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The human heart, its many mysteries, and gerbils.


My kids know I don’t like rodents. Of any kind. Squirrels, mice, gerbils, rats, hamsters. They just know. And for a long time, they knew not to ask for a pet. But my son, my son. He wanted a pet so badly and his sister had allergies so no dogs or cats. He didn’t stop talking about it. He took books out from the library and researched gerbils and hamsters. He found a cage for free from a nice lady at church. What was I to do? Say no?

He was responsible and well behaved and I knew he was up to the task. So yes, we gave in and bought him a gerbil almost two years ago.

My son has loved this gerbil he called Hercules, which I thought was a wicked cute name – even if the rodent itself was not particularly cute.

Hercules made a lot of noise during the day. One time he escaped. One time he hadn’t been fed and was jumping like crazy around the cage so I overcame my fears and fed the poor little guy. Even though really he could have jumped out at any time. And then who knows what would’ve happened.

But my son loved his gerbil. He cared for him. He fed him every day. He cleaned his cage every two weeks (almost.) I guess I didn’t realize how attached or how the strings of his heart had thickened.

Two days ago, my younger son found Hercules unmoving.

We all checked him out and yes, Herc had moved on to gerbil heaven. I found my son in the bathroom sobbing into my husband’s shirt. His chest heaving, the emotion and the heartache spilling out. But it didn’t stop there. Off and on, he’d start crying. He buried Herc with a gravestone and said a prayer.

Now I admit I’m not saddened by this but I am absolutely broken at seeing my son go through such grief. It made me think.

The human heart trapped inside our body, pumping blood in and pumping it out. It’s just an organ like any other. So why when heartaches come our way do we feel it inside our chest? The ache starts slowly and builds and soon it rushes up and wells out our eyes. It consumes our body. Afterward we still feel it, long after the tears are gone.

This morning, he said, “I don’t feel well. Like not sick sick but my body aches and I feel bad.”

I held him and cried with him and tried to let him know that it will get easier.

And Hercules will never be forgotten.

So here’s to you, Herc. You’ll be missed.


 

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The largest unsolved art heist.

It was after midnight. Cold and dark.
Two cops approached and asked to enter the building. They gained easy access with the excuse that they’d heard of a disturbance.
The next morning empty frames hung on the wall. Priceless paintings ripped out and stolen. Paintings that now are worth $500 million.
The largest unsolved art heist ever.

When I was researching ideas for a heist novel I Googled simple terms. “Unsolved art heists”, “Largest heists”. I casually clicked on one link and was immediately fascinated.

How could twenty years go by and a crime this big not be solved?

How could it happen so easily?

I wanted to know.

And the fact that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was in Boston captivated me. I love Boston. It’s the city I grew up knowing. (Though I don’t recommend driving in the city without a GPS and even then you never know where you might end up. Put it this way – I spent hours trying to find a restaurant and never found it!)


Where are the stolen paintings today? No one knows. I read books on it; and, of course, give a writer some research and they’ll want to write a story.

And I did. It’s called HEIST. Through fiction, I solved the mystery, creating characters and plots to explain the unsolved mystery. And I threw in a little bit of time travel too. (It’s on the backburner for now, but someday it will see the light of day.)

The amazing thing is that Isabella specified in her will that nothing in the museum be changed. So the empty frames still hang on the wall today, waiting for the paintings to be returned.

 

Why blog about this today? Well, this coming weekend marks the 21st anniversary of the heist. If you want to know more, you can read this interview with Ulrich Boser who authored, The Gardner Heist. A fascinating book.

Has research ever sparked a story for you? What kinds of research are you drawn to?

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