I'm late.Okay, so last month Wordsmiths Unlimited came back online. And I was all excited, since I love that outfit and I'm a big fan of the idea, the creative fun, and reading all the concoctions that come of it from other writers. It's like a chili cook-off without the beer, pain, or flatulence. And then I watched the deadline come and go. I've got lots going on, sure, but I still hate being late. Rather than mope about it and offer a weak shrug and "Oh well, there's always next month," I figured I'd write the story I'd half-baked when there was still time. For those new to the premise: The Wordsmiths come up with a photo and a challenge. You write a 500 word (or less) story to go with it. Open to all. Easy peasy, right? Patience The creak of old rope was barely audible over the gentle thrash of surf. A crackle and pop, then the rattle of various tools as one of them rose from his hammock. "Think it's a good year?" "Hard t' tell, they cert'ny look hardy enough. But sometimes the runts surprise you." The younger one packed up buckets and toolboxes with ziploc bags full of multi colored tags, a tagging gun, shovels, and a large knife. His floppy tan hat flapped about his ears in the breeze. The older one stayed in his hammock, greasy hat pulled over his eyes, a toothpick wobbling around under the brim. A hairy foot hung out one side, lazily rocking his large frame back and forth. "Boy, that was a good hatch. Did you see how many made it? It was better than the year they put up nets, so many got in! Those ‘no trespassing’ signs sure cut down on traffic, we practically have the place to ourselves!" "Yep," came the grunted reply. Too much talking could ruin a good afternoon, he thought. "Well, I s'pose it's time to git," he said as he hefted himself upright. He took the large cast iron pot off the tripod and set it in the sand, doused the embers, and took another spoonful of soup. “Sure did turn out good this year, I think 40’s about the right number.” They were here every year at this time, a tradition going back three generations. The turtles would hatch, they would tag as many as they could and observe weather and predator activity for the university, and then they would enjoy dinner on the beach. They earned a small stipend for their work, but the perk they looked forward to most was the meal. The older man covered the pot and hoisted it into the pickup, strapping it in. He tucked a red plastic tag in his pocket, and tossed a large empty shell in the cab. The sun set over the beach as a herd of new turtles swam deeper into the ocean. Many were picked off by much larger, hungrier creatures who were expecting them. One finally made it to a safe resting place in the brave new world. He was sporting a shiny new red tag.