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 Sixteen

For years, Carl spent much of his free time in an overstuffed easy chair in the almost empty, second floor of the garage, drawing pictures, reading, daydreaming and napping. There were some empty wooden boxes there and the large, locked steamer trunk. Often, Carl would try to imagine what was in the trunk. He thought about opening it but did not have the skill to pick the lock or will to break it. He imagined that it might be filled with old money or jewelry - pirate stuff. What if there was a skeleton in there. He was looking at the trunk sitting next to a stack of books opposite his comfortable chair. Carl was sure there was something inside the chest because many times when his curiosity was strongest, he had lifted one end of the chest and it was heavy! Maybe it was full of books - but what kind of books? It was June, tenth and in two weeks, he would be leaving for Baltimore where he would stay with Uncle Wilson and Aunt Sharon. He would meet his three cousins, Art, age twelve, Sarah, eight and Jill, five. He had never met or spoked to these relatives. He had only seen a picture of Wilson as a child standing next to a little girl. The little girl was Carl’s mother. Francis had it in a silver frame that she kept on her dresser. Carl had seen it often. His mother had told him that she did not remember the picture being made, but it was on the front steps of their Baltimore row house. Francis estimated her age to be four which would mean Wilson was eight. He had his left arm resting on Francis’ left shoulder. He was wearing a baseball cap that cast a shadow on his eyes and it made it hard to distinguish his facial features. Francis was wearing a fancy dress and her blond hair was tied in ponytails sticking out on each side of her head. She was smiling at the camera. Francis just told Carl that maybe their father took the picture when he still lived with them. It was the only picture Francis brought with her to Greenville and Carl did not even know how his grandmother looked. She was surely in her fifties, maybe almost sixty. Was she pretty like his mother? Was she friendly, nice or grumpy and mean?

Now that Emma had taken over a lot of Carl’s housework , Carl had started doing much needed maintenance work, mostly outside the house. He had started riding his bike to the store and buying gallons of white paint, one can at a time. Carl was painting window frames and trim since the beginning of June and had finished most of the second story. There were four windows on the third floor that he hoped to finish before he left for Baltimore then when he returned, it would be the tall windows on the first floor, front and back doors and the front porch. He liked painting but hated the scraping and sanding. The house would look great when all the painting was done. The siding was painted a dark gray, the color of wet sand. It would be a big job to paint all the siding and Francis had suggested that they hire a crew of men to paint it in the fall. Francis also want to hired painters to do the third floor windows because they were so high but they were over the front and rear porch so Carl said the would set the ladder on those roofs. Hired painters would be the first major expense since Francis had started the guest house business.

Carl missed working with his mother in the house but he liked Emma. Sometimes he and Emma did most of the cleaning up after dinner. Emma had just graduated and she talked about high school and told Carl about her boyfriend. She had a round face, bright brown eyes and she liked to laugh. Carl didn’t mind that Francis often stayed in the kitchen with them. She was so used to doing the clean ups and she sometimes helped or had tea at the little table in the corner. She was always more comfortable in the kitchen than the ballroom with guests. After the supper clean up, Emma would hang up her dark blue Miller House jacket and say good night. Carl remembered that his mother had suggested that if Emma learned quickly, she may leave the house to them and make a tip to Baltimore herself. He wondered what it would be like to manage the house with Emma. He thought that he might like that. Of course Cappy would also be there to help. Carl could not imagine, Francis actually leaving on a trip.

After Emma would leave, Carl sometimes had a cup of tea with Francis, then walk into the ballroom to see what was going on. Someone might be watching tv or reviewing paperwork. A few guy might be having a friendly game of cards. If Cappy was out in the back sunroom, Carl would join him there. That’s where Cappy was on the night Carl told him he was ok with going to Baltimore. “Yeah I’ll admit, I’m a little w-worried about the trip and what it will be like staying at Uncle W-Wilson’s and meeting my grandmother but I’m also a little excited. It’s an adventure and I t-think I need an adventure.” Then Cappy started talking about back when he was eighteen and leaving for France with a gun. “I’d never been out of this area. Oh, I’d been down to Atlanta and up to Charlotte. I used to know people in Atlanta back before my Dad died and Mom moved to California. I didn’t follow up on anybody when I came home from the war. I was in France for over a year and then up at the VA hospital for several months. When I came back everyone was gone. The last I heard from my mom was in a letter. She wrote to tell me she was getting remarried and that’s the last I heard from her.” Carl couldn’t imaging how lonely Cappy must have felt when he finally made it back to Greenville with his injured leg. Carl knew he would probably only be gone for a little over two weeks, leaving at the end of June and returning in the middle of July. Carl had another big change in mind and he was thinking about running it by Cappy before he spoke to Francis. He would do that later.

Ozzie was coming by almost every day since it was now summer vacation. Carl had been busy with the painting but he always stopped, whatever he was doing, to talk. Ozzie would be turning thirteen in September fifth and would be entering 7th grade at the Junior High School. Ozzie didn’t have much to do in the summers. His dad worked as a meat cutter in the A&P Supper Market. His mother was at home. Ozzie’s dad got him a job bagging groceries and stocking shelves on Fridays and Saturday. The rest of the time he just rode around on the bike Carl had given him, watched tv and hung out with friends. Carl met a few of his friends and they seemed pretty nice. A guy named Bobby Burkett was a kind of bully and had said to Carl, “I heard about what your mom did.” Carl just looked at him but Ozzie said, “So what, it was and accident! His mom is nice!” Then Bobby didn’t say anything else. Later one of the other boys asked Carl what Bobby was talking about and Carl just said, “It was an accident and my dad was killed, I d-don’t like to talk about it.” Fortunately, that was the end of the questions. Bobby also liked to call Ozzie, Oswald. Ozzie hated it and told Bobby to stop. Ozzie told Carl that Bobby started it when one of the teachers used that name for him instead of Ozzie. Ozzie said, “One day I’m going to punch him when he says Ozwald!

Carl and Ozzie planned to go on another bike trip in August when Carl returned from Maryland. They were talking about taking backpacks and doing an overnight trip. They hadn’t mapped it out yet. Mostly Carl planned to keep working on scraping and painting windows until he it was time to leave for his Uncle Wilson’s.

Two day before leaving, Carl was talking with Cappy in the garage when he brought up that other subject. He was thinking about going to school in September. Carl had never spent one day in school. Cappy just said, “Well that might be a good thing, if that’s what you want.” Carl asked, “What do you think Francis will say?” Cappy thought for a while, then he said, “Seems like Francis wants whatever is best for you.” Carl didn’t know what that would mean. He agreed that his mother always seemed to be agreeable but she had not sent him to school and Carl knew that it was unusual. They had never discussed it until recently Francis said something about him going to school. Carl just thought he never went because of his stammering but that was less of a problem now. Maybe she just wanted him home, helping with the house. He wanted to tell Francis about his idea before he left for his holiday trip, so that night, after supper and after Emma left, he had an opportunity. He and Francis were sitting at the table in the kitchen again and she was having her, after supper, tea. Carl came right out with it. He said, “Since I got to know Ozzie, I’ve been thinking about going to school in September. I don’t know what grade I would be in or whether I would like it.” Francis took a moment, then said, I had a good friend named Vivian when I was in school. We were together all the way through. School is a lot more than being with a friend though. I can’t predict whether you would like it.” She stopped talking and smiled at Carl. Then she said, “You are intelligent and you have learned a lot from Cappy, me and from the many books you have read. I have no doubt that you can do well in school if you like it. If you decide to go, you will be required to stay in school until you are at least sixteen, I won’t be able to take you out of school once you start. Carl said, “Ok. If I decide that I want to go, how will I know what grade I will be in?” Francis said, “You will need to take some tests and then they will tell you.” Carl didn’t like the idea of taking tests! He told Francis he would think about it and decide when he came back from Maryland. He had so much to think about!

Carl had studied a Maryland map and was familiar with the counties. He knew at some point his Uncle Wilson would drive him the 30 miles from Ellicott City into Baltimore, to see Grandmother Miller. Ellicott City was in Howard County and Baltimore was in Baltimore County. He had spent so much time studying a map of Baltimore, he knew all the streets and important buildings. He thought it would be fun to go to a Orioles Baseball Game at the Memorial Stadium! Carl had used some of his own money to purchase several new changes of clothes. He had made a few trips walking down town to pick out denim jeans and t-shirts. He also chose a pair of dress slacks, an oxford shirt and a navy jacket. He had a good pair of dress shoes from tall, thin Mr. Long, the shoe salesman who stayed at the Miller House but he had purchased new socks and underwear. He even had picked out a new belt, a leather, woven design that he liked. Francis asked if he wanted his hair trimmed before he left but he had said, “no.” He knew his longhair style was unusual but had decided that he liked it.

  Chapter 17