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.
“What’s at home that you can’t get here?” CJ Hastings asked. He whispered, standing right next to his adopted sister’s hospital bed in Intensive Care
“The cure,” said Mai Li Hastings.
“What kind of cure are you gonna have at home that Dr. Douchebag…”
“My brain is worth about ten thousand of his!” she snarled, her new-old “I’m-smarter-than-anyone-on-the-planet attitude splashing out and all over everything.
CJ – who was only thirteen, after all – snapped back as he hissed, “So who’s gonna do this when I say ‘no’, ‘cause you’re treatin’ me like I was your servant?”
Mai Li leaned forward and grabbed a handful of his T-shirt and yanked him closer to her and said, “I’m gonna haunt you from the grave if you don’t…” She suddenly released him and fall back into the pillows. Her monitors didn’t go into the bells and buzzing and creeling of cardiac arrest, so CJ knew she hadn’t died. But her breathing was heavy when she said, “You know I’ll haunt you, kid, so you better just surrender and go get my magic formula.”
“What kind of magic formula? The same kind that made you smart and that’s taking all the brains back? You think I’m gonna go all the way to the house and then come back here with a drug that’s gonna kill you?” CJ’s voice hadn’t gotten louder, but the pitch had gone up until his voice abruptly cracked into the soprano of a third graders.
Mai Li smiled weakly then said, “You’re so passionate, little idiot brother, you make me laugh.” She paused and lay breathing lightly and said, “It’s my last chance. If it works, I should stabilize at this level. If it doesn’t work, then I just keep on deteriorating until I’m back to my original brain capacity.” She looked straight at him and said, “Either way, I win.”
“How’s dying gonna…”
“I’m not going to die, Chris. I’ll either be your obnoxious older sister with an IQ higher than Stephen Hawking and Madame Curie combined, or I become your dependent, Toasty-O-eating, mentally and physically handicapped, adoring sister again.” She touched his knuckles, which were white on the side rail. “I’d rather be the former, but I can live for a long time with the latter.”
“You remember that?”
“What? You force-feeding me dry, unsweetened cereal? Of course I do.” Her grin and the unexpected look in her eyes made CJ choke up. He nodded and headed for the door. Mai Li said, “Don’t you want to know what to look for?”
Blushing from forehead to T-shirt, he came back to the bed. “What am I looking for?”
“A blue squirt gun.”
“Remember the squirt guns Mom got for your tenth birthday party?”
“Mom saved a couple in your Life Box.”
“My Life Box? When did you go through that?”
“Never mind. I took one of them and created a soup of nanomachines that should stop the present brood in my head that are busy reassembling me to my former splendor. I put them in your squirt gun in the freezer. And just in case anyone was snooping, I filled up the other six she had with various liquids.”
“How am I supposed to know…”
She lifted her the cussing finger of her left hand. Each of her fingernails was painted a different color. The only she lifted was green. He nodded and started for the door again. He stopped, spun around and pointe an accusatory finger at her, saying, “Don’t even think about dying before I get back!”
Mai Li weakly lifted both hands in surrender. They sank back to her sides as her eyes closed and her head rolled to one side. CJ tip-toed out of the room, hesitated next to Job then thought better of it. If this was going to be his last mission for Mai Li, he was going to do it alone. Besides, Job couldn’t ride anywhere NEAR as fast as CJ could. Glancing at Mom who was asleep on a couch, he padded silently to the elevator and headed down.