The Beginning Of 2021

The scene opens to the interior of a restaurant, all tables and chairs piled up to one corner, except one table with a white table cloth and scattered mahjong tiles on top. Mr. Wei, the owner of the restaurant “Pacific Palace”, is playing mahjong with Chef Li and two waiters. On one side of the stage, the sous chef and his assistant are busying in the kitchen to cook for the takeout orders. On the other side, the restaurant door is closed with a sign says, “This Restrant Is Takeout Only By Phone. Pick Up With Mask On.” The little lobby is crowded with three chairs against the wall for waiting customers. On the wall, there are three framed newspaper clips, one is the owner with the former New Jersey governor, and the other two are restaurant reviews. Wei’s wife Lia, holding a water jar, is walking towards the space behind the piled chair where she was growing green onions in three indoor pots.

Lia: “Brother Wei, I told you to change the sign many times. Can’t you spell the word Restaurant?”

Wei: “Sister Lia, I did it deliberately. It reminds people that we are authentic Asians running this restaurant.”

Lia: “How creative of you? I can’t think of a better way to fit in the stereotype.”

Chef Li: “Can’t you stop calling each other Brother Wei and Sister Lia? I mean you are a couple, not siblings.”

Wei: “Chef Li, we know each other as little kids and this is how we’ve always called each other. I still remember we picked lychee and grapefruit from trees, and ate until we were too stuffed to move. Sister Lia is an excellent tree climber. You know some of those fruit trees are huge in Malaysia. She can also recite ancient poems by heart. So many of them. She said she wanted to be a poet. Forty years, one blink of eyes. Now she’s just a full time nagger, scolding me all the time.”

Chef Li: “I see poetry in her scolding.”

Waiter J and Waiter H laughed, together with Chef Li. However when Chef Li stopped, both of them stopped abruptly.

Lia: “Chef Li, can you tell everybody to save the green onion butts? Don’t throw them away. I can plant them in the pots here and they would grow anew.”

Chef Li: “Sister Lia, of course. I actually saved several butts for you from the garbage bin yesterday.”

Lia: “Chef Li, that’s so nice of you. I know I can rely on you.”

Wei: “What’s the point? You save two dollars a day by regrowing the green onion?”

Lia: “At least I am doing something. By the way, how can you have the heart to play mahjong in the restaurant, now of all times? Can’t you do something useful? How about cleaning the carpet?”

Wei: “Sister Lia, stop nagging me. I’m having a very good hand right now. If you open the restaurant for sit in, I’ll clean the carpet. But you won’t.”

Lia: “25% capacity only, the rule of New Jersey. It’s not even worth the trouble of cleaning up afterwards. I sometimes almost wish that we don’t have any takeout orders. We can shut the place down for good. Are you listening to me?”

Wei: “I am busy with my mahjong. You distract me. Now you see, I lost to Chef Li.”

(To Be Continued)

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