"All the time," she says. "He was in here Thursday night. He usually comes by Saturdays, too."
I show her my Agee bubble gum card. She laughs at his callow face, then passes the card among the other patrons, who all seem to know him.
I feel good. Soon the Temptations come on the jukebox, singing Silent Night, and I feel even better. A '60s group crooning a timeless hymn to a festival of gift giving: This would be the perfect fanfare to accompany Tommie Agee striding through the door.
But this is another season, and I sit, and sit some more, and he doesn't walk in. After I've tippled a little and felt the hours pass, the barmaid—by now I know her as Janice—offers to tell Tommie I've been by. I write out my address and hand her a 3 x 5, and ask if she might ask Agee to sign it and forward it to me. She agrees to, and I settle my account, tipping her handsomely.
"Tell him," I say to her on my way out, "it's for a 12-year-old I know."