We're in Trouble

We're in Trouble

4.0 2
by Christopher Coake

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This book begins with "We're in Trouble," a suite of three stories that introduces its common theme: love darkening and persevering as it is tried by the cold fact of death. And in the vivid stories that follow, as Coake's unforgettable characters experience love staring at the face of death, it elicits either the best or the worst in them. From a wife waiting…  See more details below


This book begins with "We're in Trouble," a suite of three stories that introduces its common theme: love darkening and persevering as it is tried by the cold fact of death. And in the vivid stories that follow, as Coake's unforgettable characters experience love staring at the face of death, it elicits either the best or the worst in them. From a wife waiting for news of her husband's latest death-defying climb to a sheriff thrown into turmoil after his close friend enacts a horrifying murder-suicide, Coake makes us feel the truth of his imperiled characters' lives and transforms it into cathartic art.

With the complexity, depth, and narrative drive of a novel, this extraordinary debut collection is at once suspenseful, empathic, and almost unbearably moving.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher


“Sometimes when you're reading these stories, you forget to breathe . . . They’re beautifully written, and they have bottom, but they’re never dull and they all contain striking and dramatic narrative ideas.”--Nick Hornby, author of A Long Way Down, in The Believer

“Uncanny, clear-eyed . . . [Coake] is wildly engaging as he explores one theme--love in the face of harrowing death (or near-death)--from seemingly every angle. A-.”--Entertainment Weekly

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.62(w) x 8.18(h) x 1.06(d)

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I. Back Down to Earth

ERIC AND KRISTEN ARE IN UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY. THEY have only known one another a few weeks, but they have decided they are already deeply, madly in love.

This love, this unexpected boon, has come to them with amazing speed and intensity. And at the right time. They're young-Eric is twenty-four, Kristen twenty-two-but they met as each was concluding a long and tumultuous relationship. Kristen had just left her boyfriend of four years. Eric's divorce, after three years of marriage, has only this week been finalized.

In celebration, they have taken a hotel room downtown, and have barely left it for an entire weekend. And, here in the late hours of their last night in it, they've just finished making love. Now they talk softly, sweetly, in the dark. About their memories, their secrets. This tumble of words excites them as much as the warm, damp shape of the other's body beneath the blankets. Everything they say and do now seems to carry weight, meaning, a symbolism of great and private importance which exalts them, and what, together, they hope to be.

Kristen says, in a whisper, I want you to tell me something. Anything. As long as it's important to you.

Tell me what you want to know, Eric answers. I'll tell you anything. I have no secrets from you.

Something only you could tell me. Something that is you.


Tell me the most vivid thing you can remember. Then I'll do the same.

Eric is quiet, but she can feel his hand, warm and flat on her belly. His fingers curl and uncurl.

Well, mine's a bad thing, he says.

Mine's good, she says.

Kristen plans on telling him about the firsttime she saw him, which is not, perhaps, the memory that's most important to her-that would be her mother's death, to which she's only alluded, and about which she tries not to think. But for now, topmost in her mind is the picture of Eric, barely a month ago, in the next line over at the movie theater-the broad wedge of his back and the slow smile on his face, the hesitation which she saw him fighting, as he kept his eyes on hers. He was going to the movies alone; so was she. She saw him and he smiled at her and kept looking, fought his shyness, and she knew-knew it completely-that he would end up with her. She wants him to know this. Kristen approached him-she'd never been so bold before-and after making their halting introductions, they laughed at themselves, the obviousness of their shyness and desire, the pleasure of their bravery, and then they sat together during the movie. And she was right. He did end up with her. Here they are, together.

She wants to tell him she was never in doubt.

Mine's exceptionally bad, Eric says. I don't know if I should tell you right now.

Tell me. It's good you're going first. We'll start with the bad and then we can finish with the good.

You're sure?

I feel like we can handle anything, she says. Just like this. Don't you feel that way?

He shifts a bit, kisses her dry lips, and tilts his mouth close to her ear.

I WAS SEVEN when this happened. My family went to a state park down in southern Indiana, and in this park were a bunch of deep ravines and cliffs. It was my mother and my father and my younger sister and our-my-dog. His name was Gale-I named him that because he ran so fast. I was proud of the name, to have thought that one up. Gale, he was a mutt, mostly German shepherd. Maybe a couple of years old, but we'd had him since he was a puppy. I'd raised him. He slept with me at night. I loved that dog. He was one of the great playmate dogs, waiting for me when I got off the bus, protective of me when I was around other kids. Always wanting to do a good job-like dogs do, you know?

He had this ball, a rubber squeaking ball, that was his favorite toy. We brought it with us to the park. At midday my father took us to a picnic area and started up one of the grills. My mother and sister went to wade in the river. Me and Gale climbed a slope, into the woods, to play. I started throwing his ball, and he started chasing it, and we kept going on and on into the woods, away from the trail. Gale kept getting more and more frantic and excited, and he'd catch his ball and run with it, tearing off into the bushes, with me just trying to keep up.

We kept climbing and I got the ball from him finally. We'd climbed high enough to get to the edge of a cliff overlooking the river. So-I don't know why, I know I didn't mean any harm by it-I started tossing the ball close to the edge of the cliff. I wasn't trying to do anything-I mean, nothing wrong-I was testing him, you know, to see how fast he was. I was...proud of him. He'd tear off and get his ball before it got close to the edge, and I guess I thought he knew what we were doing as well as I did.

Then I gave the ball a stronger toss, and it bounced too close to the edge, and I saw I'd messed up; it was going to fall off, Gale was too far away to get to it. But he went for it anyway. The ball went over the edge, and he didn't slow down-he was too keyed up, I'd gotten him too excited. I shouted out, No, trying to get him to stop, but he didn't until he was just at the edge. Then he realized where he was, and he skidded in the dirt and went sideways, and then his back paws went off the edge of the cliff, and he was stuck there, hanging on with his front paws and his elbows, trying to push himself back up over the edge.

I ran to him, and when I was close to the edge I saw how far down it was. Maybe a hundred feet, I don't know. A long, long way. I saw it all like I'd taken a picture of it, and I can still see it. The cliff was old, dark, rotten limestone, and it was covered with moss, and I can remember how it smelled, all wet, like turned-up soil, and vines went up and down it, and at the bottom was this dark shadowed bank, covered with old black leaves, and some slimy-looking dead trees. The edge of the cliff was crumbling and covered with gravel, and I felt dizzy looking over it. And instead of grabbing Gale's collar I kind of...kind of stared for a minute, you know, I just froze, looking at the drop.

But only for a second, a hhalf a second. It couldn't have been long. Gale was trying his best to get back up, kicking against the rock with his back paws, and scraping at the gravel with his front paws. He almost made it, but then lost it again and started to slide. He was looking at me with his eyes bugging out, and making this...this huffing sound. That's when I got on my hands and knees and went to him and tried to grab his collar, but a rock must have given or something, because he fell right when I got to him. He made a...a yelp. When he knew.

I was at the edge, leaning out over it, to get his collar, and I could see him fall. His paws kept moving, like he was trying to get at the rock still, but he was falling in air. He turned over once or twice. Halfway down he hit an outcrop of limestone, and I think that was what killed him. He bounced off of it, but he didn't move on his own after. And when he hit it, he made...this sound, real quick and sharp. Kind of like a scream that got cut off in the middle.

Copyright © 2005 by Christopher Coake

All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

CHRISTOPHER COAKE lives in Reno, where he teaches creative writing at the University of Nevada.

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We're in Trouble 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SavageBS More than 1 year ago
Christopher Coake's debut collection is nothing less than exceptional! "We're in Trouble" is easily one of the top three best books of short stories I have ever read. The book has seven magnificent stories, all covering different subjects and each one leaves an impression. This book will literally grab you from the start, with the first story "We're in Trouble - A Suite", which has three parts to it, with each story being different and not related to the others. Part I - (Back Down to Earth) is a moving, heart breaking story about a boy and his dog Part II - (All Babies Come from Heaven) will take your breath away, a couple that wants to have a child is torn by tragedy Part III - (We've Come to This) is a the story about an old man who is terminally ill and is ready to say goodbye The rest of the collection - Cross Country - a superb tale about what a little boy thinks he saw and then the telling of what actually happened Solos - the story of a daring solo mountain climber whose family is always in peril, waiting for the next bit of information on his success / failure / death In the Event - a gripping story about a couple who aren't quite sure about their own relationship, their lives are changed forever when their best friends are killed and leave their son in their care A Single Awe - a woman who once wasn't sure her college boyfriend was the right man, ends up marrying him after he becomes a hero and looks back at her choices Abandon - two young lovers want to get away and retreat to a secluded cabin right before a brutal surprise snow storm blows in and leaves them trapped All Through the House - a story about a sheriff who tells the story of his best friend who commits a horrific murder suicide on his family and how, why & what led up to that point This collection doesn't have alot of reviews, but it does have a perfect 5 star average rating. Reading the other reviews myself, it's very easy to see that I'm not alone in stating that this book blew me away and stayed with me several days after I finished it. If your planning on reading this book, don't let the fact that their is only one review posted for this book so far! Highly, highly recommended short stories! Enjoy~