November 11, 2010


I read the play version of Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON when I was in eighth grade. It has stayed with me for decades, a haunting 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.

Christopher Jon Hastings studied his mom as she drove. She was biting her lower lip, a sure sign she’d done something about which she was having second thoughts. He said, “What’s wrong, Mom?”

“You sister was pretty clear about neither of us going after her, right?”

“Yeah.” She didn’t say anything for a long time. CJ said again, “What’s wrong, Mom?”

“She’s the ‘super-hyper-major-genius-babe’, right? I’m just her adoptive mother. I can’t compete with her, but…”

“What’d you do, Mom?”

“I called a private investigator.”

CJ stared through the windshield as they drove home. He felt Mom look at him. When he finally spoke, he said, “Mr. Bates asked if I was gonna be on Math Team this weekend. It’s the final rounds of the district tournament.”

“And you said you’d be there?”

“Yeah. I didn’t think I was grounded any more.” He paused. “I’m trying not to do too good in school too suddenly now that I can read.’

Mom glanced at him, “It’s made that much difference?”

He nodded. “I get stuff now that I didn’t get last week. Some of it’s OK to learn. Like some of the stuff we’re doing in Civics seems OK, like government and stuff.” He glanced at Mom and caught her smiling. “Not like I’m gonna like school all of a sudden or nothing.”

She snorted softly then said, “So you think it’s OK I sent a private investigator after your sister?”

CJ shrugged. “I don’t know if anyone can find her if she doesn’t want to be found.”

“You found her when she ran the first time.”

He shrugged. “It was her first time. Now she knows what she’s doing and it won’t be so easy to catch her.” He paused. “Though I could probably find her.”

Mom pulled up the driveway once they reached home and got out. They didn’t speak until they were inside again. Then Mom said, “She may be a genius, but she’s still not that experienced. I’m going to leave the PI to find her – if he can.” She glanced at CJ a smiled grimly. “I’m still worried about her and now it sounds like she’s going to be breaking some real laws.”

“Yeah, but that douchebag Dr. Chazhukaran…”

“Christopher Jon!” Mom exclaimed.

“It’s what he is, Mom!” She pursed her lips and grunted. CJ continued, “Dr. Chaz-what’s-his-name isn’t the genius here. Mai Li is. He doesn’t stand a chance.”

Mom leaned back against the kitchen counter, staring off into space. Finally she said, “You’re probably right,” she glanced at him with a faint, mock scowl, “On all counts. But I’m going to leave the PI.”

“And you’re gonna let me got to the Math Team meet, too, right?”

She sniffed then said, “Yes.” CJ leaped and punched the air and was about to shout in victory when she added, “The attitude starts to change now.” His attitude stayed to same, when she added, “If nothing else, Mai Li taught you that you can change. She taught you to read in a few hours. You can change your attitude without her help.” CJ opened his mouth to protest when she cast a dark look at him. He closed his mouth. “You’re as smart as your sister is now in some ways. I expect you to start to show it.” Her eyes narrowed, “If you want to take the Math Team to the state championship.”

CJ’s eyes got bigger. They locked gazes for some time before he finally nodded and said softly, “Deal.”


When the PI showed up at the Math Team tournament, CJ was positive he’d never find Mai Li. He looked like a Secret Service agent standing at the back of the gym where the competition was taking place…


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