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 three pages back until you get to the bottom.
CJ looked at Mr. Jalfroun, who looked at CJ and then both looked at Job. CJ said, “Are you crazy? We went in there, the tall man…” he paused. What if she’d been serious? What if the tall man was also a hit man? The Tall Man – CJ suddenly thought of him with capital letters – was scary. Strong. Who knew what power Mai Li had over him, because she obviously she was controlling him in some way? He was suddenly scary. “…he sorta yelled at me for having a crazy imagination. He’s like a shrink for teenagers.” He knew the explanation sounded lame. Mr. Jalfroun frowned but didn’t add anything except a nod.
So why did he feel more afraid for Mai Li than he did for himself and his mom? She still needed them – though it was only money from Mom and help for whatever plan she had from him. But she needed them and that was all he really cared about at the moment.
Except the last leg of the competition. He looked at Job and said, “Where’m I s’posed to be?”
“Room 264. It’s one of the earth science rooms. Come on, we gotta go!”
Job dragged him along finally releasing him when he started walking alongside his friend. Job said, “Who was that creepy guy?”
“Somebody my sister knows,” CJ replied.
Job shook his head. “I still am not sure I believe you when you say she’s like…a genius now.”
“Believe it. And she’s in trouble.”
Job shot him a look then hurried down the hall, “You gotta hurry or you’re gonna be in trouble. You can’t afford to lose this match. The team can’t afford to have you lose the match. You and Sentury are the only ones who made it to the finals.”
They passed one science room and CJ started to turn into the room. Job yanked his arm and said, “Second room. Last one on our left.” He dragged him to the next door and they went in.
The competitors were already seated, one to a table – big wooden tables with beat up green tops. The walls of the room were a sort of faded yellow, the tiles on the floor were light brown and there was a huge maze stapled to a cork strip that ran the length of the room. Other posters of the Earth, stars, the Moon, a bridge collapsed by and earthquake and a huge picture from the movie TWISTER lined the back of the room. One desk at the front stood empty. There was a sheet of paper with a pencil on it. One of the four judges shooed Job out and closed the door. Another started speaking, “These problems compromise the final round of the Junior High Mathematics League Tournament…” CJ settled down, glanced at the paper and then up at the judge. She finished her monologue, turned to the clock, staring at it until she said abruptly, “Begin.”
Two hours later, the team – Mr. Jalfroun, CJ, Job Doe, Sentury Millner Edison Saroyan, Trevon Frazier-Jackson, Jude Hildebrandt and Luc Castillo-Vargas – gathered in the cafeteria again. The other teams had done the same. There was no mixing this time. There were more than just teams from each one of the district’s four middle schools. There were math teams from all the private schools – five in all, – from charter schools – three of them, – and one made up of home schoolers – thirteen teams in all.
CJ leaned over to Job and said, “This is sorta a big deal, huh?”
There was a commotion across the cafeteria as four judges walked in and held up their hands. The cafeteria full of a hundred middle school kids and thirty adults fell silent as one of the judges called out, “We have three sheets of canvas paper. One will be students who placed third in the competition; one will be students who placed second; the final one we hang will be first place students. There are no other places but first, second and third. Each place will be shared by the students in that place. You will stay where you are until the lists have been posted.” One of the judges lifted the sheet of paper and the crowd surged. The judge’s voice boomed, “You will stay where you are!” The crowd froze as the three judges taped their papers each one with a large red number on it and a list of names and stepped back. “You may no send one person from your team to each poster.”
Hurried discussions then mad dashes by thirteen kids to each poster. CJ stayed back while Job, Sentury and Jude race the others, one to each sheet. Sentury came back from the 3rd place sheet first, shaking her head. Job came back from the first place sheet, bouncing and calling, “Sentury got a first place! Sentury got a first place!”
Jude spun around and ran across the room just as the secret agent/PI answered his cell phone, snapped it shut and started across the room toward CJ…