Winner of the 2019 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and a Library Journal Best Book of 2019
Driving in Cars with Homeless Men is a love letter to women moving through violence. These linked stories are set in the streets and the bars, the old homes, the tiny apartments, and the landscape of a working-class Boston. Serena, Frankie, Raffa, and Nat collide and break apart like pool balls to come back together in an imagined post-divorce future. Through the gritty, unraveling truths of their lives, they find themselves in the bed of an overdosed lover, through the panting tongue of a rescue dog who is equally as dislanguaged as his owner, in the studio apartment of a compulsive liar, sitting backward but going forward in the galley of an airplane, in relationships that are at once playgrounds and cages. Homeless Men is the collective story of women whose lives careen back into the past, to the places where pain lurks and haunts. With riotous energy and rage, they run towards the future in the hopes of untangling themselves from failure to succeed and fail again.
About the Author
Kate Wisel’s fiction has appeared in publications that include Gulf Coast, Tin House online, The Best Small Fictions 2019, Redivider (as winner of the Beacon Street Prize), and elsewhere. She was a Carol Houck Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been awarded scholarships at Writing x Writers, The Wesleyan Writer’s Conference, the Squaw Valley Writer’s Workshop, The Juniper Institute, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago where she teaches at Loyola University and Columbia College Chicago.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Driving in Cars with Homeless Men Sunday and we’re curled into the velvet couch we carried all the way from Goodwill ourselves then pushed into the corner of our old, enormous kitchen. When I brought this guy Andrew home the first time, I dragged him to my bedroom as Frankie flashed a thumbs-up from the couch. She tells me she likes him because he has natural blond hair, an office job downtown, and takes me to dinner like a real guy. We met in what Frankie calls “a picturesque way.” This is the thing, ever since Frankie’s mom died, she wants everything to go right. “How did it go?” Frankie says. I’m wearing a softball tee that got mixed up in the laundry and belongs to Frankie. Frankie’s wearing a button-up sweater and a smile that belongs in toothpaste commercials. “He took me out to Chinese,” I start. I pass back the gravity bong we fashioned from a Pepsi bottle. Her cheekbones flush with the Rosacea that makes her look possessed by insider information, like someone’s got their mouth to her ear. “Details,” she says. It goes more or less like this: Andrew reached his hands across the booth just as I was about to say, “I have an early dentist appointment in the morning.” The waiter moved to our table with the purposefulness of a surgeon and filled our water, shard-like ice cubes cracking in the silence. Then the food came, platter-by-platter, clouds of steam swooshing into our faces. I filled my plate and drowned my rice in duck sauce. “You must have been hungry,” he said as I scraped the last grains with my fork. “Do you want to order dessert?” He leaned forward with the enthusiasm of a talk show host. I ordered another Blue Moon. By the time he got the check I was almost laying down, corpse-like in the booth. I stared at him sleepily, exaggerating my blink like a housecat. I contemplated burping but foresaw him refusing the check and thought better of it. Instead, I reached across the table and crushed a fortune cookie in my fist. I straightened up to pick the fortune from the remains, which read: You need only to understand that it is not necessary it understand but only enjoy. He insisted on walking me home. He tried again to hold my hand as we moved under streetlights that lit up our faces like morons at a spelling bee in which we knew none of the words. I let him grasp my forefinger, which only made me blush. “Careful,” he said, as I kicked my way through the broken glass of me and Frankie’s block, jellied condoms lying shriveled in the cracks. We passed the methadone clinic by Packard’s Corner where beyond the parking lot the registered sex offenders live in tighter and tighter clusters of red dots like the Clap. I was stumbling drunk, and hoped he would leave me at my front door without asking to come inside. When he did, I said, in my best robot, “I do not have air conditioning.” We stood in the envelope-littered foyer as he watched me stab keys into my lock. When the door swung open I held my hand on the knob while he waved, tripping down a step as he reversed his way out of my sight.