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 Nineteen

When Carl awoke, the room appeared to glow. He had gone to sleep with the curtains pushed back on the tall window and now the room was filling with a golden, first light. There were streets sounds, cars, buses a siren somewhere. Carl laid in the bed and thought about his plan for the day. Then he thought about Greenville. Breakfast was being served at the Miller House. Emma was probably finished frying bacon or ham and the coffee was being served. Eggs were scrambled. Carl was experiencing a “second life.” He was in Washington, DC. where the President lives and laws were discussed, argued, compromised and eventually passed. The National Archives, Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Museums, famous monuments were waiting for him to explore! Then he realized that he was starving. He jumped out of bed, grabbed a towel and headed for the shower. Soon he was dressed and ready for the day. Carl took the five twenties from the pocket in his shoulder bag and placed two in his left boot and two in the right, then put the boots on. That seemed like the safest place for the twenties. He kept one twenty in his shoulder bag. He still had the two ten dollar bills and a few ones in his wallet. He grabbed his shoulder bag, locked his room and headed down the steps, two at a time, avoiding the slow elevator. Carl stopped at the front desk to say that he was staying a second night and paid the fee. He added that he would be leaving the next day. That’s when he would either be picked up by his uncle or take the train to Baltimore. The morning attendant was not as old as the attendant the night before but he was the one of the biggest men Carl had ever seen. He couldn’t determine how tall the man was because he was sitting on something behind the desk, but from the waist up he was an enormous man. Carl wondered where someone like that buys clothes. He tried to look the man in the eyes when he talked with him but it was hard to avoid looking at his massive body. Out on the street, he wished he had a good map, but at least he remembered the main streets from the drawings he had made. He knew he could find Constitution Avenue and the Mall. Much of what he would do was in that area. First he needed a diner for a good breakfast! He was still thinking about the big man and briefly wondered what the guy had for breakfast.

At the corner, Carl stopped and looked around. It was almost too much for the senses. There was a vibration to the city, people, all sorts of people, going in every direction. After he found a breakfast, he walked down 17th street and saw the Corcoran Gallery and School. He looked at the marble lions guarding the front steps and thought about what it might be like to go to that school. Throughout the day he was periodically overwhelmed and needed to pinch himself to confirm that it wasn’t a dream. He climbed to the top of the Washington Monument, walked all the way down the The Mall and stood at the Reflecting Pool looking at the Capital. After lunch he was ready for the National Gallery.

As soon as he stepped inside the massive gallery building he was stuck by the quiet atmosphere. The air was cool and the marble walls and columns prepared him for European renaissance artists like Michelangelo and Caravaggio and and then, more contemporary painters, like Picasso and Van Gogh. He imagined the great painters dipping their brush into oil paint and carefully stroking the canvas! After losing himself, walking and looking, he realized that two hours had passed and he had only seen a few gallery rooms. He sat for a while in the rotunda and watched the fountain. He realized that he was exhausted. Maybe if his Uncle Wilson came tomorrow they could come back and spend more time, looking at sculptures and paintings.

As he walked back out to the street, Constitution Avenues was streaming with cars, buses and taxis. He crossed the avenue and walked through the city streets. Trucks were being unloaded and police were standing guard at the intersections. At one corner a man with a long beard and wild hair was yelling about the prophecies in Book of Revelations. Carl was familiar with these scriptures but more as literature and not something to yell about. People passing and the policeman who stood nearby, ignored his shouting. Carl stood and listened for a few minutes, long enough to realize that the man appeared to be mentally confused and his sermon was a string of rambling verses.

On the way back to the YMCA, Carl past the White House. He stopped and looked through the tall metal fence. He wondered what it would be like to be president and need to think about the whole country and what the Russians would do. Did Khrushchev want to kill Americans? He thought about nuclear bombs and intercontinental missiles. That’s when he turned and headed on toward the YMCA. When he arrived, he settled into one of the comfortable chairs in the lobby. It felt great to sink into one of those old leather club chairs after all those hours of walking. The lobby smelled of pine oil and floor wax. He pulled the sketchbook out of his shoulder bag. He had made some quick drawings during the day. There was one sketch of the Washington Monument from the ground and one of the city from the window at the top of the monument facing east toward the Capital. He had also sketched another drawing of the Capital and one of the statue of Mercury atop the fountain in the rotunda of the gallery. He leaned back into the chair and loosened his hair that he had kept tied back during day. He took the remaining apple out of his bag and noticed that it had a bite taken out of it. He remembered that he had bit into it when he was pretending to be relaxed as the train was pulling into Union Station and Mr. Reilly was exiting. He thought again about Mr. Reilly and hoped that he could go visit him at his studio sometime, but not this time. The clock behind the desk indicated that it was almost 6 o’clock. Carl spent the next half hour sketching the interior of that YMCA lobby. He tried to use bold strokes like he had seen Mr. Reilly do on the train. Then he put the sketch pad away. He had time to get a sandwich and walk around a bit before calling Uncle Wilson at 8 o’clock.

Back out on the street, he went to the same small diner where he had his breakfast. The waitress in the morning had been a woman, Carl guessed to be thirty-five. She was friendly and treated him like a mother would treat her son. This evening the waitress was near his own age and smiled at him as soon as he walked in. When he was seated, she came to his table with a picture of water and said her name was Georgina. While filling his glass, she told him she loved his hair. She asked if he was an entertainer and if he was from out of town. So many questions - He told her he was from South Carolina and that he was not an entertainer. She made him n=more at ease the way she was smiling. She was wearing the shortest red shorts and a black t-shirt beneath her fancy white apron. After he ordered a hamburger and milkshake and finished his meal, she brought the check. The bill was just over three dollars and he gave her a five dollar bill. When she returned with the change she asked if he knew anyone in town. He said, No, I’m just here for tonight, I’m on my way to Baltimore.” She smiled again and said quietly, “If you are not doing anything later, I get off at nine o’clock.” She said it just like that and turned and walked away. Carl didn’t know what to think. He left three quarters on the table and walked out. He was both flattered and confused. She was a very pretty girl, maybe even prettier than Emma but, so forward. Emma would never wear those shorts and comment on his appearance, no girl ever had. The only comments he ever got were from guests of the Miller House who sometimes called him “handsome” or “hey, good looking!” Sometimes people complimented his long hair. He didn’t know why Francis had left his hair grow but that’s just the way his hair had always been and he couldn’t image cutting it. Being away from home and the day-to-day routine of the Miller House was making him more aware of his unusual appearance. Especially when people like the lady on the train and now the girl in the diner made comments. He was aware that he was tall for his age and quite thin, he had a dark complexion with light eyes, but it was the long hair that mostly stood out. A lot of boys and young men were getting short hair cuts and the most popular were the “flat tops.”

Now back at the YMCA, it was time to call Uncle Wilson. The phone only rang twice before it was picked up by Uncle Wilson. He thanked Carl for calling back at the agreed upon time. It turned out that he needed to work in the morning but he would drive to Washington in the afternoon and would meet Carl at 3 pm, at the YMCA. He confirmed the address - 1736 G Street North West. He told Carl that Artie, Sarah and Jill were excited and looking forward to his arrival. Carl said he was looking forward to meeting them as well - then they hung up the phone. The old man from the night before was back at the desk. Carl told him that he would be checking out in the morning and asked if there was a secure place to stow his suitcase until late afternoon when he checked out of his room. There was, and if it was
only until late afternoon, there would be no charge. Then Carl greeted the elderly, elevator operator and went back up to his room. Again he realized that the day of sightseeing and looking at art had been exhausting. He took off his shoes and laid on the bed. His mind drifted between the girl at the diner, Georgina, and his family back in Greenville. He had only been away for one whole day but it seemed like much longer since everything that happened was so different than anything he had ever experienced before. He missed the Miller House, his mother and Cappy. He missed Ozzie. He even missed Emma. He started wondering about Georgina again. She was awfully pretty, what would she want to do, if he went back to meet her. His curiosity was running wild. Would she want to hold hands and kiss him - what else? Carl had no experience with girls! The only female he ever kissed was his mom. He thought about the pictures of naked women in the magazine that he had found under Reverend George’s mattress then he was making up the bed.

It was almost nine and Carl decided to walk back to the diner and maybe just talk to this girl, Georgina. When he turned the corner, what he saw made him stop. A girl, it had to be Georgina, was standing on the sidewalk talking with a boy. Actually they weren’t just talking. They were facing each other and Georgina had both arms resting on the guys shoulders and he had his hands on her waist. It looked like they were dancing except, they weren’t dancing. Carl turned and walked the other direction. Part of him was surprised that she would invite him to meet her, then meet someone else and part of him wasn’t surprised. If she was so quick to flirt with him, why would he expect that she wasn’t that way with every guy she met? Carl knew then that he was just her game and he had fallen into a trap! He was disappointed and felt resentful but decided that it had been a valuable lesson and if he were more socially sophisticated he would have seen it coming. Did he need to learn how “the game” was played or was Georgina a type of girl he needed to avoid. He thought about Emma, she did not seem like the kind of girl who would do what this girl had done!

Almost like turning a switch, he put it out of his mind as he saw the White House glowing like it was lit from within. He realized then that he was in Lafayette Square, a small park facing the White House. He walked through the park in the direction of the White House and saw a large statue of a man riding a horse. The horse was rearing up and the rider was waving a hat. Carl read the plaque and discovered that it was the former President Andrew Jackson. Carl walked by several other statues in the park but was surprised when he saw what appeared to be a man sleeping on a park bench. Carl could not see his face because the man was turned away but there was a canvas bag under the bench and a crude sign painted on cardboard that simply said, “I AM A MAN.” Carl wondered what it meant. He wondered about that man as he walked back to the YMCA. Why was he sleeping on the bench at night? Did he have no place else to go?

Back at the Y, Carl pulled off his boots and retrieved the four twenties. Suddenly he was almost too tired to undress. He pulled off his clothes and was immediately asleep.

  Chapter 20