Wonton Lust

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The below story is my entry into the 2022 On The Job Story Event. It came from a simple spelling error several years ago, when I misspelled “wanton lust” as “wonton lust.” Since then, I was looking for an excuse to use it as a story title!

Thanks to PM, CT (1), CT (2), and PR for their edits, critique, and feedback. And as always, a shoutout to the men and women at Arrow Aerodynamics!


“What do you mean you’re not making deliveries? The menu says you’re open until eleven!”

Johnny Peng leaned against the takeout counter and fought the urge to sigh. “We’ve stopped taking deliveries for the evening because of the storm,” he told the woman on the other end of the phone.

“But it hasn’t started raining yet!” she yelled, managing to drown out the screaming kids in the background.

He glanced towards A Taste of Taipei’s front window. The fabric awnings across Pine Street from the restaurant rippled like the waves of an angry sea. “The sky’s going to open up any minute. I told the driver to head home after dropping off his last order so he wouldn’t get caught out in it.”

“Then you should say that you’re open from 11 a.m. until maybe 11 p.m!”

The area code and prefix on the caller ID told Johnny the woman was calling from Sapphire Drop, an all-seasons resort sprawling along the mountain ridges overlooking the small town of Emerald Pines, Colorado. Probably some housewife from Denver who decided to take a July vacation and haul her brood along with her. “I’m sorry ma’am,” he said with as much politeness as he could muster.

“What if I want to pick something up?”

Johnny’s heart sank as he looked up at the clock on the wall, which read 10:49. “If you place an order for pick up in the next eleven minutes,” he admitted, “you can pick it up anytime before 11:30. After that…”

“So it’s OK for me to drive through the pouring rain, but not your driver? Do you see how that’s unfair to me!”

If you crash, we lose a customer. If he crashes, we lose business and a family member, he thought. “I’m sorry, ma’am. Would you still like to place an order for pick up?”

“No, we’ll just wait an hour-and-a-half for room service. And you can expect a scathing review on Yelp!” she snapped before disconnecting the call.

Johnny set the cordless phone in its charger before rubbing his face dejectedly. The woman seemed entitled enough to post a negative review of a restaurant she’d never set foot in. Thankfully she didn’t place an order, which meant Johnny could still lock up and shut down without staying late. Six days a week his uncle was the undisputed emperor of A Taste of Taipei, a longtime culinary institution for the resort town. On Sundays, however, his uncle left his twenty-three-year-old nephew to rule in his stead from open-to-close while he enjoyed the fruits of his decades-long labor by sitting at home in a recliner older than Johnny.

The digital clock above the cash register now read 10:50 p.m. Ten minutes until closing time and the end of a double-shift that had started at ten in the morning. A slow afternoon of food prep had given way to a hectic evening rush that had ended an hour ago. Exhausted from being on his feet all day, Johnny wanted nothing more than to bolt the moment the clock hit eleven. It was a four-block sprint to his third-floor apartment. If he was lucky, he would make it home before the weather finally broke.

A powerful summer thunderstorm had been pushing against the mountains to the west of town throughout the afternoon. During the past two hours, it had finally latched firmly onto the tall peaks and was dragging its bulk up and over. The night sky had darkened with thick clouds while the humidity in the back alley was like being slapped in the face with a wet trout. As soon as the dinner rush petered out, Johnny told the waitresses and kitchen staff to clean up and shut down their stations before letting them go at 10:00, with the promise to clock them out at close so they would get paid for their entire shift. When a last-minute delivery order came in, Johnny made the same promise to the driver before they headed out the door with the food.

A Taste of Taipei occupied a long, narrow retail space in what passed for downtown. The front half was a sit-down restaurant, with burgundy carpet sporting gold inlay and various paintings and banners serving as wall decoration. The takeout counter and dessert display case were the dividing lines between the dining area and the open-air kitchen, which allowed customers to both see and hear the staff while they whipped up their meals.

Anyone brave enough to wander the streets of Emerald Pines before the impending deluge would have seen a handsome young Chinese-American man in a white sleeveless tee and faded, stained khakis leaning against the take-out counter, debating on how to pass the final minutes of his shift. Johnny kept his brown hair short so Bursa Escort it would fit under a hairnet, and his arms and legs were defined from slinging around sacks of flour while standing in front of a hot stove for hours on end. Dark brown eyes only enhanced his cheekbones and strong jawline. It was Johnny’s smile, however, that served him best – warm, constant, and sincere enough to guarantee a 20% tip whenever he put on the delivery driver’s hat on Thursdays.

At 10:53, thunder rattled the store. A few moments later the sky finally opened up. Ten thousand raindrops slammed onto Pine Street at once. The falling water reflected the pale orange light from the streetlamps, causing the air to become a shimmering curtain as the howling wind pushed the rain in every direction at once. “Great,” Johnny sighed resignedly. His run home had just turned into a warm shower. Maybe he’d be better off running one block to Pike’s for a beer or two… but then he’d be soaked at a bar, and not in a preferred manner.

Johnny gently rapped his fist against the counter while staring at the cash register. He was tempted to settle out early, but with his luck, that lady would call back to place a pick-up order. If that happen, he’d have to explain to his uncle why he had to reopen the register to add a new order. His uncle was adamant about closing exactly at 11 p.m, but if an order came in at 10:59, they had to take it, no matter what. And that lady seemed the kind of customer who would place an order out of spite rather than hunger.

He decided that she wasn’t going to let him ruin his night. Johnny proceeded to cash out the register and secure the drawer’s contents in the back office. It was 10:59 when he came back up front, turning off the gas main and stove’s pilot light as he passed, and grabbed everyone’s timecards. The moment the digital display on the timeclock flipped to 11:00 p.m. he pressed the cards against the reader one at a time, clocking himself out last. A Taste Of Taipei was now officially closed – a successful Sunday where everything had gone smoothly and nothing had caught on fire that wasn’t supposed to.

As he reached for the light switch, however, the howling wind became more distinct. The sound of rain impacting against asphalt filled the restaurant for several seconds before resuming its dull machine-gun staccato. “Oh good!” a voice proclaimed. “You’re still open.”

Johnny leaned back so he could see the front door, where a disheveled woman stood on the rubber welcome mat. Water dripped from her soaked red tank top, and her green gym shorts had been saturated to the point of appearing black. “Hello?” she called out. “Anyone here?”

The voice sounded familiar. He stepped up to the counter and acknowledged her with a polite wave. “I’m sorry,” he told her, “but we closed at eleven.”

“It’s eleven?” Her dark hair was dripping wet. It fell over her face, making it impossible for Johnny to figure out who she was as she looked at the clock above the counter. “Aw, come on,” she groused, “that can’t be right! It couldn’t have taken me that long to park and run here!”

Johnny offered a sympathetic shrug. “Sorry,” he repeated. “Everything’s shut off and I already clocked out. I was about to hit the lights.”

The woman sounded frustrated as she pushed her hair back, spraying the glass with water droplets. Johnny recognized her as Sierra del Sol, owner of the Sol to Soul health spa. She had been a regular customer ever since Johnny was in middle school. The look of crushing disappointment was evident on her face even from across the restaurant. “I knew I was cutting it close,” she sighed wearily. “Damn it.”

Johnny grabbed a clean dish towel from the folded stack behind the counter and headed toward her. She took the offered towel with a quiet word of thanks. As she did her best to dry off, he told her, “I had my hand on the light switch when you walked in. We haven’t had an order since ten o’clock. I sent everyone else home early.”

While she dabbed her eyes, Johnny took in her soaked form. Her black hair was a tangled mess that clung to her shoulders. The water molded the tank top to Sierra’s body like a swimsuit, causing the low neckline to expose a portion of her cleavage. His gaze lingered for several seconds as he watched a single drop of water run over the curve of her firm breast before disappearing underneath the fabric. He managed to look away as Sierra finished running the towel over her face and hair. “Is there any chance you could stay a little longer?” she asked hopefully.

“I can’t. My uncle would have a fit if I sat a customer while off-the-clock. It’s an insurance thing. You understand, right?”

Sierra nodded. “I get it. I’d say the same thing to one of my employees. Just…” Her body slumped as she blew out a deep breath. “I’ve been doing yoga classes up at the Drop for the past two days and just spent half an hour arguing over Bursa Escort Bayan a refund. It wasn’t until I was getting changed to drive home that I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I thought, ‘If I get dressed quick enough, I can beat the storm and grab something from Taste.'” She motioned to her dripping clothing. “Instead,” she stated, chagrinned, “here I am fresh from the washer ready to be hung up to dry.”

Last-minute customers were a burdensome tradition in the restaurant industry. They either tried to bully their way into being seated or offered a sob story about how hungry they were. Sierra appeared to be testing out the second route. While he wanted nothing more than to go home and put his feet up, there was an honest weariness in her voice that tugged at Johnny’s sympathies, in contrast to the woman’s attitude from earlier, which had hardened them.

It was his turn to sigh as he made his decision. Sierra was turning towards the door when he held out his hand. “Wait,” he told her. “You’re already here, and I’m not about to send you back out into that.” He gestured to the front window, where the rain continued to pour down, bouncing off the sidewalk from the impact. The strong lash of thunder provided a steady accompaniment. “Go ahead and grab a seat. I’ll get you some dry towels and turn the stove on.”

Hope jolted Sierra’s eyes like lightning. “Thank you, Johnny.”

“It’s going to be a limited menu,” he warned her. “It’ll take too long to heat the grill or oven.” Sierra sat down at the table closest to the register while Johnny grabbed a short stack of dishtowels and a laminated menu. “Use as many as you need,” he said, setting them on the table beside her along with a pitcher of ice water. She gave him a grateful smile that reminded him of a balloon soaring through the summer sky.

Johnny headed into the kitchen. After turning the gas line back on he waited a few moments before holding down the pilot button on the large eight-burner stove. A series of sharp clicks preceded the soft hiss of the stove’s pilot flame igniting. While he waited for the stove to warm up, he glanced toward Sierra, who was vigorously drying her hair with a dishtowel while simultaneously looking at the menu. The sight helped wash away any concerns Johnny had about serving a patron after closing time, especially since the patron was a loyal regular like Sierra. Bright and confident, she insisted on being called by her first name, never complained if an order took long or if an item was incorrect, and always tipped generously, even when picking up from the restaurant.

It didn’t hurt that she was sizzling hot. Sierra was in her mid-thirties, with black hair, light tan skin, and a lean, flexible body forged by nearly two decades of yoga. She had taken that dedication and opened a studio, growing it from her cramped one-bedroom apartment into a thriving spa on the outskirts of town. Taking an order to Sol to Soul was something the drivers looked forward to, as Sierra would often be waiting in her skintight exercise clothes after a long day of lessons, covered in sweat and full of vigor. Sometimes she’d answer the door wearing a white towel over a bikini (and once, his cousin swore, over nothing at all) when her cooldown time in the spa’s sauna made her peckish.

Johnny had only ever dealt with her from behind the counter, but the mental image of Sierra pushing herself through an exhausting set of poses, her yoga pants and sports bra clinging to her skin, would often be paramount in his thoughts as he handed over her dinner order. And there were times when he imagined her lounging in the sauna, her skin coated with sweat, unwrapping her thick white towel to reveal her exquisite body…

The rattling of the metal door at the rear of the restaurant from the wind rushing down the back alley pulled Johnny from his reverie. Focusing on the task at hand, he switched on one of the front burners and was greeted by a low blue flame springing to life underneath the cast iron grate.

Nodding with approval, he headed towards the front counter. Sierra sat at the table with her arms held overhead with fingers interlocked. She was slowly rotating her torso, groaning with relief as she did so. When she leaned forward almost parallel to the table while rocking back and forth to get a good stretch, Johnny noticed that her tank top was no longer clinging to Sierra’s body. The neckline hung low, giving him a direct view of her fantastic tits. She wasn’t wearing a bra, leaving her breasts full and free. It took him several seconds to realize he was blatantly staring, and then several more before realizing how rude he was being. “The stove’s ready,” he called out. “Do you know what you want?”

When Sierra sat up, Johnny focused on looking her directly in the eyes. “Yeah,” she groaned while rolling her shoulders. “I’d like something hot. Could I get some ba-wan wonton soup?”

“Yeah,” Escort Bursa he said after some quick deliberation. “It should take about fifteen minutes.”

“Thank you. I can’t express how much I appreciate you staying late.”

“It’s no trouble. Well, it’s no trouble unless my uncle finds out.” He motioned to the pouring rain. “Plus, it sounds like you had a long weekend.”

Sierra offered him a weary smile. “Long and busy. Everything was fine, though, until… you know how it is. It only takes one or two bad customers to drain away all your positive energy. Right now, all I want is something hot to fill me up.”

“One order of ba-wan wonton soup to go, then. Yell if you need anything.”

Johnny headed back into the kitchen to begin making Sierra’s order. He filled one soup pan with water and another with the pre-made stock he had cooked the day before — chicken broth, whole scallions, garlic sliced into thin coins, and kosher salt. A high blue flame licked the bottoms of the pans as he turned the heat up, aiming to bring both to a roiling boil as quickly as possible. While he waited, Johnny grabbed the rest of the ingredients — a tall container of pre-made filling, a flat container with several stacks of diamond-shaped wonton wrappers separated by wax paper, and a small finger bowl filled with cold water.

A Taste of Taipei had been founded by Johnny’s great-grandfather. Along with his brother, Johnny’s great-granduncle, he had left Taiwan in the ’50s to find their fortunes across the Pacific. Their journey had ended in Emerald Pines due to, his great-grandfather had once told him, “a Heaven’s bounty of sexy women.” The restaurant they had opened quickly grew into a local institution. While it offered dishes an American would expect from a Chinese restaurant, including meals from other Asian countries, the Pengs focused on presenting both authentic Taiwanese cuisine and American spins on such offerings.

Ba-wan wonton soup was one such spin. Traditional ba-wan was a beloved Taiwanese street food and a staple of the restaurant’s menu — a smooth paste of pork, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms stuffed into sweet potato dough and either steamed or fried. Johnny’s grandfather had provided the new take on the dish by adding a dash of sweet potato extract to the filling before mixing it for placement inside a wonton wrapper, served either as a stand-alone dumpling or drowned in hot soup.

Johnny made sure the pans were heating up before beginning to craft Sierra’s order. His graceful fingers moved with practiced ease as he scooped up a generous teaspoon’s worth of ba-wan paste and dropped it in the middle of a wonton wrapper. He dipped his fingers into the bowl of water and moistened all four edges of the wrapper before folding it over into a rectangle. Pressing firmly to remove any excess air that might cause the wonton to pop open during cooking, Johnny sealed the wrapper before carefully bending two corners towards each other. The result was a fresh wonton shaped like a tiny nurse’s hat. He set the wonton on a nearby sheet of wax paper before grabbing another wrapper and repeating the process.

As he worked, Johnny’s thoughts drifted back to the woman who had called earlier. Her bad attitude lingered like week-old fish. He did his best to focus on the task at hand, as well as Sierra’s sunny, grateful disposition, to banish the negative vibes.

By the time Johnny finished making a baker’s dozen worth of wontons, both the soup and the water were boiling. He turned the soup down to a high simmer. As he dried his hands, Johnny caught a glimpse of movement from the front of the restaurant. He glanced over to see Sierra leaning back in her chair. Her arms were held low behind her, palms facing inward. A determined look sat on her face as she slowly pressed her arms together, squeezing her shoulder blades. The taut muscles of her upper body were on full display, but Johnny’s eyes were once again drawn lower as the tank top which had hung low when she leaned forward was now pulled tight across her chest

Seeing the fabric stretched over the firm breasts was somehow more enticing than the full view he had accidentally gotten minutes earlier. He watched as Sierra, her entire body trembling, let out a sigh of determination and relief as she arched her back, pushing her arms further behind her while shoving her fantastic tits forward. It was as if Luck was rewarding him for making Sierra an after-hours order…

It took longer this time for Johnny to realize he was leering, but fortunately, he managed to rip his gaze away before Sierra sat up. His cheeks redded as he silently chided himself. It had been several months since he had last had sex, and apparently, his libido picked this dark and stormy night to stalk prey. He had no problems glancing at the bevy of attractive women that made their way through the front door, from locals in sundresses to ski moms in sweatpants as well as Sierra whenever she picked up an order. But with the two of them alone in the restaurant, it felt like he was ogling her. The last thing he wanted was for his nice gesture to come off as creepy if she caught him gawking like a horny teenager.

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