May 6, 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.

CJ Hastings was online with Mom a couple seconds after he called the paramedics – she wasn’t answering her cell. She was probably online. To soften the blow when he found her. Which she knew he would. ‘Cause he knew Mai Li better than she knew herself.

At least he used to.

For now, the paramedics had tossed his bike on the outside of the ambulance. He sat in front with them even though Mai Li had cried out when they split them. The paramedic chick had said, “We want to be able to help her fast. If you’re up front, we can move around easier. He’d nodded and climbed in. He was glad he was in front and could see that they were racing down the highway, lights flashing, siren blaring.

The paramedics were totally calm, so he was.

Mom emailed back that she’d meet them at North Memorial.

When the ambulance pulled up, CJ jumped out, unhooked his bike and made it to the back before the other paramedic had the doors open.

They opened on Mai Li cursing in Vietnamese and struggling against the cot straps. “I’m fine! I wasn’t assaulted! I went with them of my own free will! Now let me go!”

The guy in back looked down at CJ and said, “How old is your sister?”

He bit his lower lip for a moment before finally answering, “She’s 29.”

The paramedic’s head snapped around to look at her then back at CJ, started a different word then exclaimed, “What?”

“She’s…an experiment,” CJ said.

From the cot, Mai Li screamed, “I’m not an experiment! I demand you release me or I’ll sue your…”

The paramedic shook his head, looked at the driver, who’d come back then turned to the cot and released Mai Li. She stood up, smoothed her clothes down, glared at CJ then hopped down just as Mom pulled up in the car. She said to CJ, “This isn’t over yet, twit.” She walked past him and got into the passenger seat of the car, crossing her arms over her chest, ignoring Mom and glaring at the three people standing at the back of the ambulance.

The guy looked down at CJ and said, “Good luck, kid.” CJ nodded as the man continued, “Looks like you’re gonna need a lot of it.”


By the time they got home, the attitudes in the car were cold enough to freeze air.

Mai Li got out, went into the house and disappeared. Mom said, “What happened?”

CJ told her. She sighed and said, “She’s right. She’s 29. There’s no law on file yet that deals with people who were wards because of mental inability to handle their own affairs overnight becoming able to handle those affairs. The hospital told me to expect this. She’s going through mental adolescence all at once and she’s declaring her independence – but she can’t because she’s legally our ward.” Her voice trailed off as she leaned forward and rested her head on the steering wheel. “I did not think this through. I wish everything was the way it was before.”

CJ was about to agree when he paused. Did he really want the super intelligent, independent, thinking – if aggravating, annoying and downright hurtful Mai Li to go back to having profound cerebral damage? He shuddered and got out of the car, leaving Mom there.

Mai Li was sitting at the computer typing so fast, her fingers were a blur. But that was only one side of the screen. On the split, was a bank of text – which she was obviously reading scrolling down as fast as the cursor would move. She was also listening to something with her wireless earbuds.

CJ tapped her shoulder. She said, “What do you want?”

“What are you doing?” he said.

She replied briefly in a language he didn’t know but recognized from school as Vietnamese.


Mai Li sighed, shaking her head, “You are SO slow, Christopher! English is such a clunky language, so I just said in Vietnamese that why would you expect me to wait around for you guys to set me free. I’m ready now. I just applied to Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Oxford. I’ll take the CLEP tests tomorrow at the hospital and by the end of the week, I’ll be out of here.” She stopped everything she was doing, spun around in her chair and said in plain English, “Then I can finally leave you two losers behind – where you belong.” She turned back to the computer as CJ headed for his basement room.

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