McClurls was a friendly enough sort. He had windy eyes, two of them, that peered outward like the beaks of warblers at play. Just below the surface, however, like a lawnmower, there was the sadness of a man who may have accomplished more with fewer resources if only he'd had at least one more vowel in his surname.
Tom noticed these things immediately in McClurls. Tom was the sort that notices things like this, things that aren't there. Tom was crazy as a loon. He and McClurls sat with the others, seven men and a woman, travelers all, around a fire on the edge of a small Ohio wood just off the Interstate. It was a crisp, cool Autumn evening.
"Are you a Michigander, Mr. McClurls?" Tom asked, smiling wildly.
"No. I'm from Florida, and my name is Wilson. I don't know any McClurls," McClurls replied, scooting away from Tom a little, leaning into the woman beside him.
"Yes, I can always tell a Michigander," Tom continued. "Michiganders always have secrets. They keep them tucked inside their cheeks. And they do this wild flurry with their wings to scare off predators." He stood and demonstrated with his own wings, laughing wildly at his own antics. Taking his seat, Tom considered his new friend. Tom liked McClurls, and the woman with him was a handsome sort. Tom wondered, not for the last time, if the woman might be McClurls' father. "You're a Michigander and true, McClurls," said Tom, raising his empty canteen in a toast and taking a long, deep, imaginary drink from the spout.
"Look, you," said McClurls, "just you hush up and don't cause any trouble." He opened his coat slightly and showed Tom the wooden grip of an old Enfield revolver tucked into his belt.
Tom knew just what McClurls was getting at, and he thought it was a lovely idea. Just then the wind changed and blew the smoke of the fire into his eyes. Tears welled up and one ran down his cheek in the cold night. Tom shivered and hugged his arms around his knees. 'What an adventure,' he thought, and felt a thrill to be here with McClurls and his father. He wondered, not for the last time, where this ship was headed. Perhaps, when they made port, he and McClurls could go ashore and have a drink.
Hello, friends. Where is this ship headed?