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 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. Jude shouted, “CJ got second place! CJ got second place!”
The PI grabbed CJ’s should and said, “Your sister is home.”
CJ looked at Jude then looked at the PI, back and forth between the two of them as the judges stepped out and called, “First place for schools goes to
Mr. Jalfroun leaped in the air, cheering while the others: Job, Edison, Trevon, Jude, and Luc bounced around him. Sentury stood to one side, a silly grin on her face now. The other teams lined up to congratulate the champion – no one appeared to even listen to the announcement of second and third places – and pretty soon the chaos got organized into the effort of moving a day’s worth of coats and shoes and back packs, lunchboxes and coolers back to waiting school busses. When the judges brought over the team trophy and the individual trophies, there was a flurry of digital and cellphone flashes.
No one noticed that CJ had slipped out with the PI – after the man-in-black grabbed Mr. Jalfroun from the celebration and briefed him. Mr. Jalfroun stepped up to CJ and bent over, saying, “You’re sure you’re safe going with this…agent or whatever he is?”
CJ nodded, “I think Mom hired him to investigate my sister’s disappearance.”
Mr. Jalfroun straightened up, scowling. “I thought you sister…”
CJ waved his question away, “Don’t worry. She had a surgery and she’s better now.”
The agent looked over his dark sunglasses at CJ for an instant. He felt like he couldn’t breathe suddenly. He waved at Job and started for the exit, getting ahead of the PI for a moment. The man hurried up beside him and said, “Hey, wait up, little man! You don’t even know…”
CJ looked over at him and snapped, “What’s wrong with my sister?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know what…”
“You gave me a look when I told Mr. Jalfroun that Mai Li is better now. What do you know?”
The PI turned his head forward and pushed open the exterior door. The shouting, bus-engine-rumbling chaos outside was deafening and CJ stopped and shouted, “What’s going…”
The PI grabbed him by the backpack strap and dragged him forward. CJ had no choice but to move his feet. It felt like the man would have dragged him across the sidewalk if he tried to stop. The cut between the loading busses and into the parking lot. The PI let go of him and they strode across the lot fast until they reached a rusted out Jeep Cherokee Classic.
“Nice car,” CJ growled.
“Shut up,” said the PI. “It doesn’t get noticed.”
“Yeah, except by the junkyard,” CJ said as he got in, throwing his backpack over the passenger’s seat into the back seat.
The PI shook his head and started the car. “My real car’s a classic 2010 Mazda 3.”
CJ snorted, “Yeah and my real bike’s a Felt T43.” They pulled out of the parking lot in silence and even though he leaned forward, the PI didn’t drive any faster. When they got to the house, CJ jumped from the car and raced to the front steps where Mom stepped out just as he reached the door. “Mom! What’s wrong?”
She opened her arms and said, “Mai Li is back…”
CJ stopped at the bottom of the steps, freezing and whispered, “What’s wrong with her?”
“I…I…don’t know…” she stepped aside and pantomimed for CJ to go into the house.
“Where is she?” CJ said then shouted, “Mai Li? Mai!”
“She’s in your bedroom downstairs,” Mom said softly.
He was too stunned to move, then bolted into the kitchen and down the stairs…