Photo Credits

“in this gatsby-in-silicon-valley story, chris cole writes with elegance and urgency, with a nod to the past, a glance toward the future, and insight into the timeless.”

- Frances Lefkowitz Award-winning author of To Have Not (MacAdam/Cage)

“such great heights is a witty and inventive retelling of the great gatsby. set amidst the sumptuous and conspicuous decadence of contemporary silicon valley, this engaging novel very much confirms fitzgerald’s observation about the very rich: ‘they are different from you and me.’”

- Michael David Lukas Award-winning author of The Oracle of Stamboul(HarperCollins)

“my favorite modern poet.”

- Lana Del Rey Multi-platinum recording artist (Interscope)

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Even if you’ve never heard a gun go off before, you wouldn’t mistake it. A rush of wind and blood. The sound of an impact more than the impact itself. People hear a car backfire and they startle, thinking: “was that a gunshot?” But nobody ever hears a real gunshot and says “was that a car?” You just know.

BANG. It’s an explosive, guttural sound that comes from a place so deep I’m afraid to think about its origins. It is the most unpredictable sound I have ever heard and it has an unpredictable effect: I spring into action. I am off my feet and in the air hurling towards the shooter before I can say to myself: duck, you idiot.

Just to be clear this is not something I had ever imagined I would do. Not that being in a situation where I’d be hurling towards someone holding a gun ever occurred to me. I just wasn’t the one who’d stick up for the kid getting beat up. I was the one who’d hide, worried that I’d be next. But in the context of this summer, I guess the unexpected is exactly what you’d expect. It’s fitting, really, that I would be the one that somehow ends up getting caught in the crossfire. In the middle of this war of the houses that I happily participated in, maybe even instigated. It all makes sense. And here I am: seventeen-year-old Charlie Middle in the role of Mercutio. Five feet away and closing in on the familiar shape whose hand is on the trigger. I brace for the impact and try to tell myself to relax, I’m probably already dead.

But the impact never comes.

I unclench my body and open my eyes, but seem to be frozen in mid-air. There’s no noise. It’s not that it’s quiet; in fact I’m sure there are screams and groans and all sorts of chaos. But the sound is missing for me. Like it’s been taken. My eyes alternate:  I stare down the eyes of the shooter, then the barrel of the gun that’s pointed right at me, then those eyes again. I could swim in those eyes they’re so big and shocked. Regardless of how this works out, I’ll know they obviously didn’t mean to kill me. For whatever that’s worth.

As if on cue, time lets go of the arrow it’s drawn. My velocity returns. The inevitable impact comes, and with it another BANG, a flash, and a sudden, permanent pain.

The sky looks like a freshly paved road. Lying on my back in the grove behind my cousin Maisey’s house, I still hear the gunshot ringing through the trees. Maybe it’s been minutes, seconds, maybe less.  I look up from the patch of Earth I occupy and think about the cost of the small patch of real estate beneath me. It’s more than I have in my savings account. More than my parents have in theirs. Including my college fund. I can’t feel my legs. I hear Joss scream for Maisey. It is the most awful sound… the sound of a heart breaking. I lay there, unable to move.

“Where are the stars,” I mumble, as everything goes dark.