Johnnie spends an excessive amount of time discussing her “hometown” and “region.” It is obviously a point of focus for her throughout the book. It appears to me that the two primary male characters, Scooter and Alphonso, are tangible human stand ins for her mild obsession with home versus away.
Scooter is so loved by Johnnie because he is home. On page 21 Johnnie writes to Scooter, “I am feeling melancholy for my hometown…suddenly I know that you are there…and I am hopeful for our town.” She also regularly discusses items of “home” with him, such as his devotion to [his] kids” and his “heart that is not so easily contained by a cage of ribs.” Thus, her extremely fond interactions with him are indicative of her inability to separate Scooter as a correspondent from Scooter as part of her home.
Alphonso exists as an opposite to this, which may explain the lack of outward affection Johnnie shows for him even though she does indicate she keeps his picture. He is the prime representation of “away” – something that Johnnie thinks about (as is evident of the picture), but does not feel as emotionally fond of. Correspondence with Alphonso is fraught with moments of confusion or misunderstanding. For example, Johnnie is confused, and perhaps threatened by, Misha the pigeon. The “treasures” of Alphonso’s house are also foreign to Johnnie as they are representations of religious deities and Johnnie “never ascribed to any religious learnings.” Alphonso is the unknown – the “away.”