It’s been less than a year since Kristen Roupenian published the buzziest short story in recent memory: “Cat Person.” Now, off that huge success, the author is preparing for the launch of her debut book of short stories, You Know You Want This: “Cat Person” and Other Stories.
Tracking what makes women “horrifying as much as it captures the horrors that are done to them,” the stories center on a couple who become obsessed with their friend hearing them have sex and seeing them have sex… until they can’t have sex without him; a 10-year-old whose birthday party takes a sinister turn when she wishes for “something mean”; a woman who finds a book of spells half-hidden at the library and summons her heart’s desire: a nameless, naked man; and a self-proclaimed “biter” who dreams of sneaking up behind and sinking her teeth into a green-eyed, long-haired, pink-cheeked co-worker.
It’s that last story, about the “biter,” which EW can exclusively preview for readers. Below, you can check out the cover for You Know You Want This as well as a first excerpt from the book.
Read on, and pre-order You Know You Want This ahead of its Jan. 15, 2019, publication date here.
Excerpt from You Know You Want This, by Kristen Roupenian
Ellie was a biter. She bit other kids in preschool, bit her cousins, bit her mom. By the time she was four years old, she was going to a special doctor twice a week to “work on” biting. At the doctor’s, Ellie made two dolls bite each other, and then the dolls talked about how biting and being bitten made them feel. (“Ouch,” one said. “Sorry,” said the other. “I feel sad about that,” said the one. “I feel happy,” said the other. “But . . . sorry again.”) She brainstormed lists of things she could do instead of biting, like raise her hand and ask for help, or take a deep breath and count to ten. At the doctor’s suggestion, Ellie’s parents put a chart on Ellie’s bedroom door, and Ellie’s mom put a gold star on it for every day Ellie didn’t bite.
But Ellie loved biting, even more than she loved gold stars, and she kept on biting, joyfully and fiercely, until one day, after preschool, pretty Katie Davis pointed at Ellie and whispered loudly to her dad: “That one’s Ellie. No one likes her. She bites people,” and Ellie felt so sick with shame she didn’t bite anyone again for more than twenty years.
As an adult, though her active biting days were behind her, Ellie still indulged in daydreams in which she stalked her coworkers around the office, biting them. For example, she imagined sneaking into the copy room where Thomas Widdicomb was collating reports, so engrossed in his task that he didn’t notice Ellie creeping up behind him on all fours. Ellie, what on earth, Thomas Widdicomb would cry, in the final seconds before Ellie sunk her teeth into his plump and hairy calf.
For while the world had succeeded in shaming Ellie out of biting, it couldn’t make her forget the joy of tiptoeing behind Robbie Kettrick while he was standing at the craft table, smugly stacking blocks. Everything is normal, quiet, boring, and then here comes Ellie—CHOMP! Now Robbie Kettrick is screaming like a baby and everybody is scrambling and yelling, and Ellie is no longer just a little girl but a wild creature pacing the halls of the preschool, sowing chaos and destruction in her wake.
The difference between children and adults is that adults understand the consequences of their actions, and Ellie, as an adult, understood that if she wanted to pay her rent and keep her health insurance, she could not run around biting people at work. Therefore, for a long time, Ellie did not seriously consider biting her coworkers—not until the office manager died of a heart attack at lunch, in front of everyone, and the temp agency sent Corey Allen to replace him.
Corey Allen! Later, Ellie’s coworkers would ask each other: What on Earth had the people at the temp agency been thinking, sending him? Green-eyed, blond-haired, pink-cheeked Corey Allen did not belong in an office environment. Corey Allen, like a faun or a satyr, belonged in a sunlit field surrounded by happy naked nymphs, making love and drinking wine. As Michelle in Accounting put it, Corey
Allen gave off the impression that he might, at any second, decide to quit being an office manager and run off to live in a tree. Ellie, who was something of an outcast at work, often walked in on hushed conversations about Corey Allen that presumably centered around how much the other women in the office wanted to sleep with him. Corey Allen was beautiful and fey.
Ellie didn’t want to have sex with Corey Allen. Ellie wanted to bite him, hard.
From YOU KNOW YOU WANT THIS: “Cat Person” and other stories by Kristen Roupenian. Copyright 2019 by Kristen Roupenian. Reprinted by permission of Scout Press, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.