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 four pages back until you get to the bottom.
Mai Li Hastings continued as she sat up and slid to the edge of the hospital bed, “This is what you’re going to do, Doctor. You’re going to…” She swayed from side to side.
CJ Hastings, her fourteen-year-old brother and Mom each grabbed her under the arm and held her steady.
“Head rush,” she managed to say, her already pale skin turning nearly as white as the sheets she’d been laying on a moment ago.
“It might not be a good idea for you to go anywhere right now, Dear,” said Mom.
Mai Li shook her head, saying, “I’d rather drive red hot needles under my fingernails than agree with you, Mother, but I’d have to agree with you if I wasn’t pretty sure Dr. Mengele here was planning on trying something else to keep me where he can operate on my head with his stone knives, bearskins and herbal remedies.” She slid further forward, this time moving slowly and planting her feet on the ground, grabbing CJ’s arm hard. He fingers also made white indentations in Mom’s arm as well.
“You can’t…” Dr. Chazhukaran began.
Mom cut him off sharply saying, “Last time I looked, Doctor, I was on the paperwork as Mai Li’s legal guardian. All you are is her doctor.”
“And a pushy one at that,” Mai Li said softly.
CJ locked eyes with the man then with his free hand took out his cellphone, keyed in Job and said when his fiend answered, “Listen, Dr. Douchebag is planning on kidnapping my sister. Can you text Mr. J and tell him what’s going on?”
“Sure! Later,” Job replied. He added, “You want me to call my uncle? He’s a lawyer.”
“Calling your uncle the lawyer would be a good move, thanks.” He clicked off – but not until he hit the record key, saying, “I’m recording this conversation for future reference if it’s necessary.”
Mai Li tousled his hair again, whispering, “Idiot, not retard.” She sagged between them.
Dr. Chazhukaran stepped forward, reaching out and said, “You’re making a big mistake!”
Mai Li looked up, glaring at him and finally said, “The only thing I want you doing to me from now on is the autopsy.” She sagged again and said, “Take me home, Mom.”
Mom and CJ fixed Doctor Douchebag with matching glares and he finally backed down. He muttered, “You haven’t heard the last of this,” and fled the room.
CJ leaned close to Mai Li and whispered, “What do you have in mind?”
She turned her head slightly, sighed and said, “Get me into a wheelchair, check me out of this place and I’ll think of something by then.”
He glanced up at Mom who nodded and said, “I’ll hold her up. You go find a wheelchair.” He left them, but Mom called him back before he reached the door. She said, “You’d better stay here. I’m going to have to convince the nurses that Mai Li’s been discharged.”
“I am an adult,” CJ’s sister added softly.
“The legal paperwork never happened. One place where Dr. Chazhukaran messed up. Technically, you’re still disabled.”
“It might not be technical for much longer if I can’t find a way to reverse the nanomachine process.”
“Mom, go get the wheelchair. I’ll tell you what I can after we’re out from under the spying eye of Big Brother.” Mom hurried out, leaving Mai Li to lean her entire weight on him. She said, “I’ll bet you don’t even know who Big Brother is.”
“I listened to 1984 on CD. Mr. Beidelman likes the book so I figured I’d listen to it to suck up to him.”
Mai Li laughed. “I always wondered where I got my devious streak from! Now I know.”
“You probably grew your own just like you grew all those brain cells.”
She snorted but said, “The nanos never made a new brain cell, little brother. They repaired the connections between the old ones, then added other ones to increase the connective density. That’s all that was wrong with my head. It wasn’t connected enough.” She paused, sagging against him even more. She wasn’t any trouble to hold up though. She’d been light before. It seemed to him like she weighed even less. “The problem is that in copying what your brain is doing now with a form of artificial exuberance, something’s wrong with the programming. The nanos seem to have stored…”
Mom came in just then, followed by a nurse with a wheelchair. She gestured to Mai Li, saying, “We need help getting out.”
The nurse said, “I can’t just take you…”
“I’ve signed the paperwork discharging my daughter. Now, I’ve had enough trouble with this whole medical procedure that I’ve retained a lawyer and my son is recording our conversation in order to make sure my wishes are explicitly followed. I want my daughter in the wheelchair and I want to meet her with my car in five minutes, or I’ll start filing the lawsuit.”
Grumbling, the nurse came alongside Mai Li and – despite his anger – helped CJ’s sister into the seat gently. She muttered something as she slid back and leaned against the chair. She lifted her head, looked at her mother and CJ and said, “We have to hurry. I don’t think I have a lot of time left to try something.”