Thursday, 20 August 2015


My wife has always been good at embroidery and the talking pillows were her idea and I just went with it.

I don't know how many she's made but I've got to know them all intimately over the years.

When we first moved in together I used to rest my head on the I Love You pillow. The one with the pink owl sat on a tree. I gave her the I Love you too one so that we were a matching set. But gradually I've got to know most of them. It wasn't long before Sweet Dreams replaced I Love You, although to be fair to my wife pillowcases do have to be washed regularly. But I admit I was surprised how quickly Sorry I've Got A Headache and I Have To be Up Early In the Morning arrived on the scene.

Our dog has his own pillow now which is great for him. Although he doesn't really appreciate it as much as she'd like him to. Very often we wake up to find Billy on the couch and his Little Devil pillow flung on the floor. He always has the same pillow. Even though he's had a few replacements after chewing some of them. He's not one for change.

It's a long time since we've been coordinated, me and the wife. And usually when I sneak into the closet to find her I Love You pillow  I normally end up being something else altogether. A mismatch. That's what my pillow should say. Mr Mismatch. I'm very often Mr Grumpy or Never Satisfied. She has power over the pillows. She's the pillow master. I'm not allowed in the closet anymore. When we first married it was a game of Who can get in the closet first and we would sometimes fight over the Sex Bomb pillow. I haven't seen that one for a few years and if I found it, Billy would probably get it before me.

We've had a few bad arguments over the years and she even has her own set of pillows for those occasions. Unfortunately I know them to well. You really don't want to know what they have written on them.

She always makes sure I have one of her pillows even if I'm sleeping on the couch or in the porch. If I go away on business I normally take Mr Grumpy with me. It's probably the most comfortable of the lot.

She's great at embroidery but not very good at plumping up pillows. I don't know what she puts in them. It could be leaves or teabags or nail clippings as far as I am concerned. They've never been very comfortable. Although Billy always seems to have the plumpest pillow going. He must be doing something right.

Lately she's started to make a new batch but she does it in secret. Either the old ones are looking worse than I thought or she's found new ways to describe me. There's a Fat Bastard in there somewhere, I just know it. Or maybe she's just looking ahead and she's working on the one that's going in my coffin. She's always looking too far ahead and maybe she thinks it's going to happen sooner rather than later.

No doubt she's making some new one's for Billy. But it's always Little Devil. He's never anything else. Unlike me. I dread to think of what I'm going to be resting my head on for the next twenty years. It seems a long time since I was Stud Of The Year or that one night in Vegas when I was Irresistible.

I don't know what my coffin pillow is going to say. I don't really like to think about it. But I'm guessing it's going to be the comfiest of the lot.


                                                                                         Ally Atherton 2015

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


I sneak up on you and turn your key.

Sometimes I do it when you are asleep, when you don't hear night sounds like your fridge belching or your floorboards groaning as I tip-toe across them. I turn it just enough so that your good dreams don't overexcite you and the bad ones don't go on for long enough to kill you.

But when you are awake I have to turn your key when you are not looking. When you are doing simple things like boiling a kettle or peeling a potato or hanging your smalls on the washing line. I have to be careful that you don't see me and that I don't drop the key before I have the chance to turn it. I especially have to make sure that I bob down quickly enough whenever you look at yourself in the mirror. I've been caught out a few times like that and I see the momentary look of horror on your face before you have the time for your brain to forget seeing me.

I sneak up on you and turn your key.

I make it all happen. Every sneeze. Every fart. Every annoying song that crawls into your head.

It's me.

And I'll be there for you until your key grows blunt and rusty and completely unturnable.

                                                                                     (C) Ally Atherton 2015

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Easy Money

Everybody knows somebody who works in a store, right?

That's all you have to do. Pluck a job out of thin air and slap it in their face and before you know it you'll have them convinced their Aunty Maud has crossed the velvet curtain. It's called shot gunning.You can throw anything at them and they'll make it fit. You just provide the match and they'll set fire to the mailbox.

'Somebody is giving me a nursing badge. So who works with medicines? Who looks after old folk? Who works in the pharmacy? Who takes all the pills?'

You see how it works? It's easy money. You give them a triangle and they'll turn it into a circle. There's no magic involved. They do it all for you.

When I was kid I used to have a lemonade stall in front of our house but I soon realised that by the time you bought all the lemons and squeezed the life out of them all you had left was a bruised ego and enough change to buy a can of Seven Up.

So now I don't have to squeeze any lemons. I just squeeze as much money as I can out of the bastards.

'I'm getting a pair of black boots so who was in the army? In the navy? In the police? Who worked in the shoe shop?'

They fall for it every time. I can convince anybody that their dog is nipping at my ankles. That their Nan loved the funeral service and that, yes, sometimes you can smell their perfume, their favourite flower or their Lambert and Butler Superkings. They'll believe everything you tell them because they want to believe there's a better place out there beyond the thunderdome.  That's there's an Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road.

A place where you don't have to squeeze the lemons or the apples that life throws at you just so that you can buy a can of Dandelion and Burdock.


                                                         (C) Ally Atherton 2015

336 Words for the Light & Shade Challenge and the A to Z Blog Challenge

Thursday, 2 April 2015


                                         Art work by Moolikesskittles

I am the only person that sees her.

April. With her ridiculous costume and her lob-sided smile that looks like it has been painted by a four year old with a broken crayon. For everybody else she is nothing but a corner of the eye illusion. An ocular event as sinister as the wagging tail of a dog. As devastating as a microscopic particle of dust landing on the carpet.

But she's there all the same. And I see her. And sometimes she sees me

and when she does her face drops to the floor and she will stick out her tongue or blow a raspberry across the room at me. And I know then that she is about to do something. Somebody is about to trip over their own feet on the sidewalk.

Somebody is about to piss themselves in the middle of a very important meeting.

Somebody is about to declare their love to somebody who is going to spit every single ounce of their love straight back

at their face like a two day old piece of gum.

                                                            (C) Ally Atherton  2015


Written for the Light and Shade Challenge and Day One

          of the A to Z blog challenge.

Monday, 30 March 2015

The Girl With The Wheel Barrow

We touch other peoples' lives simply by existing
JK Rowling

It’s a girl with a wheel barrow.’

I don’t know what I was expecting to hear but it wasn’t that.

‘What do you mean a girl with a wheelbarrow?’ I asked.

The whole world had been waiting with baited breath for our five minute glimpse into the US sponsored Future Scope. Mankind’s first peek into the future. Into the year 3055.

‘It’s some kind of a garden ornament Sir.’

‘A garden ornament?’

I pushed the professor out of the way and had a look for myself. And there she was, a young girl of about six staring at me with dead ceramic eyes. A hundred years in the planning and this was our result.

‘So what does this mean?’ asked the professor.

‘It means,’ I said, ‘that in the year 3055, people will still have bloody gardens.’

But I also knew that we would have to wait another 100 years to try again.

A hundred years of preparation and all we had was a stupid girl with a wheel barrow. Staring into the past with a stupid grin. And in five minutes she would disappear, taking 3055 with her.

But then I saw it. We all saw it. The smile was changing into something else. The girl with the wheel barrow wasn’t smiling but screaming. And as the image faded, we all hear the words she was screaming. I’ll never forget what she said.


                                                       (C) Ally Atherton

236 Words I wrote for the Light and Shade Challenge and the Facebook group 500 Fiction.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Catching Thoughts

                          The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts

                                                                                         John Locke

ON A GOOD day people are walking around with bubbles coming out of their heads.

The blunter the thought, the smaller the bubble. HUNGRY and HORNY are top of the pile, closely followed by I NEED A PISS. I think every fourth person that I come across needs a piss and 1 in 10 are thinking about ways to spend their winning lottery ticket.

That's as exciting as it gets most of the time but it's the sharper thoughts with the biggest bubbles that all thought catchers worth their salt live and breathe for. But you have to be on your toes. Sharp thoughts burst quickly. Sometimes you almost have to catch them before they've had the chance to form, those sharp thoughts with big bubbles can be a handful.

Because sharp thoughts are also the heaviest.

I once put my back out trying to catch an I KILLED MY WIFE. And only yesterday I was taking a late night stroll and an

                               I NEED TO FUCK AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD

burst before I had chance to catch it. And you have to catch the sharp ones or else nothing ever gets done.

But most days are bad and bubbleless days. Bad days where thoughts cling to the cold bars of their human cages for dear life and won't come out to play unless you grab them by their small and danglies, kicking and screaming.

                                                                            (C) Ally Atherton 2015

235 Words written for this week's Light and Shade Challenge.

                                                            Why not take a look and join in? It's fun.

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Art of Laughter

                                'If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane.'

                                                                    Jimmy Buffett

WHEN I WAS a kid my cousin had a Bugs Bunny on a chain. You pulled the chain and he'd start yapping.

They don't make toys like that anymore. Things don't come on a chain. But sometimes I wonder if my life would have been easier if I came with a chain because since it happened I find it hard to get my  words out, in the right order. The Doctor told my mum that I had Meccano Words. It was his clever way of saying that my words don't come out fully assembled and that you need to screw them together to make any sense out of them. But if I had a chain you wouldn't have to do that.

It wasn't the words I was worried about. At least I had words even though they came out broken and people had to put them together for me before they could use them. It was years later when I discovered that I had lost the art of laughter.

Bugs Bunny had a box inside his chest that contained every word he ever needed to say. They never fell out of his mouth. People didn't need to catch them with butterfly nets. You didn't need a Screwfix catalogue to work out what the hell he was saying. But it was his laugh that cracked us up. We used to pull that chain over and over, cutting him off mid sentence so we could hear it. I can hear it now.

Whenever I go to see somebody I get the same words thrown back at me. At night I imagine those words on a big wheel and sometimes it won't stop turning. Occasionally the wheel stops on a particular word like cognition or desensitisation or rape. I have lost count of the amount of times I've tried to grab hold of that wheel so that I can open my bedroom window and throw it out into the cold night air. A cold night air full of people without chains. Where childhood and adulthood are well oiled machines. Where laughter doesn't slip from your fingers or live inside a rabbits ribcage.

                                                                                        (C) Ally Atherton 2015

359 Words written for this weeks Light and Shade Challenge.