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 patted her brother, Christopher Hastings clumsily on the head until he stopped crying.
When he sat up and leaned back on his heels, she said, “Feel all better now?” CJ jerked his head back, but once he locked gazes with her to figure out if she was just being cruel again, he nodded slowly.
“What did you do this time?” he asked.
Mai Li rolled his desk chair backwards, picked up something and turned slowly. It was a needle.
“Hard drugs?” he exclaimed. “You don’t have time to mess your brain up any more than it is!”
Mai Li laughed, though it was a tired laugh and said, “You, little brother, are the only person on Earth who would have responded that way.” She shook her head and said, “I took a retroviral replicating vector intravenously, but because it can’t cross the blood-brain barrier, I had to piggyback it on the benzodiapazine from mom’s prescription sleeping pills. It usually targets brain tumors, but since I don’t have one – only these crazy nanomachines in my brain breaking it down, I figured the retrovirus would attack them instead.”
CJ blinked. “I got about every third word that you just said.”
Mai Li pursed her lips, thought briefly, then said, “Hooked a virus to a sedative and sent it to my brain to fight the nanos.”
He nodded, “Took a downer so a flu bug could ride into your gray matter and give the bad guys the plague.” He shrugged. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”
She tousled his hair and said, “Because you’re an idiot, not retarded and you’re going to need to build your vocabulary pretty quick so you can follow in your big sister’s footsteps.”
CJ jumped to his feet. “What? I’m not gonna be another Doctor Douchebag! I’m gonna play hockey for the NHL and then retire in Canada with a chain of ice cream stores!’”
This time Mai Li busted out laughing – a real laugh, not one of her Lady Genius Smarter Than The Whole World, but the one almost like the one she used to have when she was innocent. She shook her head and said, “Whatever you want to do, kid, is fine by me, just make sure it includes stopping Dr. Douchebag from making any more people like me.”
CJ stared at her and exclaimed, “Why would I do that?”
Mai Li frowned, “Because the thought of that Frankenstein getting rich off of raising and smashing people’s hopes makes me feel sick.”
“But you’re here! You’re wonderful!” CJ blurted.
Mai Li looked down at him, her eyes aime-wide and she blinked slowly then reached out and took him gently by the shoulders and pulled him slowly closer until her arms wrapped around him.
Hesitantly, he returned the hug.
They stood in silence for a long, long time before she finally said, “You, little brother, make the Now-me understand why the Old-me was so totally and completely in love with you.”
CJ sniffed and stepped back, saying, “Thanks, Sis.”
Mai Li opened her mouth to speak and collapsed at his feet.