Dawn breaks and I watch from my commute. My suit is on point and my hair is mercifully tamed.
I feel an unseemly pride in my work. My web of falsity. It branches inexorably and I don’t know if I could unweave it if I tried. Most of those around me are young, mid-twenties, and ambitious by default. They have tumblers of coffee rather than expensive recycled hipster cups, which I suspect are made from 20% actual hipsters.
People type steadily on their phones. Swipe. Type. Swipe. Type. I wonder if any of them are writing the next great American novel. That leads me on a dark path backward to my own novel. My editor. My words. I used to think they mattered, my words. Now maybe they will. I smile to myself.
Birch spends nearly an hour instructing me on the ninety seconds I’ll be present when Senator X introduces the bill. Being there as the Senator placed my pages on the clerk’s desk might best be described as heady. I felt powerful. I felt like a necessary cog in the wheel of the republic. And then it was over.
Though Senator X *did* bother to send me a politician’s thumbs-up to dismiss me.
Nan, because she’s a doll and easily the nicest person I know, asked me to tell her in minute detail every second of the experience.
It’s two full days before the calls begin. The Senator’s office is always rife with phone calls from constituents who have been convinced their communication will make all the difference. Today is different from the offing. Every public phone number has a full voicemail box. And the calls continue.
“Whoa,” says Kevin. “Got my first death threat.”
“What?!” Nan pokes her head out of her cube. “What did you say? What are we supposed to say? That was not in my training.”
Unnerved, Nan runs at the mouth. She chatters about protocols and whether security should be called. In another five minutes, the phones ring but they go unanswered.
Rounding the corner, Birch positively beams. “We did it, folks! We did it.” His satisfaction works like contagion. Dawning realization settles on the room. This is the bill. This – the calls, the vitriol, the exultation – this is Jacob’s bill.
I want to get word to everyone at home, but I know there’s no safe way to do so. I contemplate calling my home number, but even that poses risks. Besides, Victoriana will handle it.
Word spreads loudly and hurriedly: turn on the news. Screens go to multiple channels. A woman stands at a lectern, speaks passionately. A red bar fades in left to right. White letters read: Evelyn Lancaster, Mother of Viral Victim.
My head seems to float above my neck. Disoriented, I collapse into my seat. Blood pounds through my ears, heightening everything but sound. And I need to know what she’s saying. What is she saying?