Lana’s running solo tonight as she walks into Jake’s favorite wing-dive in all of New York City. A small tavern buried in the middle of Manhattan and a prime Wednesday-Wingsday destination. Jake has started ravaging his first basket of wings—chicken wedged under his finger nails—when she walks past him. Pulling him out of a deep fried haze as she finds her way to the neighboring table and orders.
She’s not the typical wing-eating sports bar patron, but tall and sculpted—with blue eyes capable of drowning the unsuspecting. A young woman possessing a serious hunger for deep fried chicken and ready to pounce on 50 cent wings. But more than anything—what truly defines Lana are her immaculate fingers. Painted to perfection and all too often an instrument for barbecue carnage.
The men are huddling over their plates like a pack of starved dogs when Lana’s first basket of wings arrives. She attacks with strong, controlled bites—taking the perfect portion off the bone and knowing how to get the most flavor and satisfaction out of each mouthful. Her long fingers, like some porcelain spider, are nimble and graceful, even when covered in BBQ sauce. When she finishes, the bones are always stripped of meat.
To Jake, Lana’s movements are some kind of furious dance. She seems completely unfazed by the fact she’s the only girl winging-out in this bro infested dive. He decides he has to talk to her. He has to know more. After summoning the courage, he makes his way to her table.
“Uhhh…” Jake nervously approaches Lana. His stomach somersaults from both the scent of wings and his burgeoning crush. “So you like wings?”
“What do you think?” Lana replies as she smiles, then takes another bite. Her eyes close as she rips fried flesh from bone.
“I’ve never seen…” He pauses, standing on the other side of the table.
“You’ve never seen a girl eat wings?”
“Well of course I have. It’s how you eat them. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Lana glances briefly at Jake before licking the sauce off her fingers. “Would you prefer I order a bland chicken sandwich, or a soggy salad?”
“It’s funny you say that,” he says. “I used to date a girl who only ate bland chicken sandwiches.”
“That sounds very boring. What’s your name, guy?”
“Well Jake, I’ll let you in on a secret. The next frontier for feminism isn’t equal pay for equal work, or getting a woman into the Oval Office. You know what it is?”
Jake shakes his head.
“The day us girls can wing-out head-to-head with the boys.”
“A real game-changer,” Jake says, feeling himself being reeled in. “How many of these things can you eat anyway?” He takes the seat across from her.
“More than you.”
Finding Jake at Lana’s table, the waiter places a fresh order in front of him. Lana immediately plucks a wing from his basket, getting to work.
“Look Lana, I like your style…your hands…those fingers,” Jake says. “But there’s no way you can out-wing me. There’s no place for all that greasy chicken to go. “
“You’d be surprised how hungry soggy salads and too much yoga can make a girl.” Her words are muffled by a mouthful of chicken. “I live for barbecue chicken wings.”
“Well I work-out here every Wings-day,” Jake says as he stands up, lifts up his shirt and reveals a pouch of blubber extending over his belt—giving his gut a slap before tucking it away. “His name is Roman and he accompanies me here every Wednesday.”
“Ewwww.” Lana spits out the chicken, and gives a surprised laugh. “You actually named that thing?”
“My buddy and wing-eating companion!”
“Way to make things super-weird.”
“He’s a consequence of Wednesday-Wingsday. And the reason why you’ll lose a wing-off.” Jake sits back down. “My secret weapon.”
“You’re a petite dude, I’m surprised you carry that thing around. It’s very round, though,” she says. “You hide it well.”
“Thanks, plenty of extra space,” Jake says with swagger, feeling an odd affection for his protruding belly.
“Waiter!?” Lana yells out. She’s still looking at Jake. Most of the dive stops what they’re doing and looks at them.
“Keep bringing the basket of wings until Jake and Roman drop,” she tells the waiter.
“You sure you want to do this, Lana?” Jake says.
The waiter returns from the kitchen with a fresh basket for each of them. The BBQ wings are steaming. The smell intoxicating. Jake looks across at Lana.
“Be sure to keep them coming.” Lana says to the waiter.
“Let’s do this,” Jake says. He reaches for his first wing, salivating, but senses her sizing him up. He looks up to see a taunting smile stretch across her face.
“You’re making a big mistake, Jake.”
He starts feasting at a ravenous pace. His mouth quickly stained from BBQ sauce— discarding bones with ease—tossing the greasy remains in an old basket and gloating with every conquered wing. His demeanor competitive. His bites almost angry. Each deep fried chicken wing goes down a little slower, but his pace remains impressive—pulling far ahead of Lana out the gate. Unable to consider the prospect of defeat, Jake looks and checks Lana’s progress.
She plucks a wing out of the basket like it’s business as usual. Not looking at Jake except for the occasional flash of her blue eyes. Her pace steady. Not too fast— making sure progress—her bites smaller than Jake’s as her fingers pry the bones apart. Her teeth tear meat from bone, leaving no traces of chicken.
Both go through the first basket with ease. Jake’s a couple of wings ahead—Lana slowly gaining. Jake exuding ravenous wing-eating confidence— appearing to have an insatiable appetite and slapping his belly Roman after each basket. Lana attacking with violent precision and disguising any sign of nearing maximum BBQ capacity. Fifteen minutes and two baskets later, both paces begin to slow, but Jake shows more strain. People are gathering around the table and the waiter makes his third trip back.
As the waiter sets down the new basket, all can see this will be the last round. Thirty-six wings plus all the wings consumed beforehand have slowed Jake and Lana to a crawl. Jake loosens his belt, letting his buddy and trusted wing-eating companion breathe—hoping to psyche Lana out. He leans back on his chair, glancing over at his opponent.
Lana’s mouth is glazed with BBQ sauce—she strains and chews slower. She looks at Jake and goes in—her fingers taking over—descending on each wing like some predator enveloping its prey. Less furious than with her early baskets, but still methodical and merciless. She rips meat off the bone with her fingers during this last basket. Every wing counts and she makes sure Jake knows.
At this point Jake’s full and Roman’s drowning—the once-intoxicating smell of wings repulsive. Lana’s digits are drenched in BBQ sauce—her purple nails spotted—looking like they’ve been inside some mutilated carcass. She chews and swallows slowly, but her fingers continue to work furiously—like they have a mind of their own. Watching them makes Jake woozy—like he’s going to explode. Roman’s angry— humiliated and ready to surrender. A feral animal clawing at Jake’s insides—screaming for mercy. Jake watches Lana deposit another wing and take the lead. He leans back—trying to regain his composure and convey confidence in a desperate attempt to fend off impending defeat. He leans back further—feigning a cocky smile when Roman lets out a strange death-rattle. Jake spills over, falling on his ass as Roman lets out the biggest belch of his life.
Jake comes to after Roman’s fit, escaping wing purgatory. The crowd at the bar gathers around to see, then parts for Lana as she examines her conquest. She stands over Jake.
“I tried to tell you Jake.”
“What’s that, guy?!”
“Wing…Dan…” Jake struggles to find the words, drunk on greasy BBQ chicken. “Wing dance!” he mutters.
Taking a napkin off the table, she cleans off her digits a final time—her fingers shining. She tosses the napkin toward Jake on the floor, where it finds his face.
“Wing Dance?” Lana pauses for a second, taking in what he said. “I like it Jake…That’s something I can work with!”
Roman slips into a wing-coma as Jake is helped up by the crowd. He sits back down at the table, stuffed and dazed. Lana’s eyes catch his, exuding a sense of pride as she smiles at him—chicken caught between her teeth—and exits into the New York night.
When she’s gone, Jake’s left with dudes drinking watery beer, sports glaring from mounted TV’s, and the dive’s endless bro chatter. The crowd’s back to doing what they were doing before the wing-off, but Jake’s frozen. He wants a rematch.
He has no number or last name. All he can do is show up next Wednesday and hope Lana walks back through those doors.
Win or lose, he wants to watch those fingers do their thing.
Jesse Winter is a 29 year-old born and raised in New Jersey. A graduate of Rutgers University; once upon a time Jesse wanted to be a philosopher. Now he writes creative non-fiction and has recently ventured into fiction, “Wing Dance” being his latest attempt. He’s a political junkie still coming to terms with the Trumpocalpyse and is the kind of guy who awkwardly brings up politics at parties.