It is a sound of the recession -- rapping of the process server's knuckles on the front door.

For Theo Myers, it came this winter, announcing a public sale of his restaurant equipment to settle a debt.

Seven years ago, Myers opened Ted's Family Fish House in Seat Pleasant, just over the District line. After three decades working in souvenir shops and restaurants from Pennsylvania Avenue to Indian Springs Country Club, he poured "everything I had" into his modest restaurant and fresh fish carry-out. "Fresh Bone Fish, all you can eat, $3.00," the sign promises.

In 1980, despite having managed to pay for all of his equipment, Myers realized he was still several thousand dollars in debt.

"I know fish," he says, "not business." So he hired a bookkeeper, and came up with a spending plan to bring him through. But there was no accounting for the recession.

Business has dropped by 40 percent in the last year.

Many of Myers' regular customers, feeling the pinch, stopped buying. Then the Prince George's County sheriff's office, acting on behalf of a Baltimore fish supply company, came knocking.

"I will sell at public sale to the highest bidder," the notice read, " . . . on the sixth day of December next, all . . . the following property, to wit:" Then came the list of iceboxes, tables, scales and refrigerators.

The fish supply company has postponed the sale, but his business phone is disconnected now and he has substantial utility bills.

Myers doesn't know from day to day how long the restaurant can last.

"I've always worked, always made a success of myself," he says, "but these times are tough. People don't have money, people out of work, people with no jobs. I'm riding on faith here, but I'm up against the wall. What can you do when they're pressing in on you?"

Myers' bookkeeper and his family are pushing him to give up and file bankruptcy, but so far, he has refused. He's hoping that the Lenten season, with its traditional fish meals, will bail him out.

"He's pretty determined," says Myers' 19-year-old son. "That's the way he brought us up."