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August 9, 2012
THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MAI LI HASTINGS 40
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 five pages back until you get to the bottom.
It was pitch dark outside and no one really paid much attention to him. The security guard at the hospital entrance looked up. CJ said, “I’m with my sister in 1311. It’s a private room. My mom and my best friend are sleeping. I just need to get outside to breathe.”
The lady studied him for a moment then asked, “What’s your name, kid?”
“CJ – uh, Christopher Hastings. My mom is Jessica Hastings.”
She logged him into her computer then nodded, “OK. Just make sure you check back in when you’re done.”
He nodded and walked outside. Once he was clear of the windows, he started running, screeching to a halt a second later. Job had hidden the bikes! He turned in a full circle but didn’t see them. “Come on CJ, think! Job’s your best friend – where would you hide the bikes if you were him?”
Not directly in front of the hospital, that was for sure. He ran along the sidewalk between the street and the building, past the EMERGENCY entrance and stopped in front of the brilliantly lit main doors. Purple flowering bushes, beds of red and yellow blooms and green hedges so well-trimmed the edges were sharp enough to cut skin decorated the mall. In the center a huge sign lit from within and from below announced the hospital’s name. The base was wrapped more hedges trimmed to look like steps leading from the ground up.
CJ grinned and scampered forward, falling down and crab-walking on all fours, ducking farther under the bush. He found the bikes and tugged his out, leaped on it and headed home. He and Job had ridden to the theater nearby and after planning the trip extensively with CJ’s mom and Job’s parents, they’d allowed the boys to go during spring break. He knew the way home by heart.
It would take him close to half an hour and it was late. He’d have to watch out for cops patrolling for curfew breakers. He pedaled as fast as he could, keeping an eye on the road and the shadows. By the time he reached the house, he was panting and had a stitch in his right side. He fumbled for the hidden key taped to the underside of the lawn light in the back yard then went into the house, ransacked his Life Box and found the squirt guns. All of them were full – of something. He carried the whole thing into his mom’s bathroom ‘cause it didn’t have a window, and turned on the light.
There was only one green squirt gun which he shoved into his pocket. He turned off the light after dumping the others in the sink. He stopped, reached back and grabbed three more, stuffing one in each pocket then headed back out to his bike, slipping the key in his pocket. He could put it back later.
The return trip was worse until the end because he was tired and part of it was uphill. But once he reached the little valley that held the hospital, the main road and four malls, he coasted most of the way back.
He stashed his bike again and ran back into the hospital, waving at the guard. She waved back. He didn’t pay any attention to the elevators and started up the stairs. He’d already biked six miles; his chest was heaving. He was sure that if he were an old man, he’d be having a heart attack right now!
A giant number thirteen appeared on the steps in front of him and the same number was painted in black on the door. He threw the door open.
Dr. Douchebag was standing two steps away. He held out his hand and said, “Give me the squirt gun, boy.”