A Wing and a Prayer

written by Carole Wood. Carole Wood is a writer and musician from Co. Wexford. She writes fiction and poetry,
and is in her final year of a BA (Hons.) in English with Creative Writing at University College Dublin. She was awarded a 1916 Bursary in 2020, and was shortlisted for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award in 2023. Her work has been published in
Caveat Lector and Envelope magazine, and adapted for audio drama by the NoSleep and Chilling Tales for Dark Nights podcasts.

“You say you like animals but then you eat chicken.”

“Chicken isn’t an animal,” Gina replied, mouth full.

“Chicken is a bird.”

“It’s not a dog, though.”

“Yeah, Gina, cos it’s a bird.” I squirmed around, trying in vain to get comfortable on the hard plastic seat of the cheapo diner we were eating at: Thelma’s Truckstop Tucker. 

“Birds are stupid. They don’t feel the same way as dogs,” she replied.

“Are you saying animals have feelings based solely on their intelligence?” 

Gina dropped the chicken wing she’d been gnawing on for the past five minutes. 

“You’re eating an actual bird’s wing.”

She shrugged. “It tastes good.”

“You’re sick, you know that?”

“Takes one to know one, Cass.”

“At least I’m not a hypocrite.”

“Are you going to eat that?” she asked, pointing to my grilled cheese. I’d gotten through half the sorry excuse for a sandwich and given up. Looking at Gina chewing on animal parts hadn’t helped.

“Be my guest,” I said, pushing the plate towards her.

“You eat dairy.” 

“They don’t murder animals for milk.”

“Yeah, but it’s still slavery. It’s not like they have a choice, right?”

I sighed. “Technically, no.”

“Then it’s almost as bad as eating meat.” She took a bite of the sandwich and chewed it smugly. 

“It’s not great,” I conceded. “If I didn’t love cheese so much, I’d be vegan.”

“If I didn’t love meat so much, I’d be vegetarian.”

“Touché.” I took a sip of my coffee and picked at the cuticle on my left thumbnail. The dairy issue haunted me, but there was no vegan food available in our culinary wasteland of a hometown.

Gina swiped at her mouth with a paper napkin and flung it onto the plate. “No judgement here.”

“It just makes me unbelievably sad thinking of all those animals dying for nothing. Humans don’t even need meat to survive. And don’t get me started on Thanksgiving and Christmas . . . or fucking Easter. So much gets thrown away. Like lambs aren’t innocent babies with mothers same as us. Or turkeys don’t have emotions. Claim ignorance just so you can gobble down that flesh and then complain about being too full afterwards. Oh, but when someone hurts a dog it’s like Jesus has been crucified all over again–” 

Gina’s eyes had gone wide. “You are one angry bastard, Cass. I mean, respect. But, did it work?”


“Your whole spiel. Ask me if I’m converted.”

I didn’t like where this was going. Gina had a habit of verbally corralling me when I least expected it. “Well, are you?”

“No, and I’ll tell you why: people like me don’t care. We don’t wanna know, cos we’d rather just go on with our lives, doing whatever we feel like and not thinking about the consequences. Or the process for that matter. This is the world we live in, Cass. At least I can admit that.”

My eyes narrowed. “So, you’re saying you’ll never stop eating animals because you don’t care?”

She clicked her fingers and pointed at me in a rapid motion that resembled cocking a pistol. “Exactly.”

I finished my coffee and tucked five dollars under the salt shaker. “Looks like I need to reconsider my whole approach to vegetarianism.”

Gina threw down another five that landed in a spot of hot sauce. She left it there. “How so?”

“Well, if what you’re saying is true then there’s no point in trying to make people stop eating meat. That way lies madness, right?”


“So, I’ll just do my own thing. Be the change I want to see in the world.” We both laughed a little too loudly at that. The waitress glanced our way, then went back to pouring coffee. I gave her a big smile as we left. 

It was drizzling and gloomy out.

“I don’t get you sometimes. It’s not like you know these animals personally. And considering your stance on some other things I could mention–”

“I don’t need to know an animal personally to have compassion for them.”

“Hold up–”

“What?” I could hear another corralling coming.

“Do you feel the same way about people?” 


“Ah,” she said, nodding. “Now, I get it. Animals being killed for meat doesn’t bother me because I’d probably eat humans too if they were on the menu.”

“You’re joking.”

“I’m not. What’s the difference?”

We reached Gina’s car, a hulking old Ford that was once shiny black. You wouldn’t look twice at it now. We clambered inside. 

“Apart from the yuck factor, there is none,” I concluded. “It’s all meat, all murder. Morrissey had that right.” 

“See, now we’re on the same page.”

“The same book maybe.”

“Let’s agree to disagree.” 

She slipped some experimental jazz into the stereo and I groaned. “Only insane people can enjoy this music, Gina.”

“Maybe you could learn something from it. Y’know, go with the flow more.”

“Maybe.”  I pulled up the hood of my black raincoat in an attempt to deaden some of the noise.

When we arrived at the location it was dusk and the drizzle had intensified to a downpour. 

“How long?”

She checked the time on the dash. “About twenty minutes.”

Cars trickled by for a while and then the street was quiet. The rain beat a syncopated rhythm on the metal roof. Dusk gave way to night, illuminated in patches by the amber streetlights. Pools of water winked and rippled their reflections, except for the light above us. That one had been out for two days.

“Ready?” Gina asked, pulling up the hood of her own raincoat. 

I nodded and we exited the car quietly. The house was around the corner, the last duplex in a small cul-de-sac. Curtains or shades were drawn in nine of the twelve houses, including Number 6, our destination. Gina and I kept to the shadows as much as possible anyway. When we reached the house, we made sure to keep off the grass, using the walkway to get around back. At the French doors we paused to pull on our masks: rubbery nightmares with distended noses and bulging chins.

The lights were on in the dining room, a big wicker fan contraption over the table that revolved lazily but emitted a bright yellow glare.

I gave Gina a thumbs up and we put on our gloves. She produced lock picks from the pocket of her raincoat and set to work on the sliding door. I kept an eye out for anyone who might spoil our surprise. A series of clicks and she was in. I slid the door open a crack, just to test the noise level. A burst of canned laughter spilled through the gap, possibly from a T.V. No one stirred, so I slid it back far enough for us to slip through. Once inside, I locked the door and made a beeline for the light switch by the kitchen door. I flicked it off and turned to Gina, who was spookily illuminated by the dim glow filtering through the glass panels of the kitchen door, her eyes black holes. 

Droplets of water from our raincoats made a soft, pattering sound as they dripped to the tile floor. Gina handed me a towel from a hook by the sink and I swiftly dried the soles of my sneakers. She did the same, then swiped the floor and threw the towel by the door to grab on the way out. Sneaking wasn’t possible in wet shoes. 

I removed my Glock from the shoulder holster concealed beneath my coat and screwed the suppressor on; the click of metal on metal felt strangely satisfying. Gina attached one to her own; she used a Sig Sauer P320. She said the trigger was crisper than on the Glock 19 but I didn’t see the difference. 

When we were ready, she opened the kitchen door. It emitted a rather loud mouse-like squeak and we froze simultaneously. From the front room came a chuckle, coinciding with more canned laughter from what I was now positive was a television. Bluish light flickered through the partly open door. We advanced down the hallway in tandem. My gun was mostly for backup, in case something went wrong. It never had, but I always said preparation was the key to success.

When we reached the living room door, Gina raised her left hand indicating a count of three. My muscles tensed as my heart sped up, but the adrenaline felt necessary. On three, she kicked open the door and I went in first. That way I could make sure the target was alone.

A man in a worn, brown recliner sat facing the television. It was the type that swivels, and when he heard the intrusion, it spun around so fast he almost went three-sixty. He was about forty-five, with dark hair, some silver strands poking through, and a day or two’s worth of stubble on his jowls. This. The face that sweet little girl saw as he loomed over her. 

Dirty blue, sunken eyes widened as they took in me and then Gina, who had stepped into the room behind me. She didn’t even let him get out a whimper before she shot him three times: the first two in the chest and the third down low. The Sig emitted a muffled phee-phee-phee sound, the explosive gases of the gunshots tamed by the suppressor but not completely extinguished.

Joseph Garrett slammed into the backrest of the recliner which set it spinning madly. His expression was of a person who had jumped into freezing water, eyes like bloodshot O’s circling. When the recliner’s revolutions slowed, I grabbed the armrest and stepped around a puddle of his urine on the floor. Gina was reloading her gun, with real bullets this time.

I forced him to look directly into my eyes. “Listen to me you piece of shit. Next time it’s your blood all over the floor. If you ever hurt another child, or even look at one the wrong way we’re coming back to finish the job.”

Even with blanks, the pressurized gas being forced through the barrel could do real damage at close range. It was possible he’d lose a testicle, but that was just part of The Treatment.

I seized a fistful of his greasy hair and yanked. “Hey! Do you understand me?” My head was beginning to ache from the stink of the rubber mask. I wanted to go home and take a long bath. “Say ‘yes ma’am’ or she’s going to shoot you for real.”

Garrett glanced at Gina’s frightening disguise, swallowed loudly and warbled, “Yes ma’am.”

There was a thump overhead.

I glared at Gina, talking to her with my eyes.  There wasn’t supposed to be anyone else here. 

She shrugged. We’d done our homework: Garrett lived alone. I reloaded my own weapon and held it on the scumbucket in case he tried to make a run for it. But judging by his pained expression, he wouldn’t be running anywhere for awhile.

Gina held a finger to her lips and tiptoed out the door to investigate. I listened for her almost imperceptible footsteps as she climbed the stairs. I hated when plans had hitches. Stepping backwards into the hall with my gun still trained on Garrett, I chanced a peek up the darkened stairway. Gina was standing outside the room where the thump originated. I held my breath.

 The sound of her laugh startled me. I was about to ask what was so amusing when a dark shape rushed down the stairs coming straight for me. I stumbled aside and it went streaking down the hallway and into the kitchen. I almost yelped, but recovered myself just in time.

It was only a cat. A large, long-haired cat.

Gina cackled again from the top of the stairs. “You should see your face!”

“I thought we were screwed.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I had us covered.”

“I was convinced he had his mother or something up there.”

“Or a kid . . .”

“Yeah, or that.” My heart was pounding. “Let’s get the fuck out of here, G.” 

“With pleasure.”

I glanced back at Garrett hunched over in pain and then down the hallway. “What about the cat?”

“What about it?”

“Can’t leave it here.”

“Why not?”

“This man doesn’t deserve a cat. And we’ll probably be back anyway. Guys like him don’t change. I’m bringing it with us.”

“You are not. I forbid it.”

“What are you – my mother?”

“What if it starts yowling on the way out?”

“It won’t. They trust me.”

“Fine. But if it starts making noise, you’re the one who has to kill it.”

“It won’t,” I repeated.

We instructed Garrett to stay in the living room. Sure, he could grab a weapon and come after us but I knew he was a coward as well as a creep. These guys were all the same. 

In the kitchen, I flipped on the light-switch long enough to locate the cat huddled under the dining room table, huge green eyes pinned on me like lasers. It was a tabby, very striking. I called softly to it and made myself as unthreatening as possible.

“Throw me the towel, G.”

She flung the damp towel at me and in one fluid motion I dropped to my haunches and threw it over the bewildered cat, then pinned it with my knees and rolled it up like a burrito. “See?” I grinned. “Nothing to it.”

She muttered something I couldn’t hear and wrenched open the door for me. It was still raining. We pulled our hoods up and made our way to the front of the house. The street looked like an empty set. The cat made a low meowing sound in its chest but didn’t try to escape and we reached the car without incident. 

“If that thing pisses in here you’re going to be sorry,” Gina said.

“Yeah, yeah. Just go. The job’s not over ‘til we get home, remember?” I opened the towel and the cat sat there in my lap, peering up at me with terrified eyes. “It’s okay, baby. I’ll take care of you.” 

Gina drove ten miles under the speed limit the whole way back. She dropped me and the cat, who I’d decided to call Lucky, outside my apartment. Dawn was approaching and the rain was finally starting to clear.

I put down a cardboard box with a blanket inside it and Lucky hid there for most of the day. Later, I checked my bitcoin wallet for the second half of my payment. Lucky watched me settle into the couch and cautiously exited the box. I was pretty sure she was a female. After some gentle encouragement she crawled into my lap. As I gazed into her laser-green eyes, I realized I would have to renege on my vegetarian ethics to buy her food.

CategoriesIssue VIII