How My Father Got His Robotic Hand (Jacqui Dent)

Posted on September 18, 2012 by in Lies To Live By

It was in the summer of 1995 and my father was working in a top-secret IBM water lab off the coast of Wollongong. Thanks to classic films like Deep Blue Sea, we now know that sharks are fishy geniuses, can cure Alzheimer’s Disease and take Samuel L Jackson unawares. In the 1990s IBM was conducting research into whether or not it was possible to power computers with the super intelligent brain of a shark.

Due to his confidentiality agreement my father was never able to disclose to me the success or failure of this research. However, I grew up using IBM computers and I can report that they are suspiciously water resistant. And they have regrowable teeth.

My father’s job in the lab was to teach the sharks mathematical equations while their brains were hooked up to the computers. He was in charge of three nurse sharks: C1, C2 and C3. Each day my father would join the sharks in their tank and teach them Pythagorus’ theorem on a blackboard using waterproof chalk. My father is a strong believer in holistic teaching and coloured his lessons with interesting facts about the life and times of the ancient Greek mathematician. As a consequence, and because sharks are naturally inclined towards the humanities over the sciences, the sessions quickly degenerated into lengthy examinations of ancient culture. C1, C2 and C3 each went on to contribute several ground-breaking papers to historical journals (although scholars agree that the work of C3 on Cretan pottery in the 4th century BC is somewhat derivative). However, their ability to power computers was found to be lacking. My father was removed from the project.

Dad went back to his job tenderising floppy discs in the basement at HQ. It wasn’t until several years later that he visited the facility again. It had been a hard few years for the shark lab. After a series of disagreements over the validity of Cantor’s theory of infinite sets, the shark T9 had turned against his trainer and viciously bitten off his hand. The trainer, Albrecht, had retaliated by ripping into T9’s fin with his teeth. Albrecht succeeded in biting off and digesting a large portion of T9’s pectoral fin before the other trainers managed to pull him off. He later died of an allergic reaction to irony.

Whilst there had been no further violence since the T9 incident the sharks in the facility had become restless and uncooperative. The only sharks that seemed unaffected by the moody outbreak were C1, C2 and C3. Thus, in a desperate act to save billions of dollars of research, facility management made the decision to introduce a history curriculum into the training program. They hoped this might calm the shark population.

The program was first to be trialled upon the vicious and now one-finned T9. Although first instinct had been to put T9 down after the attack, it was generally agreed that this would only enrage the other sharks. And, god damn it, he was right about Cantor’s theory.

The first thing my father noticed about T9 as he entered the tank was that the shark bore a striking resemblance to Christopher Walken. He had tiny eyes, a giant forehead and a wristwatch stuck up its arse. The watch, my father had been informed, had been Albrecht’s and no one had been able to get close enough to the shark to dislodge it. It would be my father’s task to try.