As every Minnesota ninth grader did thirty-eight years ago in 1971, I read Daniel Keyes' masterpiece, FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON. The story has stayed with me since and rather than haunting me, it grew into my mind as a symbol for both the overwhelming possibilities of the human intellect and the overwhelming impossibilities faced by a profoundly challenged human intellect. (The character of Kathleen Kelly in YOU’VE GOT MAIL, puts it well: “I started helping my mother here after school when I was six years old. I used to watch her, and it wasn't that she was selling books, it was that she was helping people become whoever they were going to turn out to be. When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your life does...”)
I’ve started and stopped it half a dozen times since I wrote the first outline eleven years ago. Now that I’ve grown up as a writer, I think I’m ready to tackle it. I wanted to do two things: bring the ideas that shaped me into the person I am today into the present millennium; and look at a FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON type of story from the viewpoint of someone who loves the one changing.
Thus this book was born. I hope I can do the theme justice. I hope my story affects others as Daniel Keyes’ story affected me.
To read RECONSTRUCTION from beginning to here, click on the label to the right and scroll to the bottom.
By the time Dr. Chazhukaran and his nurses, nurse aides, technicians, reporters, neporters – internet news reporters – and doctor observers were gone, it was past midnight. CJ and his mom were standing at the front door. Dr. Chazhukaran was facing them. He held up his finger and said, “Perhaps I can check one more thing?”
Mom held up her hand, “Nothing more, Doctor. We’re ready for bed. CJ has school tomorrow. It’s been a long day.” She changed the subject, “When can we expect her to wake up?”
He lowered his lecturing finger and said, “As far as I can tell, she could wake up any moment. I gave her a sedative after we got her waking quantum EEG. Her brain waves are totally different than the ones we got before! It’s very exciting. There’s every evidence of higher cognitive functions now where there were none before. Her brain is working as good as yours is,” he looked directly at CJ and added, “Maybe better.”
CJ snapped, “What’s that supposed to mean?” He was a special ed kid; touchy about it, too. Kids at school knew, but nobody else needed to. “You think she’s gonna be better than me?”
Mom held up her hand again. “When will she wake up?”
He took a breath to continue, but CJ stepped closer to his mom and glared. Dr. Chazhukaran blinked then said, “Any time after sunrise.” He leaned closer, “You will give me a call, won’t you?”
“Yes. We’ll call you. Good night, doctor.” She closed the door slowly in his face, locked it and leaned back against it, closing her eyes, facing CJ.
He said, “Good job, Mom. He should have gone a long time ago.”
“He didn’t mean what he said, Chris.”
“He hates me,” CJ said, turning around and heading for the stairs. “Can I surf the web for a while?”
She nodded, looked down at him and said, “You have school to go to tomorrow.”
“You’re making me go before she wakes up?” he exclaimed. “That’s not…”
“CJ,” she said softly, holding up her hand as she had to cut off the doctor, “She’s going to be awake. Not running around talking and looking at your rLife account or riding your bike. She’ll just be awake. Practically like a newborn. We’re going to have to teach her everything. I doubt she’ll be ready to graduate with her PhD before you get home from school.” She took him by the chin and smiled. “She’s going to grow up fast – but not that fast.”
CJ took a deep breath, slowly nodded and said, “’night, Mom.”
The next day, school seemed to take forever. He was heading into last hour when Mr. Johnson, his science teacher held up his hand and said, “CJ! You’re supposed to go to the office. Take all your things. They said someone’s here to pick you up.”
CJ’s stomach dropped to his feet. He turned and hurried out of the room, to his locker, grabbed his backpack after stuffing a few books in it and ran to the office. He burst in and looked around, expecting to see his mom.
Dr. Chazhukaran was standing by the office counter instead. He was looking at CJ sadly.
Dr. Chazhukaran started talking at the same time, saying, “There’s nothing wrong…”
CJ recovered first, “Then why are you here?”
“Things aren’t going exactly as we thought they would. You need to be home. Now.”
“Then what are we waiting for?” CJ bolted from the office, ignoring the secretary calling to him that he had to sign out. He pushed through the exit doors and into the courtyard. A taxi was sitting in front of the school. Dr. Chazhukaran stepped out. CJ looked at him, “A taxi?”
The doctor shrugged, “I can’t afford a car.”
CJ shook his head, “Let’s go. Mom and Mai Li need me.”
The doctor’s long stride brought him alongside CJ before they reached the taxi. He said, “Not exactly in the way you’ve been expecting her to need you.”
“What do you mean?” CJ said as the doctor opened the taxi door and gestured him in. He slid in as the man went to the other side and got in. “What do you mean she doesn’t need me like I’ve been expecting her to?”
Dr. Chazhukaran said to the driver, “Back where we came from.” He looked like he bit the inside of his cheek then said, “It seems her development under the ministrations of the nanomachines have produced more efficacious connections than expected.”
CJ rolled his eyes and said what one of his nurses had said the night before, “English, doctor! English!”
He shot CJ a look then said, “I think she’s talking. Asking for you.”
“What do mean, you think she’s talking?”
He didn’t say anything for a while. They were almost half way home when he spoke. “Humans learn to speak by mimicking others around them. That’s why baby talk in ‘babytalk.’”
He shot CJ a look. “Even though her brain had profound damage, her hearing was fine. She could hear what you and your mom – even what we – were saying.”
“So she can talk already?”
He didn’t answer and as the taxi pulled up in front of the house, CJ grabbed his backpack and ran for the front door. As he threw it open, a woman’s voice that wasn’t his mom, was screaming, “I want CJ! I want CJ!”