After too many wines at the student club, your friend shows you a photograph of her infant daughter
by Gillian O'Shaughnessy
She keeps it in her purse. It’s faded and the edges are peeling. The baby is lying on her stomach on a blanket in the sun, she has lifted her head, she is almost smiling. The colour of her red overalls is stark against the faded beige and brown of a dry suburban garden. Her pale hair, a scrape in the light. On the back of the photo there’s a date, and the name ‘Chantelle’ written in blue ink. Of course, your friend says, I don’t know if they kept her name. They could have called her whatever they like.
Gillian O'Shaughnessy is a writer from Walyalup, Fremantle in Western Australia, with work in SmokeLong Quarterly, Fractured Lit and the Best Small Fictions, 2023.
What ultimately made this piece my winner was the number of layers I found within the story. In order to whittle down from 490 entries to one single winner, I read each piece numerous times, seeing if I still had the same enchantment with the story and whether I could find something new. Here, I was mesmerised by those layers. We are in the club (I love how the title does so much heavy lifting), we are in that suburban garden, we are hurtled back to that imagined scene where the friend gave up her baby for adoption. There is so much implication in the small details - the curling edges of the photo, the colour contrast in that garden. And at the end of the piece, we are asked to contemplate the friend's sadness, why this particular anecdote resonates so much with the narrator, and how it changes our own perception on the world. A sparkling, multi-faceted micro!