I own a bookstore, Pip’s Pages, in the small town of Dickens Junction, Oregon (just outside Astoria, near the mouth of the Columbia River). Dickens Junction was founded more than fifty years ago by my grandfather, Ebenezer Dickens Junior, to honor the life and works of Charles Dickens, his favorite author. My parents died when I was a child, and so my grandparents, Ebbie and Melanie, raised me. After graduating from college I returned to Dickens Junction to carry on the traditions my grandfather started so many years ago. I’ve lived in and around Dickens Junction and Astoria most of my life (I’m forty-five).
I love living in a small town. I know almost everyone, and spend much of my time at the bookstore. Because of my inheritance I don’t need to make a living, so I stock only books I’ve actually read; that way I can assure customers that I stand behind books I recommend.
Because Dickens Junction has Dickens-related celebrations throughout the year, I’m always busy planning one event or another. Right now, because it’s getting close to the holidays, I’m working with other Junxonians getting ready to put on the annual Christmas Carol tableaux in Dickens Square, home to Pip’s Pages and other local Dickens Junction businesses. This year I’m playing Scrooge in the tableau that shows Scrooge being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
This morning I woke up and went downstairs where my housekeeper and personal chef Bethany Cruse was making another one of her excellent breakfasts. Because I’m so busy with civic responsibilities in Dickens Junction I don’t have time to cook or clean for myself and, while I’m handy around the kitchen, I haven’t been to culinary school like Bethany. Today’s breakfast was shirred eggs with tomato/habañero confit, homemade savory scones with rosemary garlic butter from Dingley Dell Dairy, and Free Trade coffee. I’ll have to workout a few extra minutes with my trainer and bookstore assistant Brock Spurlock sometime later today (Brock is also Bethany’s boyfriend). While I was eating, my tortie Devon Rex, Miss Tox, came and curled up in my lap and went to sleep, her usual activity.
Now that I’m at the bookstore I’m doing paperwork in the back office and waiting on customers in the front. I’ve given Brock the afternoon off to help set up the backdrops and props for the tableaux tonight. I’ll check to make sure that I have every Dickens novel and story collection shelved correctly (in order of completion, not alphabetically), and to further make sure that the Nancy Drew shelves are in numerical order. I dashed next door to get a coffee drink from Lirriper’s Lattes, and when I got back a very peculiar man (well dressed, but not my type) has just asked me for a copy of Atlas Shrugged. By no means one of my favorite books (I read it when I was young and impressionable, but I’ve outgrown Ayn Rand’s shallow philosophy and wooden characters), I stock it because I have read it. He was a most peculiar man, and I felt like washing my hands when he left the store. He said very unsettling things, but I don’t have time to think about it now.
And just now, a few minutes after the stranger left, another stranger entered the store. This one, however, is handsome, a few years younger than I, and entirely used to attracting the attention of both men and women wherever he goes. Zach Benjamin (that’s his name) says he’s in town doing research for a travel magazine, and wants to have a drink with me after I’m done posing for the tableaux. I’m not seeing anyone, so I don’t know what harm can come from it.
Sorry, I have to go now. It’s time to put on my Ebenezer Scrooge nightshirt. Thanks for stopping by the store.
(This is the opening day of the action in Christopher Lord’s new novel, The Christmas Carol Murders. See more at (dickensjunction.com)
You can read more about Simon in The Christmas Carol Murders, the first book in the new “Dickens Junction” mystery series.
Meet the author
Christopher Lord was born in Astoria, Oregon. He now lives in Portland with his partner of twenty years and their Devon Rex, Miss Corey, the inspiration for Simon’s Miss Tox. He is hard at work on future books in the Dickens Junction mystery series.