As they headed out of Bach, Laurie couldn’t help but tease Xor a little. “Steganosauruses don’t exist, huh?”
“That lady doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Her place had some really good bugs, though.”
“Maybe she’s right.”
“She says they don’t exist because she’s never seen one. But that proves my point. Steganosauruses are so good at hiding that people think they are imaginary.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Xor.”
“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
Squawk! Laurie felt something brush her shoulder. Before she knew it a fat bird was flying away with Xor in its talons.
“Hey!” She ran after as it slowly flew to a nearby branch. The bird was so fat it was almost spherical, the size and shape of a coconut. There were two more just like it in the tree.
She jumped at the bird holding Xor, but it tossed the lizard to another bird who caught him in its beak. She jumped at that one but Xor was thrown to another.
The birds enjoyed playing keep-away. When their mouths weren’t full of lizard they hopped up and down and sang a silly rhyme:
“Faster and faster—”
“—too fast to follow—”
“—Round Robins throw faster—”
“—than an unladen swallow!”
“Give him back!” Laurie shouted. “He’s my friend!” The Round Robins only cackled and mocked her.
“Give him back!”
“Give him back!”
“We think he will make—”
“—an afternoon snack!”
“Help!” Xor squeaked in terror. “They want to eat me!”
“Thought he was hiding—”
“—but bird eyes can see—”
“—an evenly dividing—”
“—meal for three!”
“No!” Laurie picked up a stone and threw it at the nearest Round Robin. To her utter surprise it didn’t fly away. The fat nasty thing caught the stone.
“Hardly a treasure.”
“We’ll happily juggle it—”
“—for your pleasure!”
They played catch with the stone and Xor. She threw another and another, and the birds caught them too. Now the Round Robins were juggling three stones plus Xor. This wasn’t going anywhere. Laurie paused, thinking, another stone in her hand.
“Gave up so soon?”
“We love to play ball!”
“Throw us more toys—”
“—and we’ll catch them all!”
Instead of throwing the stone she scooped up a large handful and started tossing them in nice easy lobs, one by one. The Robins caught each one and juggled it. If they hadn’t been trying to eat her friend, Laurie would have been impressed.
“What are you doing? Save me!” Xor said.
Soon the three Robins were having trouble keeping them all in the air. Laurie threw the stones harder and faster, trying to put them off balance. They sang for reinforcements.
“More wings, my brothers!”
“More beaks and more talons!”
“We need more Round Robins—”
“—to evenly balance!”
Five more of the creatures flapped and flopped in to join the party of their murderous kin. They evened out the load of stones and mocked her even louder.
“You can’t beat us that way!”
“We’ll have our meal!”
“Each one will eat less—”
“—but a deal’s a deal!”
Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five stones now. They could catch whatever she threw at them. A dozen more of the creatures were waiting to join in. How could she get Xor away from them?
“Clever Round Robins,”
“too many to beat!”
“You can’t stop the Robins—”
“—when there’s dinner to eat!”
It was hard to concentrate with the birds singing and Xor screaming, but Laurie waited again, trying to see a pattern. A Round Robin can catch anything...
“Round he goes!”
“Where will he stop?”
“Stones all a-juggle,”
“but the lizard won’t—mmph!”
Just as one of the birds was about to catch Xor, Laurie hit him in the beak with a nice big clod of dirt. A Round Robin can catch anything. But not two things.
She caught Xor as he fell and ran away as fast as she could. Stones and furious Robins flew everywhere as the flock lost its rhythm. Some tried to chase her but they were too fat to keep up and too angry to rhyme.
“No fair!” “No fair!” “You stole our snack!” “Come back!” “No fair!” “You stole...”
“Are you OK?” Laurie said.
“No... Yes... Maybe.” Xor was breathing hard. They both were. He didn’t look hurt, but the little lizard was scared out of his wits. “Birds.”
“This is why you have to blend in, isn’t it?” she asked. “Birds want to eat you.”
“I hate birds.”