K.J. Orr, recent winner of the BBC National Short Story Award 2016, is confirmed as a tutor for the Spring 2017 semester of our Creative Writing Online programme. Below, you can read the full version of ‘Disappearances’ – her award-winning story of about a retired plastic surgeon who finds himself drawn to a waitress in a Buenos Aires cafe.
The beginning is simple enough: I find myself in the park due to a sudden and overwhelming urge to go to the museum.
People speak of the shock of retirement. They warn of the possibility of profound depression. However, this is not something I expect for myself. The life I have built here over the years keeps me more than occupied, regardless of work. And so it comes as a surprise to me – this nervous and shifty feeling on waking. It is as if I can only sidle up to the day, like a neurotic suitor.
My restlessness increasingly translates itself into abrupt impulses. To put it bluntly, an urge presents itself much in the manner of the need to urinate or defecate, and demanding immediate action. It is due to just such an impulse that I find myself on the steps of the museum at an absurdly early hour without any real justification for being there.
The museum – established many years ago, and in part with my family’s money – houses a moderate collection of European art, mostly paintings, some sculpture, in a building of national importance, warranting both attention and preservation. It is a while since I’ve been there. Not since ’93 perhaps.
It is closed, of course. Everywhere is closed at this time of day.
It is spring – and early enough in the day to find some moments of peace before the city’s traffic starts spewing noise and fumes.
I consider my options. I could return to the apartment. Carolina will be there soon enough to make my coffee and breakfast. However I have woken to a clear sky and it remains fine. It has been neither a long walk nor an unpleasant one, passing through the park. Under the circumstances I decide to walk on.
The jacarandas are coming into bloom. It is spring – and early enough in the day to find some moments of peace before the city’s traffic starts spewing noise and fumes.
I find myself gravitating to the edge of the park in the hope of locating a newspaper stand before heading for home.
It is odd how places local to us can remain invisible for so long – until one day they simply present themselves.
The café sits directly on the corner of what is, by day, a busy avenue. It is set back however, separated by railings, a broad curve of paving stones, and the beginnings of a long colonnade.
K.J. Orr has published short fiction in the Irish Times, the Dublin Review, the White Review and Best British Short Stories. She was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2011 and won in 2016. Her debut collection of stories, Light Box, was published in 2016. She is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and holds a doctorate on the short story from the University of Chichester. She has worked as a writing tutor and mentor in London, and her reviews and critical work have appeared in The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and Poetry Review.
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