February 25, 2010


Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON: the story has stayed with me for decades, a symbol for both the overwhelming possibilities of the human intellect and the overwhelming impossibilities faced by a profoundly challenged human mind. I’ve started and stopped this novel a half a dozen times in eleven years. I want to bring the original idea into the present millennium. To read RECONSTRUCTION from beginning to here, click on the label to the right and scroll to the bottom.

By the time Mom came home, CJ had been sitting on the floor of the kitchen for three hours and the house was dark.

The kitchen light flicked on, blinding him. Squinting, he looked toward the door and said, “Hey, Mom.”

“Christopher!” she exclaimed as she stepped forward, falling to her knees. She touched him then her eyes swept the room and saw the knife drawer emptied on the floor. “What happened to your face? Were we robbed?”

“She made me tell her where the credit card was and she took it and she’s gone.” He looked up at her. “She’s gone, Mom.”

“Mai Li?”

He nodded slowly, dizzy as his head bobbed. “She said she was leaving this dump. She punched me. Scratched me.”

She touched the scratches hesitantly the. She let herself slide to the floor, staring at the door. “This is all my fault. If I hadn’t…”

“I have to go get her, Mom,” said CJ, struggling to his feet. Clamping his lips together, he waited for a wave of nausea to pass, scrambling instead on hands and knees to the knife drawer.

“You can’t take a knife,” she began.

“I’m not. I’m gonna help pick it up. I can’t go now.” He paused, “But if I don’t leave now, I’ll never be able to catch her.”

“You can’t go after her!” Mom cried from the floor as CJ pulled himself to his feet.

“I know where she’s going.”

“You can’t know that! She’s not the same person she was – she’s someone new. She’s not the Mai Li we know…”

“I know, Mom. But she’s the same deep down,” he insisted, staring at her.

She met his gaze then looked away. “I don’t know, Christopher…”

“She is!” he shouted. He squinted his eyes tightly the side of his face throbbing where she’d slugged him. “She is,” he said more softly. “If I stop believing that, she’ll be gone forever.”

Mom nodded from where she still sat on the floor. Sighing, she asked, “Where is she, then?”

“I think she went back.”

“To Vietnam?”

“No. To her foster family.”

“The Neisen’s?”

He nodded.

“Why would she go there?”

“It’s where she started her life here in the US. Maybe she thinks she remembers them.”

“She was only there for two months before she got here.”

“She lived her first two years in the Vietnamese reeducation camps. The Neisen’s worked there before they brought her back. They know what it was like.”

“Why would she want to know something like that? Those places were horrible.”

“She wants to know her roots.”


“It’s all she has left of her old self.”

“She was born with her handicaps.”

He shrugged. “I think she’s going to the Neisen’s. I have to catch her. Stop her. She doesn’t need to know any of that stuff – and I only know about it because of that school report I did when I was in sixth grade.”

“Do you know where they live?” Mom asked. She twisted slowly and got up on her hands and knees, standing slowly and leaning on the counter. She looked around. “She really called our house a dump?”

CJ nodded. “I love it here, Mom. Don’t worry.”

She sighed and said slowly, “I thought Mai Li did, too. I thought she did, too.”

CJ slid the drawer of knives back into its slot, sighed and said, “I need to go. It’ll be really dark by the time I get there.” Mom’s head fell into her hands and she didn’t say anything as CJ hurried out the door.

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