Fitzroy was surprised to be woken from his mid-afternoon nap by something solid bumping into his leg. Unbending and glaring sleepily at the offending object, he discovered a small red round floating thing he had never seen before. Fitzroy inspected the object from all sides, and determined that he had no idea what it was, but he liked it. So he grabbed it and tucked it underneath a submerged log where the others wouldn't look. Then, satisfied, he returned to his nap.
Until a few minutes later when something else hit him. Discovering another of the strange objects, this time in blue, he decided to investigate. He followed the current upstream around the corner, and found a purple one. A little further still and a green one. At last, he discovered a half-submerged box very near to the shore. It had broken open, and occasional wavelets liberated one of the colorful objects within.
Bemused, Fitzroy collected the ones floating around his ankles and tucked them into his hiding spot, before returning for another batch. When he arrived, however, he quickly spotted two humans near the edge of the water. They were carrying many boxes like the one he had found, and just then Fitzroy realized that the entire beach was covered with them! He hadn't noticed before because of his preoccupation with the little colored objects, but there had to be a whole flock's worth of boxes strewn across the beach.
"I've got -9956 and -7783 here!" one of the humans called out.
Another human, who had a small piece of bark in his wings, nodded. The third human picked up another box, and then discovered Fitzroy's half-opened one. "Damn!" he yelled. "Looks like we lost half a box of yoyos!"
"Great!" the second one called back sarcastically. "Just give me the number."
"-8431," the third human complied and then scooped up the box. Fitzroy was a little sad to see the rest of the – what were they? Yoyos? - go, but then the first human did something fantastic! He grabbed one of the yoyos and pulled a tiny string from within it. Then he looped it around one of his feathers and began to spin it up and down.
Of course! Fitzroy realized. It was a game!
He was now extremely excited to return to his stash and discover this game for himself, but he had to wait until the humans were further away, lest they find his hiding spot. As they wandered down the beach, collecting the rest of the boxes, Fitzroy slowly edged around the curve in the coastline. As soon as he could no longer see the humans, he scuttled back to his secret log. He pulled out the first yoyo - the red one - and tried to manipulate it the way the human had.
It took him a few hours of practice, but soon he was quite adept at the game. He had even discovered a few ways to move it that he hadn't seen the humans play! This was truly a wonderful day!
_ _ _@
Fitzroy continued to practice with his yoyo game in secret, but three days later, his entertaining pastime came to an end with the abrupt beginning of mating season. As the females began to fluff their feathers out and make coy noises towards the group of young males, Fitzroy realized that he was out of time. Tomorrow would begin the synchronized events, showing off his ability to blend into a flock and thus survive predation. It wouldn't matter, Fitzroy knew, because all of the females in their age thought he was a bit dorky. But the other males insisted that he participate, and he hadn't been able to stand up to their bullying last season either.
The next morning, the other males were awake far earlier than usual, hoping to impress the females with their ability to… catch worms or something. Honestly Fitzroy had never really understood these mating rules that seemed to come so easily to the others.
They began their coordinated movements, performing to a discreet but appreciative audience in the females. Fitzroy woke more slowly, and decided to see how long he could stay out of the acrobatic show. He had kept his favorite yoyo with him last night, instead of tucking it away, and he harbored a slight hope that one of the females might find it amusing or charming, and thus chose to mate with him. It was a slim hope, but it was better than nothing.
Alas, the other males found him quickly, and they forced him into line. They could not force him to like it, however, and he attempted a little rebellion among the ranks. He was caught again, of course, but he thought he saw one of the chicks laugh into her wing.
Or maybe she was just coughing on a stubborn piece of lake weed. Well maybe his star form would impress her. It wasn't one he had been able to practice on the others, but in theory it should work.
It did, and when he surfaced he definitely saw more movement among the females. When they stole his favorite red yoyo, he threw caution to the wind. Deciding to go all out and risk the eternal wrath of his peers, Fitzroy grabbed the rest of his yoyos. If he was going down this mating season, he was going down in a blaze of glory!