June 8, 2012

The Reconstruction of Mai Li Hastings 38

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.

“So your intelligence is going to die?” CJ said.
Mai Li look at him then nodded slowly. “In the end, I’ll be the same person I started as.”
CJ dragged his hand over his forehead and said, “That’ll be a relief.”
Mai Li looked startled. Mom and Job looked at him like he was crazy. Mom began, “Christopher John…”
Mai Li busted out laughing, clamped a weak hand over her mouth then eyed him from behind her hand gag.
Mom’s scowl had lost its fierceness so CJ said, “I just mean that after the cranky genius she’s been for the past few months, it’ll be nice to have her be nice again!”
Mom snorted. Mai Li’s eyes twinkled and a nurse leaned in to shush them and say, “Visiting hours are over except for family,” she added her fierce look to Mom’s and said, “But we still expect moderation and decorum in here, so I’ll thank you to keep it down!”
CJ nodded. Job hid behind him and Mai Li uncovered her mouth, the grin slowly fading as she leaned back into the pillows, her eyes partly closing. Mom put out a hand to stop CJ when he started for her bedside. “She needs to sleep. One of us will stay awake at all times to let the others get some sleep.” He pointer finger moved to Job and she said, “Call your parents, tell them what’s going on and then tell them I want to talk to them.”
Job’s eyes bulged but he did as he was told and then handed the phone over to Mrs. Hastings. She made shooing motions to chase the boys out and they went into the hallway. CJ led the way to the Family Lounge at the far end of the corridor.
He said, “What’s going on at school?”
“Well, you know we won the Middle School Championship…”
CJ rolled his eyes. “I KNOW all that stuff! What’s going on since I left yesterday?
“Nothing. School’s out in four days. We’re going to Valley Faire on the last day. Mr. Jalfroun is relieved you’re staying in the school district and not going to some smart-ass school…”
CJ’s eyes bulged.
Job said, “I know HOW to cuss – I just choose not to.” CJ nodded as his friend continued and they talked on into the night until both boys dozed off.

“Christopher! Christopher John! Wake up!”
CJ swatted Mom’s hand away then sat bolt upright. “What’s wrong,” he said, rubbing his eyes. They felt like they had dirt in them.
“Nothing. I can’t stay awake anymore and you’ve got to sit with your sister.”
He stood up, nodded and started down the hallway. He looked back to see Mom watching him as he pushed the door open to Mai Li’s room. She waved then disappeared around the corner. CJ tip-toed in and sat down on the chair by the bed, checking the virtual monitor that hung suspended in the air over Mai Li’s bed. Her vital signs were good even though her electroencephalogram was wildly vibrating like her mind was going crazy. As soon as he sat down, he felt sleepy. Suddenly, Mai Li said, “I couldn’t wait much longer for Mom to leave.”
“You have to go home.”
Laying on the bed, Mai Li’s long black hair fanned out under her head, looking like the negative of a halo of light. She smirked and said, “Are you as stupid are you are ugly?”
“Sh! Keep it down. You have to go home and get my last chance.”
“Last chance at what?”
“The last chance I’ll ever have to keep my mind and not lose everything I’ve become.”

No comments: