “Carl, would you get the door?” Carl was glad there was something to do. When he went to the door it was Mr. Barkley. Carl invited him into the office and took his payment for his lodging, he said he would have breakfast and be gone in the morning. Carl offered supper and said it would be served in about an hour. Mr Barkley said he was hungry and paid the additional two dollars and fifty cents. Carl put him in the large front bedroom on second floor. In the Miller House, it was called the East Room. He took his bags and went up the steps.

Carl went in the ballroom and told Cappy that Mr. Barkley had checked in. Cappy nodded and then said that he hoped Barkley brought some new books - of course he always did!

When Mr. Barkley came down for supper, Carl introduced him to Emma. He said, “Emma, this is Mr. B-B-Barkley, he is one of our favorite guests. He sell b-books! Mr. Barkley, this is Em-Emma Ford, she now works for Francis and me.” Carl didn’t intend to say it that way but that’s how it came out. He was surprised and instantly realized how good it felt to think Emma was working for him. She wasn’t replacing him after all. She was an employee. Then he realized that he had been afraid that Emma would come between him and his mother. While he was thinking these thoughts, Emma and Mr. Barkley were talking about books. He heard her saying that she had read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Mr. Barkley asked Carl if he had read those two books and Carl admitted that he had not. Emma quickly laughed and added that she read them for school, not for pleasure. She then asked Carl if he had read Gatzby and he was glad he could say that he had and that it was one of his favorites! She said she liked it too. Mr. Barkley told them that Fitzgerald wrote Tender is the Night when he was in Baltimore while Zelda was hospitalized. Carl surprised himself again by saying that he may be going to Baltimore for a few weeks soon. He had hardly stammered at all. Emma told Carl that she would lend him books that she had read for school. Carl said that he would like that!

When everyone was seated for supper, Francis and Carl sat and Emma was server. After supper, Carl excused himself from the table, helped Emma clear the table and serve desert and coffee. Cappy, Mr. Barkley and Francis chatted while Emma and Carl worked together. Later, Francis came to the kitchen and helped wash dishes. Emma left at seven. Carl told Frances that he thought Emma was a good server. Francis agreed. Two more guests where spending the night and they showed up around eight thirty. Carl served them coffee, said, “Good night,” to Francis and Cappy, then headed to his room.

On Friday and Saturday afternoon Carl worked on cleaning windows with the tall extension ladder. Cappy stood by and held the ladder while Carl was working on the second story windows. Carl asked Cappy if he planned to catch him if he fell. Cappy laughed and said, “No, but I will be jumping out of the way!” Carl had started taking over mowing grass and trimming hedges. He had learned a lot of handyman skills from Cappy and Carl was glad Cappy had more leisure time. Cappy was spending more time at the Woolworth lunch counter with his cohorts. He was also walking the streets of downtown Greenville, stopping and having chats with the shopkeepers. Carl guessed that Mr. Morton and the hardware store was one of his regular stops. Cappy was still the one who would check in the late arrivals after Francis and Carl were in bed but Carl was even doing more of that since he had begun staying up later. Emma could take over some of the housekeeping but Carl was still busy.

On Sunday after lunch, Carl saw Ozzie standing with his bike in what had become his spot, across the street from the garage. Carl went out the back door and waved him over. Ozzie asked if Carl wanted to ride down to Reedy Falls, Carl said, “Sure, I’ll tell Francis we’re going.” When he went back into the house everything was quiet so Carl wrote a note and left it on the kitchen counter. It was only about a ten minute ride to the falls. There were people having picnics and fishing. Carl told Ozzie that his birthday was on Thursday and he wanting him to come for supper. Ozzie asked if it would be ok with his mother and Carl said, “Sure!” Then Ozzie asked Carl why he sometimes called his mother Francis. Carl just said, “Well, that’s her name.” Ossie said I call my mother, Mom. Carl thought about it and then said, “I call her Mother when I’m talking to her but when I am talking about her, I sometimes call her Francis, like all the house guests.

They were just sitting in the grass, watching at the water falling over the rocks. Ozzie asked Carl is he had a girlfriend. Carl said, “No!” Ozzie said that he liked a girl from school named, Sarah Logan. He said that another girl told him that Sarah liked him too. Carl thought about Emma but she was a couple years older and she certainly wasn’t a girlfriend. She was pretty and it was obvious to Carl that she was smart! Carl wondered what it was like to go to school and meet lots of other kids. Carl wanted to know more about Ozzie’s family. He didn’t know how to ask but somehow, sitting there by the river watching the water cascade over the rocks made it easier to talk about important things. He started in and went straight to the big question. He asked, “Are you related to the man who stole cameras from Mr. Sutton’s truck?” Ozzies said,” Yeah, it was my uncle, I know he did it because I actually saw him doing it.” He told Carl how his uncle Lester had just gotten out of jail and his parents were trying to help him get back on his feet. Ozzie said, “Uncle Lester was sleeping on a cot in my bedroom and I heard him get up and start dressing in the dark and sneak out of the house. I pulled on my pants and followed him and I watched him from behind the trees. I saw him jimmy the door and take the cameras and the tripods. He stashed them across the street then made two trips and hid them in our garage. After I saw where he was putting them, I went back into the house and got back into bed. My parents didn’t even know it.” Carl could not believe what he was hearing. Ozzie knew it all along! Carl asked, “W-Why didn’t you tell me?” Ozzie said, “I wanted to but I didn’t know if I should. I even saw Uncle Lester come to your house and pretend to be a Private Detective!” Carl almost shouted, “That was him, I was talking to the man who stole the cameras?” Ozzie said, Yeah, I saw him come to your house and I thought he was going to confess. When you told me that a private detective came, I knew it was Uncle Lester, trying to get a reward for returning the cameras. That’s when I decided to call the police and tell them where the cameras were.” Again, Carl was dumbfounded! “That was you who called the police?” Ozzie just said, “Yes, that was me. You can’t tell anyone! Nobody knows and my parents can’t even figure it out! Carl and Ozzie just sat there for a while and neither of them said anything. Then Carl reached out and shook Ozzie’s hand. It was a deal. Carl would never tell!

That was the day Ozzie and Carl became close friends. They shared a secret and Carl, while they were still sitting in the grass by the Reedy Falls, told Ozzie that he was going to Baltimore for a couple weeks, probably two weeks in the coming summer. Carl said it would be his first train trip and Ozzie said he had never been on a train either. Carl said he would tell him all about the train and Baltimore city then he got back. Carl didn’t stammer much when he talked to Ozzie.

On Thursday, May thirtieth, nineteen fifty seven, Ozzie came to Carl’s fourteenth birthday supper. Emma served dinner. Francis and Cappy were at the table and three quests. One was an old man with a long white beard. He told a story about a birthday in 1924. He turned 37 years old and bought a Model T Ford. He said, “Just two years earlier, to everyones surprise, a Model T had won a race up Pikes Peak. I decided it was time to get me one of those “tin lizzys. It was the talk of the town back in Tennessee.” He asked, “Anyone want to guess what color it was?” It was an old joke because everyone knew the Model T Fords only come in black! Cappy said he never had any use for a car.

When everyone was ready for dessert, Francis got up and went to the kitchen. When she came back in, she was carrying a cake with fourteen candles. Emma was was with her and they were both singing Happy Birthday! Everyone joined in. Carl blew out the candles and couldn’t think of anything to wish for. Ozzie had brought a gift wrapped in blue paper with a red bow. Carl opened it and it was a bicycle speed-o-meter that also measured miles traveled. Carl thanked Ozzie said it would look great on the Green Phantom and that he would measure the miles on their next trip! Emma gave Carl a birthday card. It was signed, “To my new friend, you’re the best! Emma.”

After supper someone put the Elvis record on the victrola. It sure wasn’t Cappy because, he didn’t like the new rock and roll music. Everyone was in a good mood. Ozzie said he had to go and Carl thanked him for coming and told him that he really liked the gift. After Ozzie left, Carl walked into the kitchen and Francis was working with Emma. Carl told Emma that she could go and he would finish cleaning up. After she left, Francis gave Carl an envelope and said, “I know you may have not made up your mind about going to Baltimore but the tickets are in that envelope if you want to go.” Carl opened the envelope. He pulled out the tickets and looked at them carefully. He then looked at Francis and asked, “When did you get these?” She was drying her hands. She said, “I had Cappy get them a few weeks ago.” Carl stuck the tickets back into the envelope and said, Well, I told Ozzie I was going so I guess it’s settled. I will admit that I am a little bit scared about going on my own and what it will be like staying at Uncle Wilson’s. I know that Emma will do a good job as helper.” Francis said, “Carl, Wilson is a good person. It’s your birthday party, go into the ballroom, I’m almost finished cleaning up and putting the dishes away.” There was an awkward moment when they both just stood there, not saying anything. Then Carl walked over and hugged his mother. It was a long hug and Francis whispered, “I love you, Carl.” Carl could tell that his mother was crying and he said, “I know! I love you too,” then turned and walked into the ballroom. He was aware of his deliberate steps, putting one foot in front of the other. He was not accustom to seeing his mother cry. The Elvis record was still playing and it was the hit song, “Love Me Tender.” Someone had turned down the volume, probably Cappy. Carl tucked the envelope with the train tickets into his pocket. He glanced at Cappy and it was obvious Cappy had seen the envelope and he was smiling. Carl smiled back at him. The old man with the white beard was dealing cards at the game table at the back of the room with another man Carl only knew as Charley. Carl stretched out on the sofa and listened to the music and thought about being fourteen.

  Chapter 16