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.
The GOOD thing was that Mr. Bates was standing outside of the auditorium bragging to several other coaches.
The BAD thing was that Mr. Bates was standing outside the auditorium bragging to several other coaches.
“CJ, what’s wrong?” he exclaimed, stepping forward.
The lady teacher or coach began, “Is this,” she lifted CJ by the armpit, pulling little hairs and making him yelp. She glared down at him and he shut up, “Young man one of yours?” Mr. Bates nodded slowly. “He was shouting something like a punch line from a…”
“I wasn’t shouting,” shouted CJ.
Job, who had followed him out, said, “He wasn’t telling a joke!”
“He was confessing to the crime of murdering his sister!” announced the PI.
No one said a word, and everyone stared at the man in a black suit who was wearing sunglasses in a darkened theater.
Mr. Bates was the first to recover and say, “Excuse me?”
The PI lifted CJ by the armpit, pulling little hairs and making him yelp just as the teacher let go of him as if he’d burned her.
The PI cleared his throat just then in the deafening silence. A dozen students had gathered in the auditorium door and were watching them rather than the Math Bowl up on the stage between the teams who had fielded the most winners from the competition last year. He cleared his throat again and said, “I’ve been hired by CJ’s mother to…” he paused and CJ waited, wondering what the man was going to say. There was a very long pause. Several people filled in the silence with their own explanation.
Suddenly everyone started talking at once. Mr. Bates said, “Find out how CJ learned to read overnight?”
Job said, “Arrest him for the murder of his sister!” CJ managed to elbow his best friend without dislocating his shoulder. “What?” the other exclaimed when CJ glared at him.
“Pick him up because he’s a hooligan runaway?” said the lady teacher.
“He’s a terrorist!” someone said from the auditorium. The crowd was getting bigger. A couple of teachers in red vests marked with name badges and the word USHER stenciled on their backs stepped through the crowd and herded them back into the auditorium. Shutting the doors, an incredibly tall man who looked like Lurch from the Addams Family stepped back into the foyer with the group.
With a voice that sounded like grinding gravel, he said, “What seems to be the problem here?” The lady teacher lifted CJ up again as did the PI. Mr. Bates stepped forward and grabbed the back of his shirt and Job spread his arms wide like he was protecting CJ from an assassin. The big man said, “My name is Mr. Payne, and I think you and I need to talk, young man.” He stepped up to the group, towering over everyone and asked, “Who is this young man’s teacher supervisor?” Mr. Bates raised his hand a little bit. The big man nodded, “You’re coming with me.”
The rest of the group and gathered mob protested as he led Mr. Bates and CJ away. Mr. Payne turned, glaring until there was total silence and everyone crouched a little bit. Then he grabbed the shoulder of CJ’s shirt and led him and Mr. Bates across the cafeteria and into an office where he shut the door.
He gestured CJ to a chair and Mr. Bates to a wall and folded his arms over his chest until they were settled. Then he said softly, “I have a message from Mai Li…”