The Boxford Stories by Kristen Carson
‘Welcome to the world of the Runyons and the Feldsteds, two Mormon families in 1970s Maryland. Far from their Western American roots, they cling to each other like exiles clutching a precious box of topsoil from the old country.
“In The Boxford Stories you will meet Ada Runyon who always turns to Ruthalin Feldsted when she needs an ear—sharing her deepest confidences, her everyday musings, and her bits of horrified gossip. Yet Ada dies inside whenever Ruthalin’s country-cousin manners poke out in public.
“Latham Runyon, a history professor, and Erval Feldsted, a hospital engineer, bond every Sunday night over gooey desserts and vigorous religious discussion, a game their children call Stump the Rabbi. Underneath their balding heads and graying temples, each man desperately seeks a sign that God would choose him as a buddy.
“The Feldsted and Runyon children, running breathlessly through each other’s houses and backyards, have long considered each other substitute cousins. However, Ginni Runyon plots to change herself from the girl next door to the girl Marc Feldsted can’t live without.
“And when Boxford’s Mormons mix with the rest of the town, everybody could use a field guide to the other species.
“Laugh, cry, and shake your head with the Runyons and Feldsteds as they make their way through the decade that brought us leisure suits and urban decay.”
Praise for the book:
“Standouts include “Gypsy Holiday,” in which Ada’s anxiety over family friends not coming to Thanksgiving devolves into a stark admission of her loneliness and inability to connect with outsiders; “A Little Five-Minute Thrown-Together Something,” which lays bare the squirming insecurities of teenage crushes; and “Flirting Lessons,” which sees Ada’s teenage daughter, Ginni, taking a cross-country road trip with two friends that leads to panic when one goes missing. These stories are unexpected in their subtlety as they explore the reality of what it means to be Mormon—and human.”
“’In an almost Faulknerian way, Carson finds the pulse of ambition and uses that tick to reveal the inner voices that can haunt us all, if allowed. We should be looking to the eternities, of course, but in the meantime, we have so many other things to worry us onward into the night, or at least until the next priesthood interview.”
–Association for Mormon Letters on “‘Atta Boy” in The Boxford Stories
“Kristen Carson was born in Idaho, the caboose baby in a family of six girls. She studied at Brigham Young University.
“Hearing tales of how green the grass was elsewhere, she pledged to move east of the 100th Meridian. Even though she’s never lived in the #1 place on her list (Lexington, Kentucky–have you seen those beautiful bluegrass hills?!), she enjoyed her years in Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Indiana.
“Kristen’s stories and articles have appeared in The Indianapolis Star, Chicago Parent, Indianapolis Monthly, Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought and Irreantum.
“She and her husband are the parents of four adult children.
“She loves her two cats for their affection, their paranoia and their sense of entitlement. She takes long walks wherever she goes, because she thinks the best way to see the world is at 3 miles an hour. She loves cooking. All the chopping, stirring and inhaling lend the perfect capstone to her day.
“Kristen is also an avid reader. No doubt she won’t live long enough to finish all the books on her list. Her favorite authors are Herman Wouk, Diana Gabaldon and Tom Wolfe.
“Check out her blog, where she writes about whatever she’s reading and cooking.
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Later, at lunch, white-coated doctors, Important Men, walked out of the cafeteria with Dad. They followed him past the elevator, lingered with him outside his office door, discussing the expansion plans up on the fourth floor.
Marc and April would look up at their dad and the doctor, both men talking with their hands. The children watched the passing cast of characters, who all nodded to their father. Women in scrubs. Men in overalls.
A fellow suited up in the best wool, his hair FBI trim, clicked down the hall in his shined shoes. The bulky briefcase at the end of his arm was embossed with the letters, UPJOHN. He looked deep in thought, pondering the mission ahead of him. Then he brightened as Dad and the doctor parted ways.
“Heyyy, Dr. Herbert. I’ve got tickets to the Orioles and Tigers. Could you use some?”
The doctor held up a dismissive hand as he returned to work through the construction zone shortcut.
Marc’s lips parted. What luck! When had he ever been in the right place at the right time like this? His eyes watched as if the man had just dropped from parted clouds.
The man’s good shoes clicked nearer. Dad seemed unaware of his approach. But any second how, the man would tap Dad on the shoulder and offer those tickets. He probably gave them away to Important Men at the hospital, and Dad was Important, no doubt about that.
But when he caught up, he walked on by with the briefest of nods.
“All I can see,” she said, digging further, “is my little sister walking down the streets of Provo, giggling with her junior-high friends, all of them convinced that ‘We’re passing for college girls, oh yes we are!'”
“But they’re not in junior high anymore,” said Nancy. She sat at the table, holding a stack of Grasshopper cookies, from her cupboard. “When was the last time you even saw your sister?”
Teresa thought of the picture sitting on her dresser, . . .
And there she was: Shelly, the eighth-grader with a strained smile, her bangs carefully draped into a barrette. By the time the photographer snapped the picture, a tired strand had broken away from the swoop. But since Shelly couldn’t see it, she probably thought she looked as smart as the last time she had checked in the mirror.
“And how are we going to entertain these girls for a week?” Carlene asked.
“Did you know,” said Teresa, “that she called me and hinted that maybe we could throw a party for her. ‘You know,'” Teresa mimicked her sister’s young breathiness, ‘introduce me to some boys.’ I had to tell her, ‘You do realize, don’t you, that we don’t mix with the young peachy-faced ones?’. . .
“It’s like she expects us to crash some Frisbee game up on campus. She thinks we can just recruit some … some children and bring them back to our little old white house here. Promise them brownies and some out-of-town girls.”
“Well, that sounds risqué,” said Carlene.
“Actually, there’s lots about Shelly that’s risqué. You’re about to meet the make-out queen of Boxford County.”
Nancy and Carlene raised their eyebrows.
“Oh, yes!” said Teresa. “My mom tells one hand-wringing story after another. ‘I caught her lying on the living room couch with that … that yay-hoo she brought home, the TV off when it was supposed to be on, the lights off when they were supposed to be on.'”
They all studied the junior-high Shelly in the family picture.
“Hmm, she really doesn’t look like the kind that would ruin those nice boys up on campus,” said Nancy.
And with renewed anticipation for the Monday-afternoon arrival of the Make-Out Queen of Boxford County, the girls of the little old white house counted up the borrowed sleeping bags one more time, then went to bed.