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.
The trip home from the hospital was silent – mostly because Mai Li had practically passed out between CJ Hastings and their mom. It was dark and the lights of the cars on the interstate and the overhead floods washed them with blue, yellow and orange alternately.
They were nearly home when Mom said, “Do you think she’s dying, CJ?”
He looked at her and could barely see her between the lights. He opened his mouth to say something smart, waited a moment then said, “Why ask me?”
Mom said, “Because for all the work I’ve done taking care of her, you’ve always known her better than I did.”
“That’s not true, Mom…”
“Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, honey. You two have always been somehow – I don’t want to sound metaphysical, but your souls have always been knit together.”
CJ guffawed, heard her huff and added, “For not wanting to sound metaphysical, that was sure metaphysical.”
She laughed, too but drove in silence. They pulled into the driveway and stopped. Mom turned the car off and staring ahead, continued to wait. Finally CJ said, “Yeah. Unless she can come up with a genius move to save herself and reprogram the nanomachines before they rebuild her old brain, she’s dying.”
Mai Li stirred between them and sat up slowly, saying, “Like I’ve always said since becoming the next step in Human evolution, ‘you’re not retarded, just an idiot.’”
CJ rolled his eyes and said, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Together, him and Mom managed to get Mai Li out of the car and into the house.
Once she was in her room and Mom had gone to make a late dinner, she said to CJ, “You’re right, little idiot. Unless I can reprogram the nanos, I’m going to die. So get me my laptop and get out of my way. You’re going to have to be my legs for me while I figure this out.”
He squinted suspiciously and said, “What are you going to order?”
He paused then said, “I can get some for you at school tomorrow if you just tell me what you want.”
Mai Li looked up, her face angry – outraged, CJ might have guessed – locking eyes with him. She opened her mouth then guffawed. She laughed so hard she fell back on the bed and laughed until tears streamed from her eyes and Mom had come to the bedroom door. “What did you say to her?”
CJ opened his mouth to answer. He was pretty sure Mom wouldn’t get the drug joke. He was saved from a lie when he phone rang and Mai Li struggled to her elbows and said, “He was just trying to make me feel better by stimulating the release of endorphins into my brain.”
Mom snorted and left the room.
CJ said into his phone, “Job?”
“Duh. Listen, I can’t talk long. You gonna be at school tomorrow?”
CJ pulled the phone from his mouth and shouted, “Mom do I have to go to…”
“Yes!” she cut him off with a shout from the kitchen.
“Yeah,” he said to Job, “I’m gonna be there.”
“Good. You better tell Mr. Jalfroun you’re not gonna go to MacDonald-Chandrasekar. I heard from Trevon that Mr. Jalfroun heard from the M-C coach that you were gonna sign on with them for sure!”
“Who told them that?”
“Trevon told me he heard it from Luc who heard it from Sentury.”
CJ squinted angrily, his hand squeezing the phone. Good thing he was a wimp or he’d have crushed it. “I’ll get even with her for this.”
“That’s fine, but first tell Mr. Jalfroun tomorrow that you’re not quitting his team.”
“But I sorta am.”
“Going to Carter doesn’t count. He’s the assistant coach there.”
CJ opened his mouth to reply just as Mai Li screamed.