Coffee Break at the Blue and White Café

Bill Burkett
3 min readSep 5, 2023

“I was irritated,” she said. “I’m going to tell him, too. But not until after Christmas…

The café was on Market Street several blocks from my newspaper office. Late breakfast became a sort of habit after having to be at work by 7am. Food was good and it was quiet enough to eavesdrop on the lives of others, which is a writer thing to do. I always had my reporter’s notebook.

“I don’t want him to feel obligated, you know? He would feel obligated if I told him now. I’ll wait until after New Year’s to tell him. But I knew I wasn’t going to get a diamond, and it irritated me to hear Joe telling me that I was. You know? I mean hearing from everybody in town that you’re going to get a diamond when you’re not going to. I’m the only one in town that doesn’t know I’m engaged. If he even hands me a box that looks like a ring I’m just going to give it back to him without opening it.”

“That’s awful.”

(Awful about hearing it from somebody else, her friend meant, not about rejecting the box.)

“I wouldn’t tell him about it before Christmas, you know. That’d be a dirty trick.” Giggle. “You know? Awful. It would be a rotten trick, really rotten, because then I know he would feel obligated. I was irritated, though. I mean, just why bring the whole subject up at all? I would just as soon it would stay completely closed. You know? Joe called me up at school to ask about it, he said I heard you and Don are engaged, and I said that’s more than I know. You know more about it than I know, and he just laughed.”

“That’s terrible!”

“I wouldn’t bring it up now, though, because I don’t want him to feel obligated, and he would probably feel obligated and go right out and do it, and I know he doesn’t have the money. I know that. I just wish the whole subject hadn’t come up, that’s all, and it would be a dirty trick.” Giggle. “I’ll wait to do it though because it would be a dirty trick. I don’t want him feeling obligated.”

“He’d do it too.”

I know! I know he would. He would feel obligated, wouldn’t he?”

“He’d be obligated all right. He’d do it all right.”

“I don’t want him to feel obligated. He would, though, wouldn’t he?”

“You know he would.”

“It would be a dirty trick.” (Giggle.)

“A really dirty trick, because you know he would feel like he had to. He told me he was, and…”

“Did he tell you not to tell?”

“Well…no. But you know he didn’t want me to tell.”

“He probably knows you would. He probably told me just because he knew you’d tell me that it wasn’t going to be a diamond, so I would know. But he knew I wouldn’t tell him I knew. I won’t tell him. But he gets it back anyway. I’m not going to open it.”

“It would be a dirty trick to tell him before Christmas Eve, because you know he’d go and change it.”

“I know he would. And he can’t afford it. He just doesn’t have the money. I ought to, but I’m not. It would be a really dirty trick and I really am irritated, but I really shouldn’t tell him until after New Year’s.”

Giggle. “Oh wouldn’t it be dirty though?”

Giggle. “It would be a dirty trick all right. I was irritated. I was so irritated. You know?

Giggle. “It really would be dirty, all right.”

Giggle. “It would be really dirty. A dirty trick.”

“Well, we better go back. We’ve got to get those letters out. You’re not really going to do it, are you?”

Giggle. “It would be a dirty trick, wouldn’t it?”

“It would be awful to pull that at Christmas. You know he’d be obligated to do it.”

“I don’t want him to feel obligated.” Giggle.

Giggle. “He would, too.”

Giggle. “I’ll pay for the check.”

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Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.