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 Twenty One

Carl was surprised at how much Uncle Wilson resembled his mother, not just in appearance but in his voice and his friendly manner. After putting Carl’s suitcase in the trunk and climbing into the car, Wilson said, “You’re in a good part of town.” Carl laughed and said, “Oh yeah, the White House is right near by!” Carl was admiring the car’s beautiful interior! They were still sitting by the curb. Carl ask what kind of car it was. Wilson was obviously proud of it. He told Carl it was a brand new 1957 Desoto, Firesweep Sedan. “I like Chrysler products,” he added. I try to get a new one every few years. We also have an old pick-up truck that I drive to work and around the farm. Carl said, “Mother didn’t tell me that you had a farm.” “Well we call it a farm but it’s just a few acres with a barn. We have a horse, some goats and chickens.” Carl thought it sounded nice. Then Wilson said, “I’d like to get dinner here in town before heading home so we have a few hours. What would you like to do?” Carl thought for a moment, then said, “What I’d really like to do is just drive around a little and see more of the city. He searched through his bag and found Mr. Reilly’s card. “I met an artist on the train who has a studio on Q Street near Dupont Circle. I’d really like to ride by and see where it is.” Wilson said, “OK, Let’s ride!” He pushed a button that put the car into gear and started moving. Carl thought the car was perfect! It was the most beautiful car he had ever seen. It was great fun cruising through the streets with the windows down. Carl was telling Wilson where to turn and was looking at the buildings as they passed the embassies then into Dupont Circle and on out Connecticut Avenue then turning right onto Q Street Carl saw the camera store and the tall windows that had to be Mr. Reilly’s studio. Wilson slowed down and asked Carl if he wanted to stop but Carl said no. After that, they drove to Wisconsin Avenue and the old streets of Georgetown and back downtown to the Mall, past the Smithsonian Museums and up through Chinatown. Then back to Pennsylvania Avenue, Wilson parked the car and they walked to a restaurant called the Occidental Grill. Wilson told him that he had eaten there before and it was one of the oldest and best restaurants in the city. Carl was amazed at the decor. The walls were filled with portraits of presidents and senators. Carl told Wilson about the French restaurant where he had breakfast. It was certainly his day for fine food. Wilson ordered pan seared duck breast and Carl had beef short ribs. Wilson had a glass of white wine and Carl had a non-alcohol beer. Cappy had allowed Carl to taste beer, so Carl was not surprised by the bitter taste and he thought it went quite well with the short ribs.

During the leisurely dinner Carl and Wilson chatted comfortably. It seemed almost like they had known each other for years and were getting back together after being apart. Wilson explained to Carl how he had started working for his father-in-law’s business, Murray’s Electrical Supply and was now managing the warehouse where they inventoried all sorts of wire and electrical parts for homes and commercial buildings. The business was growing and Wilson was working long hours but the pay was good. Since his wife, Sharon was an only child, Wilson would be taking over the business some day. Carl told Wilson about the Miller house and the work he did back in Greenville. He added that he was beginning to wonder if boarding houses, or guest houses, like theirs were dying out and were being replaced by new motels along the highways and hotels in the towns. Wilson said it was probably a good idea to think about his future. Carl said that he was thinking of going to school for the first time in the fall.

Then Carl changed the subject by talking about some of the art he had seen at the National Gallery. Then he told Wilson about the man sleeping in the park across the street from the White House. He added the story about seeing him again that morning with other negroes holding signs about equal rights. He told Wilson about the old man with the long coat who said there had been thousands of them a few weeks ago. Wilson said that old man was right. There had been thousands of negroes in the streets carrying signs and giving speeches. It was in May and called, The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. Wilson had read about it in the Baltimore Sun Newspaper and it was on the evening TV news. Carl said that he didn’t think it was on their news in Greenville or Cappy would have said something. Wilson told Carl there was a young negro preacher at the protests who everyone was talking about, his name was Martin Luther King, then added, “The negroes still don’t have equal rights and they should. They are going to keep on until they get what they want. But it will take a long time, especially when they try to integrate some of the schools. Carl thought about that old man in the long coat. He was trying to explain what those men with the signs were doing and the old guy wasn’t crazy, he knew what he was talking about.

The waiter appeared and Wilson paid the bill. It was getting dark as they headed out of Washington. Soon they were driving through open country which surprised Carl. He had assumed the the cities stretched out further, but it seemed that a large pair of hands had pushed the city and all the buildings together and planted trees in the open fields. Carl saw homes and farms but mostly open land in the space between the two cities. Carl did not see anything that appeared to be Baltimore. He asked Wilson how far it was from Ellicott City to Baltimore and Wilson said that it was only about thirty miles but the roads were busy and sometimes it could take almost an hour to get downtown.

When they arrived, Aunt Sharon gave Carl a warm hug and told him how happy she was that he came for a visit! The younger cousins were already in bed but Sharon, Wilson and Carl sat at the kitchen table and chatter over dishes of ice cream. Wilson left early the next morning for work. The little girls, Sarah and Jill were quiet at breakfast but Artie had a lot of questions for Carl - What TV shows did Carl like and did he like having his hair all the way down his back? Carl tried to answer as best he could. He told Artie that he didn’t watch TV much because it was mostly for the the people who were boarding. Artie liked Lassie and Gunsmoke. Carl said he like to watch Ed Sullivan on Sunday nights. Carl said that his hair was always long but it didn’t go all the way down his back, only just passed his shoulders and that his mother sometimes trimmed it but he didn’t think he would cut it. After that first breakfast, Carl went to his room and got the fancy handkerchiefs for the girls and the Swiss army knife for Artie. The girls smiled and said, “thank you,” almost in unison. Carl told Artie what he had learned from the man in the surplus store about the knife. Artie showed Carl around the farm. It wasn’t what you would call a real farm but there was a barn in the field behind the house and it was Artie’s job to feed the chickens and goats. He told Carl that he only had chores in the summer. In the winter when there was school his dad did the feeding. There was a tractor in the barn which Artie said that his dad sometimes left him drive but only if his dad was with him. The horse was out in the field but when he saw Artie and Carl he came running. The horses name was Charley, charley horse! Artie said they could ride but his dad would have to saddle him up. Carl liked the animals and decided that he would do drawings when he had a chance. Artie showed Carl his bicycle and Carl told Artie about his Green Phantom. For the next two weeks, Artie pretty much followed Carl around. Carl didn’t mind but he was not used to having a little brother and looked forward to getting back to his normal life. He drew a picture of the barn and sent it to Ozzie along with a letter. In the letter, he told Ozzie that he had not seen Baltimore yet. He was surprised that he was in the country. He also sent letters to Francis and Cappy.

Artie wanted to know everything about the Miller House and the people who came there to stay. He even sat still so that Carl could sketch a picture of him. Aunt Sharon said she was going to put it in a frame! Carl finally got to see the city ehrn Wilson, Artie and he went to an Orioles baseball game Carl saw the Bromo Seltzer tower and the docks downtown where there was a huge ship. Wilson said it was being unloaded. He didn’t know what it was hauling but said probably everything imaginable! Maybe some electrical supplies for Murray’s.

On the weekend, all six of them loaded into the car and went to Grandma Miller’s house. She lived on a city street where there were row houses. Her house looked like all the rest. When they arrived, Uncle Wilson said, Well Carl, this is where your mom and I grew up. Carl already knew that but he was having trouble picturing his mother on this street. When they went in, his grandmother gave the girls hugs and mussed Arties hair. Then she just looked at Carl. He was much taller than she was and she looked puzzled. Then she gave him an awkward hug and said, Well, bless your heart child. You look a lot like that handsome man your mother ran off with but you are tall like your Grandfather was. Carl wondered if his grandfather was still living but it was not the time to ask. Carl just smiled and said, “Hi, Grandma, i-it’s so good to meet you.” That was the first time Carl stammered since he arrived. Then Grandma said, Oh, you don’t remember but you got your start in this house - right up those steps in you mom’s bedroom.” She had fixed enough food for several meals and even though she sat with them, her years of waitressing caused her to constantly offer more food and she was jumping up and filling water glasses. There wasn’t much conversation and she did not ask Carl questions about Francis or the Miller House. Sharon helped Grandma put the dinner away and clean up. When it was time to go she took Carl hand and held it tight. When everyone else went out the door she said, “Carl, I want you to come back and see me again.” Carl looked at her and her eyes were misty. He said, “Ok Grandma, I will,” and he meant it!

Later that night Carl stayed up after Artie and the girls went to bed. It was mostly just him and Uncle Wilson at the kitchen table. Sharon made coffee and sat for a while then she went up to bed. Wilson asked Carl if he knew that Francis play basketball in high school and he did not know it. She had never mentioned it! Carl asked if she was a good athlete. Wilson said she was good at basketball, partly because she was tall but she also was graceful and fast on the court. He said she was also a good dancer. “I think that’s one of the reasons Aaron was so attracted to her. They loved to dance. These were things Carl did not know. His image of Francis was all about the Miller House - clean bedrooms and linens, good meals, no arguments or heavy drinking. Cappy called it, “a smooth running machine.”
Wilson said, You know, your grandma did not approve of your dad. She called him, “the German Cherokee.” She thought he was too old for Francis and was leading her astray. Carl perked up when he heard the word Cherokee. “Was he an Indian?” Carl wanted to know. “Well, he wasn’t a full blood Cherokee Indian. The name Pollone is Italian. I think he said he was German because he thought your Grandma would approve. But that didn’t work because he told Francis that his mother was a Cherokee and Francis let it slip out in an argument she was having with mom! After that, Grandma would call him that name and it always made Francis angry! Carl told Wilson that on several occasions he had been called a Cherokee. He asked Wilson, straight out, “Do you think I look like a Cherokee?” Wilson laughed and asked, “Does it matter?” Carl said it didn’t matter but he wanted to know. Wilson then said, “Yes, I think you do have characteristics of the American Indian - darker skin, high cheek bones, straight dark hair. Your hair is a little lighter and your eyes are almost blue, so you surly have some of your mother’s German blood. You have a smooth graceful walk, you could probably sneak up on a grizzly bear! They both laughed about that comment. Then Wilson, said, “You’ve got nothing to worry about, you are polite, talented and handsome! You’ve won the trifecta! Carl asked what a trifecta was and Wilson said it was something like, three perfect picks to win” Carl went to bed that night with a lot to think about. He wondered it his Grandma was lonely. He wondered if Francis thought about growing up in Baltimore and if she had really loved Aaron Pollone, his father. Carl liked thinking that he was part Cherokee!

Carl had so many interesting things to do on the little farm. He and Artie packed lunches and took long walks back through the fields and into the woods. He got to drive the tractor and he rode the horse. Wilson had a camera and took pictures of Carl around the farm, especially when he was on the horse. Sharon took pictures of Carl and Wilson.

It was decided that Carl would leave on Tuesday June 25. On the Saturday night before Carl was to leave, Sharon’s parents came to dinner and Sharon’s dad took pictures of Carl with the family. Sharon’s parents did not seem as old as Grandma Miller and they laughed a lot. Sharon mother brought gifts for the children and they gave Carl a transistor radio with an earphone. It was a Sony TR6. They told Carl that it was the newest thing and soon all the kids would be carrying them around in their pockets! Carl loved it and imagined using it when he was sitting in the upstairs in the garage. Carl gave them a drawing that he made of Charley Horse. They were surprised and seem to like it!

When Tuesday arrived, it was time for Carl to leave. On Monday night he called Francis and told her the train schedule and that he would get a taxi at the Greenville Station. Francis said, “We all miss you and are, so much, looking forward to having you back here!” The train was leaving at 8:10 in the morning so they all got up 5am and had breakfast. Aunt Sharon fixed pancakes and scrambled eggs with bacon. Aunt Sharon gave Carl a hug and she kissed his cheek! the girls were still shy and just watched. Artie went with Wilson and Carl to the Penn Station. Sharon and the girls waved as they backed down the drive way. When they got to the station Carl insisted on buying the train ticket. He had spent almost no money. He saw a book stand and thought about the Fahrenheit 451 paperback he had purchased at the Greenville Station two weeks earlier. He had only read a few pages. The time had gone by so quickly and at night he was always tired. Artie, full of energy, was always thinking of an adventure. At night, Carl would make a few journal entries in his sketch pad, turn out the light and fall asleep.

He went to the ticket window and purchased the fare to Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville seemed far way, like a foreign country to him now - another life, where he was another person. It wasn’t that he didn’t like his life in Greenville, it was just so different than what he had experienced over the last two weeks. As Carl boarded the train and waved goodby to Wilson and Artie, he was ready to be home!

The end of part one.

  Cover / Index