‘Senor Otaola, Natural Sciences’ by Medardo Fraile, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

Senor Otaola is science teacher of scientific precision: his lessons begin and end on time, and his marks are undisputed. In fact, “knowing him, one could understand why the heavenly spheres do not bump into each other…” And yet one day he decides to jump from the top of a flight of twelve stairs, as if defying the laws of nature. Fraile’s story is one that demonstrates the power of the unlikely; the success or failure of Senor Otaola’s jump does not matter, only that it takes place. Fraile came to the UK in the 1960s and eventually settled in Scotland. His stories exist in the borderland between laughter and tears, but are always gentle. 

First published in Spanish as ‘Senor Otaola, ciencias’ in Descubridor de nada y otros cuentos, Editorial Prensa Española, 1970, and in English in Things Look Different in the Light, Pushkin Press, 2014