Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


During the summer of 2003, I worked as a painter at my college's housing office. To help pass the time, the other student workers and I began constructing creatures out of the masking tape we used to keep paint off of the windows and electrical fixtures.

After trimming a room, we had to pull down a massive, sticky mess of wet tape and roll it into a ball so that we wouldn't get paint all over the carpets and furniture. What began as a contest to see which of us could create the largest ball of paint-covered tape evolved into something much more elaborate: one of our co-workers, a tiny girl from Northern England who played on our school's basketball team along with her twin sister, transformed her ball of tape into a squirrel. By the end of the summer, our paint cart contained a veritable menagerie of tape creatures: a snake, a hammerhead shark (pictured above), a pterodactyl, a turtle, and, of course, the squirrel.

My creation, the tape shark, traveled with me to my grandmother's house, where it lived behind her wet bar for a few months, and then to my parents' house, where my brother looked after it until earlier this year.

Even though the shark is probably a health hazard and terrifies our cat, I feel a strange affection for it. Painting wasn't the worst job I ever held, but the novelty of watching each wall turn a different shade of beige wore off pretty quickly, as did my interest in the intricacies of fellow workers' sex lives. I needed our sticky menagerie. Whenever I look at my creature, I'm reminded that I need the odd tape shark in my life, the break from whatever routine I've fallen into. Maybe it's my restless nature or my desire for variety, but without it, even the most gratifying job can become as dull as watching paint dry.

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