Pick Up Pieces

( Author’s Note: For a few weeks now, I have been asking those of you who read my newsletter or my Facebook posts, who read my blog, to find what makes your heart sing. What did you find?

One of my friends told me her heart sings whenever she reads the words of poetry her significant other writes. I could tell it felt like a profound gift. I know her heart sings when she sits outside on her patio surrounded by the natural world. She shared that with me too. I felt honored. Nature was glorious, and my heart sang while I sat there enjoying her company. I will always be able to picture it, and my heart will always sing when I think on it.

For myself, it is the connections I have made with others: family, friends (human, animal, and plant), all both near and far; connections made with colleagues and students in the teaching, art, writing, and music communities, past and present, near and far. My heart is full of songful memories and present experiences. I found my voice again, literally, and sing myself into bliss, a quiet zone of deep meditation, regeneration, and connection.

So, what makes your heart sing? Gather it up. I am inviting you to join me on a short journey, and you will need to take it with you.

The 2020 election is upon us. No matter the outcome of it, a tidal wave of emotion is heading toward us with breathtaking height and speed. My advice: Pick up all that makes your heart sing and come with me to the metaphorical high ground. Go to the mountaintop where you will sit and watch the influx and efflux of rushing emotion below you, because our course of action – manifesting compassion, equality, unity – has not changed. We are still heading for that which we seek. We will find the path when the tidal waters recede, and we will continue building.

When I come off the mountain, I will find that the fear I have been hanging onto these past four years will be gone, because I plan to leave it here where the deluge can roll over it and wash it away. My joy and optimism, all that makes my heart sing, I will take with me.

Come with?

Grab what makes your heart sing and join me on the mountain. We will wait out the tidal wave TOGETHER, and I promise you: We will survive this no matter who wins the election. Our journey toward tomorrow is just beginning. Keep reading to enjoy the second to last chapter of BROKEN.) 

Pick Up Pieces

Marcus Balmario returned with steamed, hot chocolate for Jonathan Tyler. As the boy sipped, he found strength to knit himself together. Marcus clicked on the recorder so Jon could continue witnessing his experience. Marcus had to remember to use less technical, less forceful words. Jon wasn’t a hardened street kid. He was the product of professional parents. He had stepped into a world that had punched him in the face, literally.

“Jon, do you know for sure that Evan Fischer was the father of the baby?” Marcus could barely believe Jon had been tasked with the horrendous job of taking a dead baby from a tumultuous birth to presumably dispose of it.

“I assumed he was, since Sobrina Morelli was his girl. Did Sobrina die?”

“What?” said Balmario.

Chief Maureen Thompson, who was attending Jon’s interview, leaned forward to hear his answer clearly.

“I heard one of the Morellis say his sister was dead. They had guns. Evan was on the ground with Charlie. They were looking for me.”

“The Morellis were looking for you?”


“How do you know this?” said Maureen.

“When Rat and I got back from burying Lincoln, there was a confronta – .”

“Stop. I want to hear about that,” said Maureen. “You buried Lincoln. The kid you met at the MMA meet?”

Jon was shaking so badly, his hands bounced against the table. “I think I need to eat something,” he said.

Balmario said, “Finish your chocolate. Tell us about Lincoln.”

Jon slurped the foamy concoction and set the cup on the table. “I was following Rat’s orders.”

Marcus Balmario shook his head. He tamped down the frustration that was boiling in a spot between his shoulder blades. “Back up. What happened after you left the baby in the alcove?”

“I ran back to Marchesi’s and heard men shouting from a garage behind it. When I went to investigate, some of Marchesi’s men were cheering because Alles had forced Lincoln to the ground. I tried to break in, to get him out of there, but they grabbed me. Then Rat saved me. He pulled me out of the building, but I knew they were gang raping him. I’ve seen a pack of ramped up testosterone more than once. I was jumped by a pack at school. They stopped short of rape, but they sure made a show of it. That’s when Phillip enrolled me in an MMA club.”

Jackson Tyler, his parent in attendance, said, “You fight?”

Balmario didn’t want to get into a side conversation between estranged father and son, so he said, “Continue, “ though being disciplined in an MMA organization was probably why Jon was sitting in front of them today, instead of rotting at a dump site after being beaten and thrown away as garbage.

“Rat pulled me away, and then we got into a fight. I tried to use moves I learned in my MMA club, but I was no match for him. Rat whipped me.” Jon was clearly ashamed about that.

He said, “Rat told me he knew about the baby, so the Morellis did, too. I was wrecking his plans. I don’t know what plans those were. We went back to Marchesi’s, and I gave Charlie the hundred dollars. Told him I got it doing a blow job.”

Jack looked away and shook his head.

Jon looked at his father and said, “I didn’t do one, Dad.”

Jack said, “I know.”

“Continue,” said Balmario.

“After that, Charlie ordered Rat out to the garage and told him to take me with him. Rat was so sad. So was Hawg. I think they knew.”

“Knew what?”

“That Lincoln was dead. We took him to a wooded place by the river and buried him.”

“Let me recap. You left the baby in the alcove.”

Jon’s shaking intensified.

Marcus leaned across the table to look directly into Jon’s eyes. “I am just going to state it as fact. We need to do this.” Dammit, Jon’s eyes were so big and sad. “You ran to Marchesi’s, saw a gang rape.”

“I didn’t see it. I heard him screaming.”

“Okay. You witnessed the boy Lincoln on the ground.”

“Then Rat Snatcher pulled me away from that. We fought.”

“Then you went back to the Bar and Grill where Charlie told you and Rat Snatcher to take care of Lincoln.”


“Do you think you can show me where you took him on a map?” 


The intercom clicked on, and Captain Jamison said, “Map is on the way. Assembling a team to verify.”

Jon jumped. “Is someone else listening?” he said.

Jack petted Jon’s hair on the back of his neck. “Yeah. They are right behind that darkened window.”

“Huh,” said Jon. He stared at it a minute and then leaned into his father. “Have they been listening the whole time?”


Jon spoke in a whisper. “They saw me blubbering.”

Jack whispered, “They understand. Nobody is going to worry about that. You shouldn’t either.”

“I’m sorry I am such a big baby,” said Jon.

“I don’t see a big baby in this room,” said Jack. “I just see my beautiful, brave son, who has battled the streets of Detroit.”

“Are they going to find Lincoln?”

Jack caught Marcus’s glance. Would they find anything? The FBI had most likely cleaned up after them. It wouldn’t hurt to try for Jon’s sake.

“With your help. Yes,” said Marcus.

“He was a nice guy, Dad.”

“Yeah. He was caught up in something that was too big for him. Just like you.” Jack continued to pet his hair.

“While they find a map and assemble a team, let’s finish the story, Jon. Then you can go to your father’s house and rest.”

“Are they letting me do that?” He looked toward the woman from Social Services.

“Temporarily, yes,” she said.

Maureen Thompson asked, “What happened after you buried Lincoln.”

“Rat and I went back to Marchesi’s. Rat was nervous about everything that day so he parked a few blocks away. I followed him and stayed quiet like he asked me to. He was afraid of something. He kept stopping to look around. Each time he did it, he was like a mother hen, hiding me behind him. When he got to the restaurant, we heard shouting behind the bar. We snuck around. That’s when I saw the gunmen. Alles had his hands tied behind him and was on his knees. They pulled Charlie and Evan down, too, and tied them up. I heard one of them ask for the other kid, the one that took the money to the curan…curan….”

“Curandera,” said Maureen. “Sobrina’s midwife.”

“Yes. That’s when the gunman said he wanted to thank me, too, for the death of his sister. Rat told me to run. I did. I ran. I heard guns, but I kept running. I didn’t stop. I found a sheltered alley to stay the night, but a homeless man chased me away. The cops chased me away from a small park fountain. I found another alley. It wasn’t as nice as the first, but I felt safe there. Morning came. I had the ten from Rat. I bought food. I wandered the rest of the day. I didn’t want to be seen. I was worried I would get shot because of the money I gave to the midwife.”

“Geezus,” said Jack.

Maureen urged Jon to continue. “Then what happened.”

“I wandered pretty far, I guess. It was late, the sun was setting. I was hungry. I saw people panhandling. I thought it looked pretty futile. Then people started giving me money. I was only sitting there. It was amazing. I had a little over thirty dollars and decided to go into the restaurant across the street. I got mugged. The mugger took my wallet and ran. I ran after him. He threw my wallet away. It landed in a dumpster. He took all my money and your letter, Dad. He left my ID, so I guess that’s something. I had to start over. I sat back down in the spot where people had given me money, but that didn’t happen again.”

Jon sighed. “I guess you’ll arrest me after I tell you what happened next.”

“Go on,” said Maureen.

“A car pulled up to the curb, and a guy offered me twenty dollars for a hand job. I took the money.”

Jack said. “Shit.”

“Oh, Lordy,” said Maureen. Jack had told her about the dream he had, how he hoped he’d been superimposing his attraction to Tomio over his worry about Jon.

Jon looked at him with a questioning look on his face.

Jack shook his head. “We’ll talk later. Continue the story.”

Balmario thought, thank god.

Jon said, “I didn’t get any more offers that night. And panhandling did not work the next day.”

“Why didn’t you just go to a soup kitchen?” said Maureen.

“I couldn’t. My face was plastered everywhere on those FBI posters.”

“Unbelievable,” said Jack.

Jon’s rushed his words together when he said, “Okay, I suspect this is really illegal, but I did it again. It doesn’t pay as well as I thought it would. You know you’d think if you gave of yourself, it would be worth more, but it isn’t. You have to keep giving and giving.”

“Okay, okay,” said Marcus Balmario. They were way beyond worrying about this kid implicating himself in prostitution. He had no clear plan. He was just a kid stupidly responding to each moment as it presented itself with a typical teenaged lack of logic. He was in over his head, like so many of them he pulled off the street. It was one of the reasons that so many states had adopted Safe Harbor Laws. He decided it would do Jon good to tell his story completely, no matter what implications it presented.

He recapped, “You were mugged and lost money you obtained while panhandling.”

“Yes. I had no money.”

“So you committed an act of prostitution.”

“And got money.”


Marcus Balmario wasn’t sure this child knew the exact definition of prostitution, but it didn’t matter at this point.

“I met these three people who reminded me of Lincoln. In fact they knew him. They took me in and showed me a good place to work. That’s where I met the guy who beat me up.”

“Where did you go after you escaped from the dumpster,” said Balmario.

“I sat under a tree for a while. Then I don’t remember much. I guess I am lucky you arrested me trying to solicit Rodney Heathe, huh?”

“You solicited him?”

“I heard he paid well.”

“Who told you that?”

Jon froze. The fire behind his eyes shut off. “I…I don’t remember. I heard it somewhere.”

“You climbed out of the dumpster, sat under a tree, and someone told you that Rodney Heathe paid well.”

“I don’t remember. Days and days passed. I was hungry, and I hurt all over. I was ready to do anything. I wanted to feel safe for a while.”

He approached a predator to keep him safe. Unbelievable. Marcus was disgusted. If he ever got his hands on the schmuck that told an obviously injured and scared boy about Rodney Heathe, he would kill him.

A knock on the door alerted the team. A clerk stepped in and handed a folded map to Marcus. He opened it and spread it on the table so that Jon could look at it. “Okay. Show us where you buried your friend.”

One tear fell from Jon’s eye, but he quickly wiped it away. He studied the map. “It’s not here, we left the city and drove toward a lake. There was a hiking trail.”

The person from Social Services spoke up. “I know what he’s talking about. There’s a nature preserve on the river.”

“Yes, we were following the river when Rat pulled off the road. He drove down a dirt lane for a while.”

The woman stood up and flipped over the map. Then she pointed. “Here it is.”

“Did you walk the trail?”

“No, we walked off trail so people couldn’t see us. Jon looked at the line of the river. He pointed to a small indentation. “I think it’s about here.”

“We’ll get a team to start investigating.”

Jon said, “I want to go.”

Maureen said, “You’re tired and hungry, Jon.”

“I want to help find Lincoln,” he said.

The entire team collectively sighed, but Jon’s expression was resolute. Marcus knew he would need this closure to battle demons later on.

Maureen said, “If I bring you a sandwich, can you give our artist a description of Lincoln?”

“Yes,” said Jon.

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