When Karly Redmond saw the manilla envelope taped to the underside of the barstool she immediately went into what she referred to as her “Walter Mitty Mode.”
Karly loved tending bar at Lester’s Tavern. The loud juke box with punk rock bands doing wild covers of 60s hits, her lovable quirky customers, and the late, late nights were the staples of her life.
But when something came along that was not part of the usual routine, Karly was all over it.
The barstools had arrived earlier that morning, shipped from a bar in Austin, Texas, that had closed suddenly when the owner, Sid Benson, had dropped dead of a heart attack ten minutes after opening one morning.
Sid Benson’s wife, Bea, had hated the bar. Bea always said her husband was more married to it than to her, and after closing it an hour after his death, she never reopened it. She sold all of the bar equipment, right down to the ornate mahogany backbar that had been in the building since before Prohibition.
The like-new barstools were going to replace the well-worn set that Lester’s customers had parked their butts on for years. Ironically, Sid Benson had just bought the new stools six weeks before his death.
Karly had gathered all of this information from one of the truck drivers who had brought the bar stools from Austin to Madison, Wisconsin.
The backstory was very interesting, but it was the manilla envelope that triggered her imagination.
Karly had been in the process of helping to bring the bar stools into Lester’s from the service entrance in the rear. She had been systematically putting each stool upside down on the bar when she had spied the envelope.
“Juan Si quieres Maria,” was printed on the front of it. The envelope wasn’t glued shut, just fastened to the flap by its little metal clasps. Karly agonized over whether she should open it.
For about a minute.
“How else will I be able to get it to its rightful owner if I don’t have more information than what’s on the outside of the envelope?” she rationalized.
From the little Spanish she knew, she was able to translate “Si quieres” into something like “If you want to.”
Karly held the envelope against her forehead as if by doing so she could psych out what Maria was agreeing to. Was it a date? Marriage? Was Maria agreeing to running away with Juan to live happily ever after?
She undid the two little clasps and opened the envelope. In it was — black satin bikini underwear? Men’s black satin bikini underwear? Three pairs?
“Whoa,” said Karly. “Somethin’ hinky goin’ on here.”
Karly put the underwear back in the envelope and resealed it with its clasps.
The truck drivers were still outback closing up their truck and getting ready to head back to Austin.
"Hey,” she called to them. “Do one of you guys know a Juan?”
The drivers looked at Karly, then at each other, and then back at her again.
One of the drivers, they both looked Latino, walked over from the truck to where Karly stood with the envelope.
“I’m ‘a Juan’” he said, a challenge in his voice. “Somethin’ I can help you with?”
Juan looked like he’d been interrogated by strangers as to his nationality one too many times.
“Easy, Juan,” said his partner, Johnny Rodriguez. “Get in the truck and we’ll head back to Austin.”
“Juan, do you know a Maria?” asked Karly. “If so, this might be for you.”
Karly held out the envelope for Juan to take. He stared at as if wondering what trouble taking it may cause him.
“I know lots of Marias,” he said. “So what?”
“Oh, forget it,” said Karly. She started to walk back inside the bar.
“What’s in the envelope?” asked Juan.
“Don’t know. Didn’t open it,” Karly lied. “It was taped to the bottom of one of the stools.”
Juan stepped forward and took the envelope. He studied the message on the front, undid the clasps, and looked inside.
Looking up, he stared at Karly as if trying to determine whether or not she had lied to him about opening the envelope.
Satisfied that she probably hadn’t, or maybe thinking that he really didn’t care if she had, he said to Johnny, “Let’s go. I’ve got somethin’ to do in Austin.”
“Well, you’re welcome very much,” said Karly, smiling.
“Oh, yeah,” said Juan, smiling back. “Thanks for your trouble.” His smile said he thought that Karly had probably looked in the envelope.
“No trouble at all,” said Karly, still smiling. “No trouble at all.” And her smile said that, yes, she had looked.
Johnny watched the two of them and had no clue as to what the hell was happening here. But it was a long drive back to Austin and he figured he’d have plenty of time to drag the story out of Juan.
Walking back into the bar, Karly realized she hardly knew anything more about the envelope’s story now than when she found it.
But she was okay with that.
Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 65 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published in Black Petals, Yellow Mama, Literally Stories, Theme of Absence, Dark Dossier, Near To The Knuckle, Bewildering Stories, riverbabble, Shotgun Honey, and a number of other online and print journals.