It's overcast, but no rain, no wind, no leaves fly.
The tail end of Hurricane Laura passing by,
no stir, no bang, only a little sigh 
about not having sunshine and blue sky. 

It's the best time for shopping--
first stop restaurant W for takeout. 
It used to be so popular that patrons swarming,
but now so empty and desolate, 
only one client waiting and one car parking.

The entrance is dirty and ugly,
three little stools placed by the outer door, dusty and even oily.
Who would want to sit there? Nobody. 
A sheet of wrinkled plastic covered the inner doorway hideously,
with a little opening for orders to pass through barely. 

The order was supposed to be given by standing there,
shouting and hoping to be heard,
by vaguely discernible figures inside, 
behind the fully sealed glass partition. 

"Dim sum available?" I shouted.
"Circle the dim sum order sheet,
and write down your phone number,"
an annoyed voice said, barely audible. 

"No tofu jelly?"
"How about fish ball?"
"No fish ball."
How can a dim sum be a dim sum without
tofu jelly and fish ball, my favorite. 
No smile? I wanted to ask but didn't.
"Smile not included" would probably be the answer. 

The restaurant was sold right before the pandemic hit.
So I don't know these new people running the place.
Rarely any good Asian restaurants in New Jersey, 
but this is the one. 
She looks like the owner's daughter,
who's forced to help her parents,
in her frowning and grudging way. 
She probably even grows up in a restaurant,
a little crib in a dim corner,
the little hands drawing unsteady lines. 
When she's older,
she spent all the after school hours in the restaurant--
homework was done when the business was slow.

She must hate this, 
and she has a good reason to.
The work that supports us
is also the prison that shuts us in. 
Hopes, dreams, and endurance will 
numb our body and soothe our soul.
She will survive, I believe.
Her perpetual scowl makes her look older than her age,
but I see strength and toughness in her knotted brows.

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