first published in 404 Ink Issue 1
Image Copyright: Graeme Pow
Not Having a Giraffe
I walked past them every day, making sure that I walk between mother and calf, stare up at them and give them voices, usually some sort of question that the wee one asks the big one. Sometimes it’s about the plains, or the lions, other times about the trees or the fighting with necks. But it’s an inquisitive wee dude, at least, so it seems in my mind.
They’ve taken on a life of their own in my head though, I often wonder what they think of the latest shite blockbuster on at the tragically misnamed Omni Centre, or the streams of idiots coming out of John Lewis clutching their always knowingly oversold pish. I feel sorry about the fact that they can never turn their heads and look down Leith Walk to the sea. It’s a wee shame, so it is.
So I decided that I needed to do something about it, animal liberation ken? I mean, I do know that they aren’t really animals, just sculptures, but it’s just the way that the wee one looks at the big one. Yearning like. Inquisitive. It’s no fair that they should just be stuck there like that. It’s no.
So I came up with a plan. Took ages likes, a real labour of love. But the things you’ll do, when you know that the right thing needs to be done, eh? I photographed them from loads of angles, figured out their heights and estimated their weights.
I spent hours looking at the work of a company called Boston Dynamics. That and reading up on welding and things like mechanical degrees of freedom. I watched video of giraffes on youtube, pressing pause-play-pause-play over and over to try and figure them out.
I had to do it quickly, all in a couple of hours at the most. I bought hi-viz clothes and a workie type wind shield, and cordoned off the areas around the giraffes’ legs, ready to give the excuse banksy suggested, that is, if anyone asked what I was doing then to simply complain about working conditions.
It was 2am on a clear Tuesday night in September. I told myself that I probably had until 5. I got to work, setting up scaffold around them, making sure they were held in place before I chopped off their legs below the knees. I inserted a couple of car batteries into their hollow bodies to power the servos that were going to drive the hinges that I was installing between their femurs and tibias.
They needed a wee splint down their legs with a channel cut out, in order to maintain vertical motion, but I knew it was a small price to pay for freedom. I’m sure the wee one even winked at me, but it had been a long few days not sleeping much. The modafinil had kept me pepped. Perhaps too much, but I’d be able to sleep easy once more once my task was complete.
I managed to lever them out of the concrete, it felt like the mother had even lifted her leg for me to help. I supplied them with flat shoes to help their balance, Leith Walk is a steep street, they had a mile of running before they would reach the shore. I attached an ardunio microcontroller that would tell the servos when to move what leg at which time. I shuffled them around to face North. We were ready.
They sprung into life the second I attached the final cable and horsed it down the road. The sun was just rising, and a few hardy souls were making the trip into work, probably unsure if they were still dreaming. I tore after them, barely able to keep up, panting, exhausted but deliriously overjoyed at the spark of life and happiness I had given to these caged beasts.
Suddenly tragedy struck near Albert St; the mother careered into the number 22, toppling both bus and beast. I slowed down for a second, a moment of respect for the fallen, before racing after the wee guy. It was all about him. I could hear what I imagined was the mother’s roar behind me, encouraging him onwards.
We were approaching the bottom of Leith Walk and I was breathing oot ma arse, when I saw a police car turn the corner from Constitution St. The wee guy had reared up on his hind legs, from clipping a bump in the road. He came crashing down right into the windscreen of the police car. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. He never made it. I had to go; I had to get out of here. No one would understand that what I had done was an act of liberation, they’d just call it criminal damage or some such. Perhaps even culpable homicide. I wasn’t sticking around to find out. I jumped on the number 35 that took me all the way to the airport. I thought South Africa at first, but then Zimbabwe probably don’t have an extradition treaty with the UK.
I bet I can free some more giraffes there too.