The Traveling Assembly of Intergalactic Iguanas

Submitted into Contest #84 in response to: Write a story that spans exactly a year and takes place in a single room.... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction Friendship Contemporary

Oliver loved three things in the world: iguanas, marine biology, and Rosemary. 

The issue is that these things did not always seem to like each other, as his job hours conflicted with his time with Mary and his iguanas liked neither his job nor Mary, but you must take into account that iguanas are of the type to like only three things as well: heat, food, and instinct, so in this way, they might be comparable to Oliver. 

Rosemary was of the type to love many things, but not all the time and never at the same time. Her on-off relationship with Oliver was proof of this: she loved him, but not all the time, and never at the same time as she was immersed or obsessed with some other species of distraction. She was convinced that if she continued to adopt new hobbies, new things that could be interpreted as skill but served for nothing but distraction, then she might find her ‘Purpose’ or her ‘Passion’. This behavior might have had to do with influence from her job, where she was always on to the next trend, out with the old.

Like most couples, these two had their differences and their disagreements, but unlike most couples, a prime subject for argument was Oliver’s lot of lizards. 

His aforementioned obsession with iguanas, as well as his own pets (Teddy, Marigold, Igloo, Jabberwock, and Croco) made it very hard for Rosemary to stand him. At first, when they began dating, she thought it was a charming, cute little quirk, one she could brag to her friends about, all, “Oh, my boyfriend, Oliver? Yes, he’s so cute! Very unique too, he’s smart, driven and has a thing for marine biology, save the turtles and all that, and, bet you’ve never heard this one before, he loves iguanas. He’s got like five, with sweet names like Croco and Marigold!”. Now she complains about his companions as much as she complains about her boss. 

Oliver was sweet, intelligent, fanatical, unimaginative, and hardworking.

Rosemary was beautiful, clever, compulsive, gregarious, and excessive. 

It is a wonder that their son, Sullivan, grew up to be a perfect blend of their best qualities. 

Born on February 2nd, 2020, Sullivan proved too much for either of his parents to handle, despite being an arguably undemanding baby. His father had been an only child, whose only experience with not-fully developed beings came from middle school memories and animals. His mother was of the type to swaddle him in attention or oppose to giving him the time of day, depending on her mood. 

And then there’s the room. 

The room where it happened.

The room of Sullivan’s childhood, where he did all of his babying and whining and sleeping and pooping. The nursery that converted into a double-office during the quarantine. The room used to be a storage room, which is why it was so large compared to the other rooms in the apartment, and they used to not even have access to it until the landlady decided it was more useful to the sweet, bald baby boy she secretly desired to be a grandmother figure to. 

Oliver had little need for more than his laptop, a notepad, and a book on occasion, so he had a small desk space in the corner with a comfortable swivel chair. Rosemary was used to access to the giant glass table in the meeting room at her office building, where all the designers brainstormed and vomited ideas and photographs and styles together. Working from home proved to be a challenge for someone used to being ‘creatively unrestricted’, so she moved the kitchen’s roundtable into the nursery, and ever since it had ceased to reveal a centimetre of its former brown wood surface. Some rogue nightstand no one could remember the origin of was next to the rectangular, prison-bar style crib, with a plastic blanket for a changing station, wipes, diapers, forgotten spoons, and along the wall was a collection of baby food like rations (Rosemary was past the phase where she had decided to make all of his food organically in a blender). Misfit toys from every place no one could remember, whether it be parents, neighbors, coworkers, or Goodwill, lay never still and never quiet (they tended to shift, so those loud toys with the buttons or keys were bombs waiting to go off and scare the crap out of not just the baby) in a cross-stitched wood bin underneath the nightstand. Sullivan didn’t seem to have inherited his mother’s discontentment or ADD, but even still, he grew tired of particular toys eventually and his parents didn't know what to do with them. 

This is the room where a newborn baby slept his first night.

This is the room where his father held a child for the first time.

The room where his mother found joy in something, someone, and it was not entirely fleeting or temporary.

The room where Sullivan sat, mind blank and oblivious, as his parents argued, over the iguanas, over taxes, over each other, and eventually over the one thing that could tear them apart or seam them back together indefinitely: Covid-19.

The room no longer held the soothing confabulation of Rosemary’s friends, cooing over his first hairs, such a light blonde they claimed he was kissed by the sun, and him glowing with the attention as they held swabs of cloth up to his skin, in an effort to find 'his colour’.

The room no longer simmered with the polite, cromulent conversation of Oliver’s marine biologist associates wafting through the air, trying to teach Sullivan the difference between turtles and tortoises. 

Now the room was still. Oliver had retreated further into his shell, quiet and absorbed in his work, the distraction drowning him, the distance straining his son. Rosemary was the sort of sensitive person who could be shockingly insensitive, and who does not do well with sudden changes that are out of her control. 

It was the room where they waited and watched and worried over news on Oliver’s laptop. 

The room where Rosemary got a phone call: her mother was ill.

The room where Oliver got a phone call, two months later: his father had died.

The room of updates, FaceTime, family, work, panic, and proximity. 

And in that room, on July 9th, 2020, an unsuspected sweven gave birth to an idea.


Oliver had a way with science, biology, and fact. He also had a thing for iguanas.

Rosemary had a way with visuals, chaos, organization. She also had a thing for watercolours (as of last Tuesday).

Jordan, their neighbor in room 204, was a director of animation for Cartoon Saloon. 

Their landlady, Thea, was a retired Norwegian author with an amazing imagination.

The depressed tenant down the hall, James, was the layed-off editor of some great books.

And if Oliver remembered correctly (he didn’t always, but Rosemary knew everybody so he just needed to ask her), there were several other individuals in their complex with skills whether professional or hobby-oriented that would benefit greatly if put together on a team for a little side-project, a little, happy distraction.

Together, they would create the best children's book the world has ever seen. 


* * * * *

Jan Brett would be proud: the art was unbelievable, and so aesthetically pleasing, with the co-ownership of a fashion designer with an art degree, an animator, the animator’s girlfriend who just had great style and advice (yes, those people do exist), a non-amateur doodler, a painter, a webcomic-machine of a teenager, and the cousin of Laurent Gapaillard.

C.S. Lewis would feel bested: the story and world-building were incredible, the characters, plot, and words sewn together in a marriage so happy it could only be found in a book, all thanks to a few scientists from varying fields, a pro organizer of everyone and everything but her own life, an ex-editor who loved his cats as much as Oliver loved his lizards, an author whose career ended with the tragic death of her family in a cabin gas leak, an English professor who did it because his wife made him (“Think of the grandkids.”), and the fifteen-year-old in flat 8 who had a way with words. 

There was also a mathematician who helped by leaving cookies outside the door on occasion, and the five iguanas who awakened the idea in the first place.

Behind the scenes, there was the bore of brainstorming, arguing, FaceTime, laughing, emails, surprises, and tragedies, some of which wanted to be forgotten the moment they happened and some of which will last a lifetime. 

In an apartment building during a pandemic, everyone helped in their own way to aid the creation of a masterpiece. A pinch of time, a grand idea, hours of work, a plate of cookies. All assisted where they could, due to reasons of their own.

And Sullivan will read the book hundreds of times over and never grow bored. He will read it to his children and say he was in that room, when it was made, in his crib in a nursery that used to be a storage room, while two people sat at their small desk or kitchen table communicating with their own imagination or through a screen to an army of people who wanted their days to be a little brighter. 

Less than seven months after the epiphany and inspiration for the children’s book, “The Traveling Assembly of Intergalactic Iguanas”, it was published on February 2nd, 2021. The author’s name was long and beautiful and weird and unique, because it contained the first letter of everyone’s name who had helped with the project. Amidst a catastrophic virus came this drop of sunlight, and the media picked it up and nurtured it until the star was unavoidable. Millions of copies sold. Read by not just children, but adolescents and adults around the world, in 70 languages and counting. Book one in a series of many, it stunned, smoldered, shone, elated, and inspired the world.

Some words, colours, art, on pieces of paper. 

A children's book with a funny title.

A group of people who had never liked each other very much, but came together to weave words and worlds and became true friends.

An idea, unsearched and unscathed, blooming in the mind of a marine biologist who had never drawn or written for pleasure in his life. 

A baby, born on February 2nd, in the year of Covid-19.

A woman, clever and excessive and attention-deficit.

A room, the room where ‘It’ happened. 

A room where there had been three things in the world, three people distant and connected, now overflowed with memories and pride.

A room, in one year, transformed in small, invisible ways the people who had used it until they were all unrecognizable.

Ideas, lizards, people, sickness, sentences, art, screens, smiles.

Humans came together to create a Book, one that brightened their lives and the life of everyone who ever read or will read it. 

And Rosemary never complained about the iguanas again, how about that?


March 07, 2021 16:20

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4 comments

Sjan Evardsson
14:44 Mar 18, 2021

Well-drawn characters, and their less-than-perfect relationship. Now I want to read the book! Stay safe and keep writing!

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Diana Quill
20:43 Mar 18, 2021

Thank you, and the same to you!

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Diana Quill
16:30 Mar 07, 2021

Also, points to anyone who noticed some of the characters mentioned in here are from some of my other stories. Let me know which one\-s you found! :D

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Diana Quill
16:22 Mar 07, 2021

Hello! Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you liked it. Please comment to let me know what you think! I'm open to constructive criticism :) Also, let me know if you got the Hamilton reference.

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