“I only want a drink,” Peter said. “Some water. I’m very tired, and I feel sick. Otherwise, I would be happy to celebrate. This is the Children’s Festival, isn’t it? Tét Trung Thu?”
The waiter looked surprised. “Yes. You know it?”
“I do. I’ve recommended it to many people.”
Then a bell rang, and a group of children rushed in through the restaurant’s open front door. They shook tiny noisemakers and stomped the floor with their thick wooden shoes. The boys wore red robes, and the girls had been dressed in yellow frocks. They were received warmly by the people in the restaurant. They were kissed and hugged and offered candy and handfuls of bright coins to stuff in their pockets.
The children then pointed to the back of the room. They shouted and clapped until the owner removed a wooden box from his register. Inside the box were dozens of narrow red envelopes. When the children saw this, they roared and pressed forward. They broke around Peter like waves. He watched the owner distribute the envelopes to the children, who held them above their heads and cheered.
After the envelopes had been handed out, the children ran to the front of the restaurant. At the door, they gestured for everyone to follow them. Peter remained sitting as the restaurant emptied onto the sidewalk and into the streets. The sudden silence that was left hurt his ears.
Peter turned to look for the waiter, but the man was gone. At the back of the restaurant, the owner fiddled with his stove. The wooden box had been put away.