May 13, 2011


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 Hastings stopped at the bottom of the stoop, 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…

At the bottom of the stairs, Mai Li stood, looking up at him, her face lit by the glare of the light bulb. “Hey, little idiot! How you doin’?” CJ blinked seven times. Mai Li said, “Still mute, I hear?”

“What are you doing here?”

She shrugged, “I missed you both – rapier wits, sparkling dinner table conversation, exchange of ideas and late-night discussions of esoteric philosophies.”

The words would have made CJ cry if she hadn’t swayed and collapsed suddenly. “Mai Li!” he screamed and all but leaped down the steps. Mom was next to him an instant later on the phone with 911. The floorboards overhead creaked.

Before they could stand up, a team of paramedics appeared at the top of the stairs. They started down as the lead called, “Step back please or we’ll be forced to bring in the police!”

CJ’s Mom spun and snapped, “Where’s Doctor Chazhukaran?”

The paramedic stopped and said, “Excuse me?”

“You’re not paramedics.”

“Excuse me?”

“I just called 911. You were already in the house, so you’re not responding to that. Dr…” she looked at CJ and asked, “What do you call him?”

“Dr. Douchebag?”

“That’s it.” She looked back up the steps, “Dr. Douchebag has been calling all week, begging me to call him the instant Mai Li showed. I figure he had the house watched – and then couldn’t hold his bladder and sent you in too early.”

“Who are you…”

The floorboards overhead creaked again. Mom pointed at the ceiling and said, “Those are the real paramedics, so you can leave and tell Dr. Douchebag that he’ll be hearing from my lawyer.” The real paramedics pushed the fake ones aside and barreled down the stairs.

The first one turned to CJ’s Mom and began to ask questions. The fakes slunk up the stairs as the real ones got to work. The cot appeared at the top as well then somehow found its way down to them and Mai Li was on it shortly. They hauled it up, the first one still questioning Mom. They were down the hall and then suddenly stopped.

CJ slipped around them by ducking under the cot’s bed where Mai Li lay, an oxygen mask over her mouth. The first thing he saw was the ambulance, its lights still flashing, sitting in the driveway.

Then he saw the police cars – plural. There were six. “Mom? There’s six police cars out here.”

The real paramedics stopped with the cot halfway out the door.

That was probably because the officers had large and small guns aimed at the house. There was even a troop transport back down the block some. Dr. Chazhukaran stepped between them. He was dressed in a complete hazardous materials suit as he strode up to the house. Stopping, he said, voice filtered through the speaker – and CJ noticed it was hugely amplified – “You’re all under quarantine.”


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