By Jo Anne Mallinson

I can’t believe I just heard that. Well, truthfully, it was about five minutes ago because I heard it at 3:37 p.m. And, for the sake of being completely accurate, I almost heard and saw it at the same time. But I can’t believe that I saw it, either. So now I am gathering up witnesses for proof–to myself and to the world.

It is Day 1, Wednesday, August 6, 2002. Time: 3:42 p.m. The suburbs of L.A. Tujunga, to be precise. But let’s backtrack six minutes to 3:36 p.m. I am sitting at my computer, in front of the back window, writing my first bestseller. We are in the middle of a heat wave–something that always gives me a somewhat surreal feeling, because I generally get a little dizzy from it around mid-afternoon. On top of the heat, we are having strange tropical humidity, and possible light showers.

3:37 p.m. I glance up and out while still typing. At this exact second, I hear a thud on my roof, and something does a nosedive from it then thumps again onto the patio pavement. Something that is long and almost like an otter, although unlike any otter I’ve ever seen. That is my first thought. It must be the heat, is my second. And the humidity. “But I otter look to see,” I say out loud. And then laugh at my own pun. Because such regressive humor has only reinforced a fantasy that is forming in my mind that I may have just hallucinated, had a stroke, or gone senile early–all of which would shoot down my youth before I can finish the novel. “Tragic, we wanted to know how it all ended,” I imagine that readers everywhere will say when my unfinished book is nevertheless published.

3:38 p.m. I go to run outside. I have to know. Maybe my beloved cat, Punkin, has tripped and fallen off my roof. Or perhaps another cat has just up and died on it from the 104-degree heat. And, if I am seeing things, maybe it isn’t too late to get help, and the world won’t have to suffer the loss of my talent. As I fling the back door open, I decide that a dead cat–if it is not my own–will be the best result of the scenarios I have imagined.

3:39 p.m. I am standing on the patio, and have just discovered that it isn’t Punkin who has taken a plunge from the rooftop. Thank God, he is sitting outside of my door and is now carefully watching a baby dinosaur, which is sitting there, too. Or something that looks like it, anyway. And thank God, I have my first witness. I take a good long breath, and try to relax. Punkin decides that he doesn’t like dinosaurs and comes to my side. Neither do I. It is larger than Punkin. It has teeth. And it is moving toward me, with its tail swishing. Perhaps, I hope, it is only an iguana, and not a dinosaur. But even if it is only iguanas that are raining from the sky, will the world ever be the same?

3:42 p.m. I have a notebook in hand, and have begun my documentation. So far, no more creatures have appeared. The cordless phone is in my hand, although I don’t remember taking it outside with me. I keep the beady-eyed dinosaur-thing in view and phone Shannon next door to come over. I need more credible witnesses than Punkin. She comes. She sees the creature. She screams as she runs to her house, and locks the door behind her. I document my second witness.

3:45 p.m. Punkin follows me to the front of my driveway. I pick him up. I am about to turn to enter Shannon’s yard. I feel that we’re in this together now. But I see my neighbor Sandy from across the street rounding the back of her house and heading over to mine. She is moving like a woman who wants to know the answer to something, but knows she won’t like it when she finds out. I try to fill her in as I drag her by the hand to my patio.

“It couldn’t be–” she starts, but then she sees the creature. She looks dazed and limp. “I need to sit!” she says. I drop Punkin, and hold Sandy’s arm and shoulder up, as I guide her to a chair. She plops into it and breathes a sigh but then jumps up with a gasp five seconds later. “I’m fine,” she says, as she eyes the creature. “I, uh, think I’ll just go home now.” She is gone before I can tell her that I am making her an official witness.

3:49 p.m. I stand, staring at the primordial creature, then at the phone. It rings. Shannon tells me that she has just called her husband, and she is not coming out until he comes home. I document him as a second-hand witness.

3:52 p.m. I put Punkin inside the house and run to tell our other neighbor–who just moved in a week ago–that rather large reptiles may be passing through her yard, either by land or by air. I think it is a kindness to warn her, even though I haven’t had a chance to meet her yet. But this encounter is going to discourage future contact with her, as people are now coming from the next block because of her screams. Perhaps they will testify. At least to the screams. Because when I take them behind my house, the creature has disappeared.

4:03 p.m. I sit on the patio. Alone. The air is still, hot, and moist. I wait. And hope it doesn’t start to rain iguanas.

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