Some of the reapportionment plans appear to move mountains. Others ignore deep-bedded political streams.
And almost all of the crayon-colored schemes to cut Virginia into new political districts faithful to current census figures, put Eastern Shore Del. Robert S. Bloxom out to sea.
"The boys in the hills seem to think I can walk on water," said Bloxom, a junior Republican whose political career is threatened by plans to combine the isolated peninsula he now represents with another chunk of territory 20 miles across the Cheasapeake Bay. "I own a canoe, but I wouldn't try and cross the bay in that."
Bloxom and two other Republicans from Virginia's Northern Neck are the most obvious victims of a reapportioning plan drawn up by Democrats from the southwest part of the state and supported by Northern Virginia's delegation. Bloxom, who owns an auto parts store on the rural Eastern Shore, Del. Calvin Sanford, a grocery store owner from the Northern Neck, and Del. Harvey Morgan, a pharmacist from an area known as the Middle Peninsula, concede that in a political pinch, they make attractive sacrifices.
All three represent rural, geographically isolated areas -- regions that must lose representation as a result of the 1980 Census. Morgan is a lowly freshman. Bloxom is serving only his sophomore term and Sanford, despite eight years in the General Assembly, has few influential allies to protect him during the turf wars that occur every decade.
It is also no coincidence, they say, that all three Republicans in a General Assembly dominated by Democrats.
"The southwest plan is illogical and an affront to the citizens I represent," says Bloxom, a tall, thin delegate who would need only a beard to play Abraham Lincoln. "But I guess you can't expect fair treatment when so much is at stake."
No one came to the General Assembly's special session this week expecting anything but a battle that would produce a set of clear winners and losers. But as the battle lines have been drawn, few of the 100 House members have been as far from the battlefield as have Morgan, Bloxom and Sanford.
While others have been attempting to form alliances, the three Republicans spent one entire afternoon looking for one another and for a map that had disappeared from a conference room. Their confusion was exacerbated by their own admissions of ignorance about what the various proposals would do to them.;
"I can't even tell where the lines are drawn," said Bloxom, looking perplexedly at one of the plans.
Excluded from the closed-door trading where the real work of this session is taking place, Bloxom and his two colleagues have spent much of the week commiserating with one another.
"By the most direct route, ti would take me five hours to drive around for a 15-minute talk to a high school class," said Bloxom of one plan that would expand his district across the bay.
"When they get through with you, the only constituents you're gonna have is the Duponts in Delaware," said one delegate to Bloxom. Another delegate, Democrat James Davis of Franklin County, greeted Blosom, Sanford and Morgan in a cafeteria with the question: "Are you all feeling the rope around your neck?" Davis himself was targeted for political extinction under an earlier plan.
On Thursday, at a meeting of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, which is drafting a reapportionment plan, Bloxom, Sanford and Morgan finally got a chance to voice their concerns. Morgan presented a counterproposal, which was received by the committee with undiguised disinterest.
One committee member suggested to Bloxom and Sanford that they chip in to buy a boat. Committee chairman Hardaway Marks (D-Hopewell) chose the occasion to deliver a parable about a fisherman approaching a perch with a knife.
"Hold still, I'm not gonna hurt you," said Marks, playing the fisherman's part. "I'm just gonna cut your guts out."
While the Democrats offer some sympathy for the three Republicans, they say it's up to the Republicans to protect themselves. "I don't think anybody's sitting on their hands," says De. Warren Stambaugh (D-Arlington) who has been one of the major players here this week.
As a result of an alliance Stambaugh helped forge with Southwest Virginia representatives, Fairfax County appears certain to get the two extra House seats that legislators say its population figures justify. While other delegates race through hallways here looking for friends, the Northern Virginia delegates sit in self-satisfied contemplation of their own strength.
"Both sides need us," said Del. Martin Perper (R-Fairfax). "We're just going to sit in the damn middle and watch."
Bloxom and his colleagues are watching, too, but their perspective is fatalistic. "They started drawing up the plan from the southwest so the dominoes fall in this direction," said Bloxom. "By the time they get over to the eastern end where we are, there's nowhere else for them to fall."