Dusky Ruth by A.E. Coppard, 1921
The magic trick:
Imbuing his tale of a one-night stand with just the right amount of sexuality
“Dusky Ruth” is about a one-night stand, so it stands to reason that sexuality is at the heart of the story. That kind of thing can go off the rails real fast, but Coppard lays it on in just the right amount. He captures well the desperate desire and temporary passion inherent to such an encounter. Likewise, he is spot-on in his portrayal of the sober return to reality brought forth by the following morning.
A century later, it’s a favorite topic of another British pop-culture institution, rock band the Arctic Monkeys; surely Alex Turner would enjoy this lustful little nugget of a story. And that’s quite a trick on Coppard’s part.
He whispered: “Ruth!” and she was standing there. She touched him, but not speaking. He put out his hands, and they met round her neck; her hair was flowing in its great wave about her; he put his lips to her face and found that her eyes were streaming with tears, salt and strange and disturbing. In the close darkness he put his arms about her with not thought but to comfort her; one hand had plunged through the long tresses and the other across her hips before he realized she was ungowned; then he was aware of the softness of her breasts and the cold naked sleekness of her shoulders. But she was crying there, crying silently with great tears, her strange sorrow stifling his desire.