“Surely with everything going on these days,” I say, “people will understand that it’s the removal of a disadvantage rather than the placement of an advantage.”
“No, they won’t,” Kevin says. He stretches, grabs a water from the side table. “People don’t want the removal of disadvantages for criminals. That might be the lousiest possible way of phrasing it.”
“Gee, thanks,” I say.
“He’s right,” Nan says. She gets up and walks the room, so I sit down. “We must refrain from words like advantage and disadvantage. It makes it seem like we want to give criminals prizes or something.”
“So, what then?”
Birch returns, his countenance much lighter than I expect. “He’s pleased with our thought processes and has supreme confidence we’ll nail it down by tonight.”
The room fills with eye rolls and groans. “Why are you so happy about that?” I ask.
“Because he gave us until tonight instead of, say, an hour.”
“Small favors,” Nan murmurs.
Birch claps his hands. “I ordered dinner to arrive in two hours, so what have you got for me?”
To his credit, Birch listens without interruption as we three break down the thoughts we’ve shared int his absence.
“We don’t have to figure it all out, you know,” Birch says, leaning forward. “The bill could elegantly state a premise and then appoint the DOJ to regulate it.”
“What if they regulate it wrong? Worse than it is now?” I say.
“One thing I’ve learned: you can’t cover all the bases in perpetuity. You pass a passable bill not a convoluted or morally ambiguous bill. The more we try to control every outcome, the harder it becomes to pass anything.” Birch grabs a doughnut, takes a bite and throws the rest in the garbage. “We’ll work with flexible concepts and let it play.”
Nan and I exchange a look of pessimism.
“The question becomes, how do we avoid the whole advantage/disadvantage issue? Because the speeches will need to match the language and those words are like black plague.” Birch appears far more comfortable than I feel. We are still a long way from having the proper language.
“So, what? We retract the introduced bill and introduce a new one?” I ask.
“Pretty much,” Birch says. “The mechanics aren’t a big deal as long as we get the language down in time, so pretty much, today.”
We return to work, each writing a new subsection to be added to the introduced bill. Nan makes loud, angry marks on her paper over and again. Kevin jots a few words, gets up, tears paper off, makes a basket in the garbage can, jots a few more words. He’s on a loop. I sketch. Shapes without recognizable form. Shades of thoughts. The words won’t come.
“Hey, I’m gonna take a break,” I say, looking to Birch for permission. He doesn’t look up but nods his head and bites his pen.
I need air, so I walk toward the steps. Victoriana ambushes me, drags me into a room.