A thirty-four-year-old truck driver from Kentucky. Leroy married his wife, Norma Jean, when they were both eighteen. Leroy adores Norma Jean but feels he no longer knows her. Their only child, Randy, died of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Because of an accident that injured his left hip and leg, Leroy is unable to drive his rig and sits at home with too much time on his hands. A pot-smoker and craft-maker, Leroy spends more time thinking and worrying than he does taking concrete steps to improve his life.
Leroy’s wife. At thirty-four, Norma Jean is restless, unhappy, and annoyed by Leroy’s constant presence. She preferred it when he was on the road much of the time and came home only for short visits full of food, television, and cards. Norma Jean keeps the family afloat with her job at a Rexall’s drugstore, where she sells makeup. She works on strengthening her body and mind, taking weightlifting classes and enrolling in night school. Norma Jean is a smart, fiery woman, but she struggles to understand her own feelings and express herself.
Norma Jean’s mother. A dumpy, unattractive woman who works in an upholstery shop, Mabel keeps tabs on the cleanliness of her daughter’s house. She was widowed when Norma Jean was ten, and holds a special place in her heart for Shiloh, the battleground where she and her late husband took their honeymoon. Mabel is a nag and constant critic. She makes nasty remarks about Leroy’s leisure pursuits and tells a story meant to make Norma Jean feel responsible for Randy’s death. Still, she loves her daughter and son-in-law and worries about the changes she sees in them. It upsets her to see Norma Jean smoking and studying. She fears that her daughter will addle her brains if she reads and thinks too much. Leroy’s inactivity and aimlessness also bothers her. She would like it best if Norma Jean and Leroy stuck to their traditional, narrowly defined gender roles.
Leroy’s and Norma Jean’s son. At four months and three days old, Randy died of SIDS at the drive-in while his parents watched Dr. Strangelove. Leroy and Norma Jean think of him often, but they don’t talk about him. He is a vague but painful memory that they can refer to only occasionally and obliquely. His death has left a void in their lives.
The local kid who sells marijuana to Leroy. The son of a thirty-six-year-old doctor who was two classes ahead of Leroy in school, Stevie is the same age that Randy would have been had he lived. Leroy is interested in this link between Stevie and Randy and tries to make conversation with the young drug dealer. Stevie sees Leroy only as a source of income and brushes off his attempts at friendliness.