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 next day, CJ Hastings asked his mom, “Can I stay home from sch…”
He hadn’t managed to finish the question before she said, “No. And neither can I. I’ve got to get back to work to pay the bills to keep a roof over our heads. Your sister left a note asking us not to wake her and to get on with our lives.” Mom paused, picked up the note sitting on the kitchen counter and read, “She also said, ‘I’m sorry for messing your lives up so much.’”
Mom stared at it then whispered, “You didn’t mess up our lives.”
CJ blinked hard. Obviously Mom had been cutting onions or he’d walked into a spritz of her perfume because his eyes got all teary. He said, “See ya later, Mom!” then sprinted out the front door. The yard still looked like an army had marched through it from the paramedics and cops and University people. He picked up his bike and headed off for school. He met Job a couple blocks later. He was walking because his family refused to get him a bike because they said, “You’re just going to get your license and then drive a car. Getting you a bike now is a waste of money.”
CJ hopped off his bike and they walked together the rest of the way to school.
Mr. Jalfroun was doing door duty, watching the sixth, seventh, and eighth graders dressed in shorts, T-shirts, blue jeans and flip flops rumbling into the building on their way to home room.
He scowled at CJ and Job then nodded faintly.
CJ stopped. A big eighth grader ran into him. She snarled, “Out of my way, baby-boy!”
He and Job skipped sideways out of the stream and walked up to Mr. Jalfroun. He continued to scowl, turned to a pair of sixth grade boys who were boxing and shouted, “Either stop or go in and let Mr. Beidelman send you home now!” The boys slunk off. He looked down at CJ and growled, “Yes?”
CJ swallowed hard, aware that he sounded exactly like a cartoon character. He opened his mouth to say something and emitted only a squeak. Mr. Jalfroun glanced at his watch. CJ said, “Mr. Jalfroun, I’m not going to go to MacDonald-Chandrasekhar Academy next year! I got a call from Ms. Jacobson at Carter and she asked me to go there and I don’t know who started the rumor that I was going to MCA because I’d never go there and leave you guys alone…”
Mr. Jalfroun held his hand up. CJ said, “…because…”
Mr. Jalfroun said, “Stop talking.”
CJ and Job both nodded. Mr. Jalfroun paused then said, “I can’t say that I’m disappointed that you’re going to turn down the opportunity to go to MCA – and while the coach there approached me during the Math Tournament, our conversation wasn’t meant for eavesdroppers.” He spun around and with his eyes, seemed to pin Sentury Millner Edison Saroyan suddenly to the wall where she was pretending to read a tattered announcement that had been there since the first day of school. “But since you chose Carter, I’ll release you from your spot on Armstrong’s team.” He curled a finger at Sentury and she started to slide toward the sixth grade wing. He scowled harder, she froze in her tracks and started toward him. He said out of the corner of his mouth, “We’ll talk late. Ms. Saroyan, may I have a word?”
CJ’s phone vibrated in his pocket. He glanced at Mr. Jalfroun and the mob of students. He ran back outside and answered it. It was Mai Li. “What’s wrong?” he said.
“You have to get home!”
“I’ve already called you in sick for the day. I need you here to…” the line went dead.