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Episode Eleven

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Monstrous Agonies E11S01 Transcript

[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]

H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Eleven.

[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through static and pop music before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-enjoys long walks on the moors and intimate howls at the moon.

Time now for our weekly advice segment, where I offer tips and tricks to help listeners navigate life in the creature community.

Our first letter this evening asks whether or not to confront a friend about their bad manners.

The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

Me and my friend have known each other since uni, though we weren't always close. Our social circles overlapped, but we didn't quite run with the same people. After uni, I'm not sure how it happened but we started spending some more time with each other, and I realised I'd been missing out.

They're terrific! We've got loads in common, sense of humour, taste in books, and they're one of those rare people who are just as good in conversation about deep, meaningful life stuff as they about things like, 'Which is the best ice cream flavour?' and, 'Which Muppet is the sexiest?'

It's been a few months since we became proper friends, and I'd never really thought about it before but I'd never seen them eat. They never got any cake or snacks when we went for coffee, no kebab on the way home from the pub. I hadn't noticed, why would I? And honestly, I probably wouldn't have thought about it if we hadn't gone for lunch a couple of weeks ago.

We didn't plan it. We'd met up to walk their dog – my landlord doesn't allow pets, so I have to live vicariously through my more fortunate friends. We decided to take the dog down the towpath. I didn't realise how far we'd gone – or how hungry I was – until we spotted a pub looming beside the lock like a vision in the desert.

I asked my friend if they fancied a cheeky pint and a bit of pub grub to fend off the winter chill. They agreed, we got a seat in the corner, ordered lunch, and I got the first round in while we waited for our food.

It's hard to tell with them, but my friend seemed anxious – twitchier than usual. I put it down to being in an unfamiliar pub while both of us are visibly part of the community. A few heads did turn when we first came in, but I didn't see anything to worry about. It was just curiosity, fading almost immediately into indifference.

Then the food came and, well. It became pretty clear that my friend wasn't worried about the other punters after all. I suppose the fact they hadn't eaten in front of me yet wasn't quite as coincidental as I thought.

I admit was a bit... surprised at first. It was fairly tidy, for what it was! None of the, um... ejecta made it past their plate. And really, I should have known that predigestion was going to be a thing, given their genus. The noises took a bit of getting used to... But I didn't want to make my friend uncomfortable so I just got on with getting to used to it.

But then, when they finished, they sat back and started grooming themself. It went on for ages, rubbing themselves clean, their arms, their face, wiping over every part of themself. It was as if they'd just whipped out the dental floss and gone to town right there in front of me.

And what's weird is that they didn't seem to have any problem with that. All their nervousness from before had gone, like this was a perfectly reasonable way to behave at the table.

I'm not especially worldly. I haven't travelled far and wide, or met loads of different sorts of people. But it seemed pretty rude to me! Should I say something? Or is this a case of 'stay in your lane'? I don't want to hurt my friend, especially since eating with new people seems to be something they're sensitive about. But also... yuck!

The Presenter (as themselves)

There's good news and bad news here, listener. The good news is, you're not being unreasonable. Grooming oneself at the table is a breach of etiquette regardless of one's genus. The bad news is, there's really no way to confront them about their behaviour.

The food we eat, how we eat it, what our expectations and norms are around food, are all deeply personal and very difficult to criticise without causing serious offence. On top of this, your dilemma also relates to personal grooming and hygiene. Questions of how we keep clean and care for our bodies are possibly the only topic even more personal than eating.

There is also the added complication of their anxiety around eating in front of friends. I suspect you're correct in thinking it was no coincidence you hadn't seen your friend eat before now. It must have taken a great deal of trust and bravery for them to share that side of themself with you. That doesn't negate their rudeness at the end of the meal, but unfortunately it does make the matter of their bad manners more difficult to approach.

As one adult speaking to another, there's really no diplomatic way for you to have this conversation. It is, after all, the kind of criticism usually reserved for the parents of small children. It's a shame your friend doesn't seem to have grown out of the need for it.

There's not much to be done, I'm afraid. If you want to keep sharing meals with your friend, you have to decide for yourself whether their company and conversation is worth the discomfort of their appalling manners. If it isn't, there's nothing for it except quietly avoiding going to eat with them again.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

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[End background music]

The Presenter

Next – a listener who feels they're being taken advantage of.

The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

I like to think of myself as a generous person. I think we all do, deep down. It's one of those thing that's drilled into you from childhood – sharing is caring. Besides, I like being someone my loved ones can rely on. It makes me really happy when they ask me for a favour, whether it's for a run to the blood bank or to borrow a bundle of sage. I like helping them, and more importantly, I like being someone they ask for help.

Except, I've got this one cousin... She's sweet, really, and I know she means well, but...

Alright, so, she asked a while back to borrow my broom. It's a nice broom – I made it myself, ash handle, birch bristles, well-oiled and nicely trimmed. I wouldn't usually lend it out. But she doesn't have one of her own, so I told her when I needed it back by and off she went.

She got it back on time. But she'd managed to get it hexed while she was out. All my protective marks had been scorched straight through, only just missing the wood itself. She was apologetic, and she'd put her own protections on it to make up for the loss of mine, but her work just isn't up the standard that mine is.

So now, I have to figure out what damage was done by the hex in question, remove her sigils, and then lay my own sigils on again afterwards. When, if she'd just been more careful, my original sigils wouldn't have needed redoing for a good few years yet.

If this was a one-off, it would be different. But it's just another incident on an increasingly long list. She borrowed my ritual dagger earlier this year, and brought it back with the blade all nicked and what I really hope was just blood on the handle. My second best robes of major working ended up in the charity shop after she left them at friend's house for months.

And it's smaller things too, like, if I give her a lift somewhere, she never offers to pay for flying ointment. I wouldn't let her, but that's not point. You offer – it's what you do!

It's got so that I don't even want to pick up the phone when I see it's her, in case she's asking me for another favour. But I want her to know that, if she needs me, I'll be there for her. Where's the line between taking care of someone, and being taken advantage of?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Oh, listener. You've got yourself into a rather unnecessary knot here. There's a world of difference between being there for your loved ones when they need you, and continuing to do favours for someone who is clearly unappreciative.

Your cousin has shown on multiple occasions that she's not to be trusted with your possessions. The next time she asks to borrow something from you, explain that you don't feel comfortable lending her things since she's proven she can't take care of them. It might upset her. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Guilt is a powerful motivator - perhaps it will spur her to reconsider her behaviour.

You seem sure that she's not acting out of malice, and I agree. Intention, as you no doubt know very well, is a powerful thing. But when it comes to love, and family, and friendship, it's not enough to not intend to hurt someone. She ought to intend to treat you well, consciously and consistently.

Let her know how you feel. Make your boundaries clear, and stick to them. If it helps, you can frame it as doing her a bigger, more complicated sort of favour – helping her in the long-run to become someone a little less self-centred.

[Background music begins: An acoustic guitar playing a blues riff]

The Presenter

You're listening to the Nightfolk Network, on 131.3FM.

[End background music]

The Presenter

It's 2 o'clock on Thursday morning, and time for our monthly book club. This month's book, 'Autobiography of Red' by Anne Carson, has us asking why there seems to be so much overlap between the creature community and the L...

[The Presenter's voice fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through static, classical and pop music before fading out.

Title music: slow, bluesy jazz. It plays throughout the closing credits.]

H.R. Owen

Episode Eleven of Monstrous Agonies was written and performed by H.R. Owen.

To submit your own letters and suggestions, head over to our website at, email us at, or find us on Tumblr at Monstrous Agonies.

Big hello this week to Chris, our most recent supporter on Patreon. Thanks, friend!

You can support the programme for as little as £1 a month at Agonies. You can also help us out by rating and reviewing us on iTunes, and spreading the word among your friends and familiars.

This podcast is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The theme tune is Dakota by Unheard Music Concepts.

Thanks for listening, and remember - the real monsters are the friends we made on the way.

[Fade to silence]


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