May 27, 2010


Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON: the story has stayed with me for decades, a 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 to the bottom.

Things returned to normal.

Sort of.

They were watching TV while Mai Li was working on the old desktop computer, which was somehow working now. And her cell phone. And Mom’s smart phone. And the laptop – which was somehow fixed now. She was typing on an old-fashioned electronic typewriter she’d dragged down from he garage rafters.

“She must have fixed it,” CJ said as he walked back to down with Mom, shaking his head.

“How’d she learn…” Mom began then stopped.

The landline phone rang. Mom picked it, listened then glanced down at CJ. He sank down into the couch as far as he could go. Mom said, “He’s here. The three day suspension was over Monday and I haven’t gotten any calls from anyone since then.” She paused, listening. “I don’t see how anything has changed. He still can hardly read. Being in the final rounds will only…” In the office, Mai Li had stopped typing and was standing in the doorway, looking intently at CJ.

“Wait,” she said. Three strides and she’d crossed the room. She knelt down and taking his face in both hands, looked at CJ, staring intently. Mom didn’t speak. All CJ did was blink. After another moment, she said, “You’re not stupid. Just slow.”

“Thanks,” CJ said through squished face.

That surprised a grin from her. She was serious a nano later. She released him and stood up, saying, “I can teach you to read in about an hour.”

“What?” Mom and CJ said at the same time.

Mai Li sniffed. “I’ve been doing a little reading since I got back. There’s an abundance of research on instructional strategies and methodologies involving the teaching of reading. I’ve devised a synthesis of multiple methodologies and I propose to teach you how to read flawlessly in less than 24 hours.”


She shook her head. “Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about stupidity.” She disappeared to the desk, calling, “If you want to learn how to read fast, come in.”

CJ looked at Mom, then stood up and sprinted into the room. He heard Mom say to Mr. Bates, “Let me get back to you for sure, but I think…maybe he can.” Then Mai Li looked at him and said, “Neural plasticity was only the beginning.”


She cut him off, “According to the theory of neuroplasticity; thinking, learning, and acting actually change both the brain's anatomy and functional organization from top to bottom. Neuroscientists are presently engaged in a reconciliation of critical period studies demonstrating the immutability of the brain after development with the new findings on neuroplasticity. That research has revealed the mutability of both structural and functional aspects. Michael Merzenich developed a series of ‘plasticity-based computer programs in the early Twenty-teens. I’ve made substantial changes in his programming.” She smiled.

While it was still a smile, it wasn’t related in any way to her old smile – the one she used when it was gap-toothed and drooly-mouthed and only for him. This smile? Not even close to what he remembered was normal. This smile was related more to the one you’d see on a Great White shark moving in on a kill…


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