Before they catch their plane, everyone, except Steve,
who will remain, convenes on Grandpa's apartment.
"Why didn't Grandpa have a house?" asks Colby, prompted
by Chuck, who, looking out the window, pretends not to be listening.
"Grandpa," Mary-beth acknowledges, "…was poor, Colby.
He was a cashier and didn't make much money."
"Was that him singing where the ashes went?"
"Yes." Steve responds, dryly.
"If he," insists Colby, "…sang and did law and science
and art, why did he have to be poor?"
"That's what we may find out," Mary-beth interjects,
looking at Peggy like some magnet had pulled her in that direction.
When their rent-a-car pulls into the apartments, Weldon's
vehicle is in its spot, no doubt deposited by the tow truck, so
Steve parks alongside; and, they head upstairs sort of like a string.
Steve opens the door and everyone begins to verbalize obscure affections
for the paintings and in the center of it all, the four-track recording
studio. Maggie, guarded by Chuck and Colby, Peggy by Ron, Steven
and Mary-Beth, quite now in command of what for all practical purposes
is a worthless estate-some two-hundred copyrighted, registered songs,
a few paintings, writings and personal effects save the survivorship
of a cause of action against the County of Dallas for having furthered
a conspiracy in which Weldon's constitutional rights were taken
without due process of law. WRONGFUL DEATH!
"This must be all the research he was doing at SMU,"
Peggy says to break the dismal silence.
"Yes," says Steve, "…and all the hospital records
are in the briefcase-the ones from the private mental hospital…I
suppose, unless they've been destroyed!"
"Timberlawn," Ron interrupts, nodding at Steve, Peggy
now somewhat nervous as though her husband might seize upon a motive,
"…and the ones from the State Mental Hospital in Terrell."
Maggie as well as Colby are now being restrained
by Chuck and his mom, Mary-Beth, from touching the instrumental
components of the recording studio. Steve, at last,
Yields to the W A V E of suggestion and inserts a
"This was his music, kind of unique, kind of just
him-everyone, Maggie!" Steve holds the child.
Peggy, who, during their marriage, was used to guitar
solos-now rock, now country, now folk-is unnerved by the masterful
"I had no idea…!"
"He added a drum machine." Steve points out.
"Oh," says Peggy. "A one-man band; he sounds like
"Just Dad," says Steve. "But quite amazing and not
"He tried the labels?" asks Ron.
"Yea," says Steve, "…without any luck though." As
another number starts, the phone rings. It's Steve Rueger wanting
an interview before Steve leaves town which was exactly what Weldon's
son had in mind. The men agree on time and place; and, Steve returns
to his family.
"Peggy." It's Mary-beth. Her voice is cold.
"Yes." She feels on the defensive, while her husband
has anxiously engineered a pot of coffee in a Mr. Coffee maker Weldon
Mary-beth is always direct. "Did you ever think he
was this good before you heard this tape?"
"No," Peggy replies. "He was always practicing writing
songs. This tape shows him to be a performer-songwriter…I can't
believe it really."
The CHILDREN have taken to the T.V. area of the little
room, by Grandpa Weldon's bed, while the adults gather in the kitchen-living
room. Steve is ready to fire a question point blank: "Lloyd got
the money, around a half-million, Mom, you remained quiet about
your boyfriends, when that was one of the main issues in the commitment.
That was the FIRST COMMITMENT-he had no trial, no lawyer,
was diagnosed schizophrenic, psychotic and, with reports of threatening
to jump off an apartment roof into a swimming pool and jogging in
traffic, was viewed as dangerous to himself if not to others.
Mom, you told the doctor (Dr. Ronsayro) that if he (Dad) did not
voluntarily commit himself you would divorce him. Is that correct?"
"Yes," Peggy agrees, with attendant stares from Mary-Beth
and Ron as though kind of inducement.
"With no trial, no attorney, and, arguably, a lack
of consent, you took him to a private psychiatric hospital-Timberlawn.
He was there nearly a year, drugged without his say-so, and, then,
on one of your visits, you asked for a divorce anyway."
"You seem to know everything,…continue." Peggy nods
sheepishly at her family.
"At all times," Steve proceeds, "… in this commitment,
Lloyd is a confidant-he gives assistance, he's there when you need
him, he gets the insurance money to cover the hospitalization, he
even gives Dad the guitar the Doctor promptly locks in the closet.
He tells the doctor nothing about your relationships nor does he
offer you any financial assistance. All that really transpires is
that when Dad is discharged in March of 1978, his mother, executes
a new WILL in downtown Dallas making Lloyd independent executor
and dividing the estate assets half and half."
As Mary-Beth and Ron distribute the Mr. Coffee results
into waiting cups, the children likewise share per capita in a chocolate
cake and punch located in the refrigerator just like Weldon had
left it there for exactly that purpose. With everyone in quiet repose,
"Then…," Steve is without confusion, reserving his
appreciation of the facts democratically, "…comes the clincher.
IN OR ABOUT 7:30 AM, JUNE 15, 1984, two County of Dallas
deputy sheriffs on information supplied by Marjorie Hartnett,
and, separately, Lloyd R. Sandusky, arrest Dad on an order
of protective custody calling for emergency detention of a lunatic
and transport him to the County Hospital of Dallas, Texas…dba…PARKLAND
HOSPITAL. THE SECOND TIME!!!!!!"
It is not until the trial, June 21, that he finds
out the information Marjorie and Lloyd supplied the County Sheriff
was-the threatened homicide of Marjorie and threats made against
the President of the United States-at that time, Ronald Reagan.
"Wait a minute Steve," Peggy says, pressing his arm
gingerly, "…about a year-less than that, well, exactly, June of
'83, I filed a petition for $5000.00 back child support."
For whatever conclusions can be drawn, Steve fills
in, and, stabbing his finger into space as though to indicate a
virtual 'blank' quickly says, "From the record at the State Mental
Hospital and other documents that's what Dad thinks he's in trouble
about-not murder or threats against the life of the President."
Everyone is dumbstruck; Ron, with an almost Sherlock
Holmes expression printed on his face at last saying, "Why doesn't
Weldon's mother or aunt simply pay off the $5000.00. Easy case!
Why have this Ms.Hartnett fabricate a story?"
"That's where I'm stuck, Ron. In February of 1984-some
three months before the arrest, Lloyd had Frances (Dad's aunt),
at the age of ninety-one, execute a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT,
indeed, a TRUST, actually, designating my father's mother
as beneficiary and appointing none other than Lloyd-TRUSTOR AND
INDEPENDENT EXECUTOR, the same capacity as in their mother's WILL.
Incidentally, the trust corpus is $365,000.00 excluding certain
real property as well as real estate. Steve continues, everyone
puzzled at what is amounting to a mystery rather than a case at
"Money and boyfriends aside, it's a piece of cake
to have someone committed, "railroaded", cert-ti-fied looney,
but, the hanger is they got to be DANGEROUS, as in Charles
Manson, DANGEROUS as in you can't take care of yourself and you
damn sure aren't, if the State can help it, capable of "taking care"
of anyone else. My father says in defense that there's a c o n s
p i r a c y; and, nobody pays any attention. The theory came off
like a lead balloon. Maybe, this Rueger guy can help, otherwise…"
"Otherwise," Ron picks up the train of thought, "…women
become victims of sex abuse and husbands become 'patsies', 'pushover's'."
"You've got it," says Steve. Kissing Mary-beth, Weldon's
son prompts the entourage to get ready to head for the airport.
Maggie is last out clutching somehow a stolen tape, Steve retrieves
it and returns to the departed Weldon's room. It's late Winter in
the South now, the dead man's quarters hot with the glow of human
expression and the life children somehow always bring.
When Steve returns, Rueger is waiting, Gary P. taking
a back seat in the government vehicle and Steve occupying the front.
"Where to?" Rueger asks.
"How about some coffee and a spot to eat. All I've
had all day was cake at Dad's scattering."
"Know just the place," Steve Rueger responds, the
three men in a sense all 'government' (with the exception that Weldon
is a private individual) hence sharing in common the patriotism
and common purpose that working for the American enterprise of freedom
"You realize, Steve,…" Rueger begins to build the
government's position as he drives to the restaurant location-"…that
we thought your Dad was actively engaged in manipulating the piracy
of unfixed artistic routines, i.e. that he was exactly what he said
he was, a conspirator."
"Not at all, Rueger," Steve says turning to Gary
P. in the rear seat and simultaneously pointing his finger cursor
like. Steve, however, sees they're pulling in the restaurant and
withholds his explanation until they all get inside. They're seated
by a hostess, who, smiling, hands out menus; and, nods she'll be
back to take their orders.
Before they order, Weldon's son corrects the government's
position. "When my father referred to a 'conspiracy', he was referring
to the little number my mother and his brother played on him to
get him admitted into private and state mental asylums. In the admissions
procedure there was a lack of investigation into family history-my
mom kept quiet about her boyfriends and his brother likewise had
a free hand to corner the estates of their mother-Mildred Sandusky-and
their aunt, respectively-Frances Durham.
"Boyfriends?" inquires Gary P. like an echo from
"Yea," says Steve at the same time ordering, pausing
and resuming the story while the waitress writes down their decisions.
"It seems as far as I can remember, she had become
a pretty bad victim of sex abuse; there was always some stranger
hanging around. When wanting a divorce got to be a shallow excuse
for the problem, there was the line of reasoning that because my
Dad was unemployed and jogged in the streets and acted 'crazy' and
was going to (ha, ha) jump into the swimming pool from the apartment
roof; he was crazy, dangerous to himself. She'd get 'abused' and
want him to see a psychiatrist."
"Lloyd?" his brother, "Right?" Gary P. wants to be
precise, lifting one eyebrow as though exactly that, precise.
"Yea," Steve continues, "…his brother sees it as
the ideal way to set up his inheriting everything from my Dad's
mother and her sister-Aunt Frances. Familiar with legal corners,
Lloyd's wife, Claire, is not just friends with a Federal judge,
Joe Fish, but has worked as a legal secretary in Downtown Dallas
all her life."
"i.e?" Steve Rueger 'dead eyes' Weldon's son.
"i.e….it's easy to have someone committed. Hearsay
rules are relaxed, confrontation of witnesses is remote so that
about the only remedy you have is an appeal claiming there's insufficiency
of evidence and at that you got ten days after judgment which is
usually 90 day commitment periods."
"They knew that?" Rueger reiterates.
"Claire knew that," Steve insists.
"They conspired? They had a plan. They agreed. They…"
Gary P. is urgent, precise.
"Not exactly. They…remember…my mother wants the lid
put on her own sexual abuse; my Dad's brother is after money. They're
only a little puzzle piece in a much bigger windmill. Sex assault
is a felony, so is theft from an estate. My Dad lost his wife: no
defense of habitat, no habitat."
"Homeless!" Rueger looks back at Gary P.
"The bad guys all get away and the State-County
Sheriff's Department and the County Hospital, County of Dallas,
Municipality of Dallas, hold the door open! Constitutional Due Process."
"Right on!" Steve exclaims. "And not just procedural
but substantive due process also."
"Your over my head." Rueger selects an oversized meatball
from his plate and cuts it in half.
"All this is '70's' and '80's' law focusing on people
wanting out once the police power is called on to put them in. The
'90's', and, hereafter cases have focused on the right to adequate
treatment once one is in. Mental asylums, e.g. Alabama, Mississippi,
Texas, are no place to want to be so as early as the '80's' here
came the "Fed" to clean up the mess; States were forced to sign
consent decrees saying they'd comply with Federal Standards or else.
Texas, in fact, was one of those states."
Gary P. is curious. "Steve?"
"You know what your talking about."
"Of course I do-I had a good teacher." The men are
silent, eating, looking around, when Rueger slaps a tape on the
table…like a sound from a wave from an atom and then nothing…
Once back in the car the men select feature songs
from the tape, admiring Weldon's (Sanklee's) virtuosity.
"Mr. Rueger?" Steve asks, hitting the eject button
and securing the bootleg tape.
"Ask and you shall receive." The men laugh,
Weldon's son still miserly clutching the tape. There is a period
of silence the tires 'humming' on the cold winter cement, then,
Steve says: "If you knew my father was an artist, why wasn't his
behavior, for example, "The Mexican in the Bathroom", or, for that
matter, any of his, at times, odd creations viewed as Art-not
insanity or schizophrenia or delusions?"
"I see," says Gary P. like a voice somewhere. Rueger
'butts' in "Yea, Steve. I, ah, see too." There is more road silence,
the cold, grey day reaching up all around the car. "We hadn't made
the connection between what you said and is of record he said he
was, a conspiracy, and, what we were told to investigate: copyright
violations, manipulation of the airwaves. Your dad made it
easy, put it another way, for hackers and copyright pirates to have
a field day."
"Sure, right…at his death he was worth millions and
never saw a red cent," Gary P. adds emphatically.
"Actually,…" continues Steve Rueger, the data we
were collecting was more exculpatory rather than convicting of any
conspiracy on his part." Rueger dodges a night bird walking in the
"Then why didn't the judiciary not vacate the lunacy
hearing judgment and issue an injunction. Why allow such an absurd
situation to continue vis a vis abortion clinics, voting
rights, police brutality."
"We tried that," Rueger says, looking at Steve and
maneuvering the car onto the freeway; but, the State has its way,
you know. The 'Fed' has to hold back its exercising authority over
State's rights least some slaphappy politician wants fireworks and
there's a BILL in the hopper."
"I see what you mean," Weldon's son says complacently.
"My mother had sought to get at the government by doing what came
natural, hence, …using my dad as a decoy, the same sort of position
she herself had been put in: a kind of unprotected sex object."
"THE ESSENCE OF CIVIL RIGHTS!" Gary P. and
Rueger recite the phrase like they heard it in a jingle.
"But, then, you think about it,…" Steve notes, "…if
it's hard to stand up for your rights on your own, what better party
to pick on than the government." Rueger and Gary P. are silent.
As they near D.F.W. International Airport, Steve recognizes where
he's just come from, the car passing by the American flag like it
were part of the fabric, a star or a stripe or really just a feeling
they all have for America and its people now more and more even
including Weldon, his ashes hardly chaos, though, no doubt, only
still "blowing in the wind." A song somehow dancing on the windshield,
Steve holding still the tape his father had believed in, it now
late towards evening and the gas stations and restaurants and motels
pass like memories they all share. Rueger, at last, breaks the monotony
of silence by saying:
"We'll have you back to your Dad's place shortly."
Knowing an appeal will require his mother's deposition,
Steve begins, then, decides otherwise to enlist the government's
assistance, thinking, after all, that it's his responsibility, his
row to hoe. And, as the car drops him off at his father's little
apartment, Weldon's son waves a salute like curt goodbye,
knowing they will soon see each other again. Walking up the stairs,
the darkness from the neon impression of daylight is broken by another
night bird, confused and nearly hitting Steve as he, as if afraid
of something, suddenly finds the door, opening it slowly like there
would be some horror or even that his dad might be standing there.
The cake the children ate is dismantled on its plate, juice cups
still around, abstractly positioned, the briefcase, the recording
studio. Steve sits in his father's chair, calling Vandenberg, only
to discover his family, nor Ron and Peggy are back yet. His eyes
study the paintings as he thumbs through the discharge furlough
from the State Mental Asylum, "…threatened to bash Marjorie Hartnett's
head into a wall, commit suicide and threatened to take the life
of the President of the U.S. Mr. Sandusky is clearly dangerous
to others and to himself…" Steve places the documents near one
of his father's paintings so that the light makes a shadow like
a veil. He's tired from the day; and, the young man prepares thus
for bed. A little sniffle gives way to the sound of tooth brushing,
a green glob of toothpaste disappearing in his mouth.