• H.R. Owen

Episode Sixty Four

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Episode Sixty Four


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Monstrous Agonies E64S02 Transcript


H.R. Owen

Hello friends, Hero here. Welcome back – albeit briefly. Monstrous Agonies is off again next week. That's no episode on April 14th and we'll be back with you on the 21st. Have a lovely week, and see you soon.


[Title music: slow, bluesy jazz.]


H.R. Owen

Monstrous Agonies: Episode Sixty Four.


[The music fades out, replaced by the sound of a radio being tuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-full time, permanent position-”, a voice saying “-on the ocean floor-”, classical music and a voice saying “-propaganda-” before cutting off abruptly as it reaches the correct station.]

The Presenter

-something holy in the light that day.


Next on the Nightfolk Network, it's time for listener's letters in our weekly advice segment. This week we're kicking things off with a listener doing their best not to offend.


The Presenter (as First Letter Writer)

Growing up, I never really had much contact with liminal folk. Me and my immediate family are all sapio, and everyone at my school was sapio – or was keeping their heads down, not unreasonably in a small town in rural England. There were a handful of people I'd see around town who were visibly a member of the community, but in terms of who I actually talked to and spoke with, uh...


My parents did their best. They bought us books featuring people of the night, and it was never taboo to talk about it our house, like I know it was for some people. But there's only so much you can really learn from books and TV and what have you.


By the time I left home, I was chock-a-block with good intentions, well-versed in the dos and don'ts of creaturely etiquette – don't ask a person what genus they are, do use inclusive language, et cetera, et cetera. But I'd never really had to put it into practice.


I've broadened my horizons a lot since then. More than that – the world's changed. There are kids going to school on the bus quite happily toting their funky little decorated blood bags for their lunch. My work contract explicitly says that time off for periods of enforced transformation are to be counted as paid sick days, not annual leave. It's a different world. A better world.


I've got over most of my discomfort around people of the night. I wish I could say I didn't feel any discomfort at all, but I don't think that's helpful. You don't just be a better person by wishing it, after all – you've got to be honest about what you're working with. And I've been steeping in sapio-centric ideas my whole life. I'm doing my best but, you know.


But lately, my housemate has been having this problem and I... [sighs] OK. So, he's a somatically binary shifter. He can present as either a sapio-seeming man or a rather fat ginger house cat. He prefers his sapio-seeming form. Opposable thumbs and all that. I'd never even seen his feline form before all this started.


The last month or so, he's been under a lot of stress at work and it's having some kind of hormonal effect? I don't really want to go into the details of his medical problems on national radio but the long and short of it is, he's finding it very difficult to shift. He wakes up some mornings in his feline form and can't get back to two legs for days at a time.


He's getting it sorted. He's talking to his GP and his manager about medication and his workload and all that stuff. But it's taking a while. It's going to take a while. And, uh, well. Agh. I'm allergic to cats.


I'm spending a fortune on antihistamines and I'm itchy all the time – my whole face is itchy, my eyeballs feel like they've been wrapped in sandpaper, I'm waking up every morning with a throat like the Sahara.


But he's already so embarrassed. And I don't want to be one of those sapios who takes the problems of the creature community and makes it all about them. It's not like he doesn't have enough on his plate being, you know, a cat.


And I-I don't want to disrespect him. There's nothing wrong with his body, it's different than a sapio body and that's fine. But I'm about ready to scratch my face off.


So. On a scale of one to ten, how utterly insensitive would it be for me to start looking up ways to reduce his shedding?

The Presenter (as themselves)

Oh, listener. Your heart's in the right place, but I'm afraid your common sense has taken a stroll around the block. You're seriously over-thinking this.


It's good that your aware of the dangers of sapios inserting themselves into creature spaces or derailing conversations about issues that affect the community. This is not that.


You're not wading into a conversation about somatic variability just to air your personal grievances. You're in this conversation, it- it's about you, about the direct impact that your housemate's situation is having on your health.


I'm struck by a similarity here between your problem, and the examples you gave of how the world has improved since you were young. Creature children feeling at ease in public, your workplace recognising the needs of its liminal employees. The common theme here is openness.

You said it yourself – you were better prepared for the world because your parents acknowledged the creature community's existence and made efforts to educate you about it. About us.


Even now, you're able to ask me for advice because you know this station exists. It wasn't very long ago at all that it would have been almost unthinkable for a sapio to listen to our network. You're very welcome, by the way.

We all benefit when difference is acknowledged. If you don't first recognise that your body is different than your housemate's, then you can't do anything about making your shared space safe and comfortable for you both. You aren't going to cause offence simply by drawing attention to that difference.

Also, I strongly suggest you do some work around how you frame your interactions with people of the night. It's important to recognise how cultural norms and power dynamics impact our personal relationships. But I'm afraid you seem to be losing sight of the actual person at the middle of this.


Your housemate is not a monolithic representative of the entire creature community. You aren't going to sour cross-genus community relations if you make a misstep. He's your housemate, and you are having a perfectly normal conflict of needs. Talk to him as you would any other housemate. Just... calm down.


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


The Presenter

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[End background music]


The Presenter

Tonight's second letter comes from a listener facing one of the most pernicious threats to community well-being since the days of the Black Death. Please be aware that this letter contains discussion of landlords.


The Presenter (as Second Letter Writer)

So, I actually like renting. In theory. I like the fact that if the shower breaks, or the lights go on the fritz, it's not my job to fix it. I like having someone who I can phone and make it their problem. I like that if I don't like somewhere, I can just leave. Hit da bricks.


In principle, renting's a perfectly good way to live. There's no inherent reason for landlords to be stingy, good-for-nothing, money-grubbing snakes. In practise though... Well. [sighs] You know yourself.


It's the rules that get me. I'm paying you a third of my income to live somewhere, and you're telling me I have to ask your permission to hang a picture? No. Nope. That's what my security deposit's for. You don't like it? Get a real job.


So, yeah, I'm pretty relaxed about making a place my own. I don't take the mick – I'm not breaking down walls or tearing up floorboards. But, you know. A lick of paint, putting up shelves, new curtain rails, that kind of thing. It's my house, you know. I pay for it.

I need a bit of advice though with a recent development. Her name's Bonnie and [baby voice] she's the best girl in the world, yes she is! She's a rescue, poor love, though how anyone could give this gorgeous girl up, I don't know.


She had a bit of a settling in period, bit of anxiety. I could hardly get her off the walls for the first week, every time I came close she'd scuttle away up to the ceiling. And we had a few nervous puddles, though luckily I got to them before they could burn a hole in the carpet. She did eat my armchair, which I could have done without but, you know. These things happen.


Thing is, I'm not sure how to deal with the landlord on this. He doesn't know that Bonnie's come to live with me. I think technically I'm supposed to ask before getting a pet, but I know what landlords are like. Better to ask for forgiveness and all that.


I think it might be better to keep Bonnie on the down low as much as possible. Now she's settled in she's absolutely fine – she spends most of the day asleep, curled up in her nest, little tendrils twitching as she dreams. Sorry, I'm just, I'm looking at her now, she's so cute. Who could say no to that little face, eh? All those big melty eyes looking down at you. [baby voice] Oh, gorgeous girl, yes you are.


Anyway, what do reckon? Do I have to tell him? What if he says she's not allowed? And what if I just... kept her anyway?


The Presenter (as themselves)

First of all, listener, you should check your lease. What precisely does it say about pet ownership?


If you're based in England, there was an amendment made last year to the government's model lease – a template recommended for use by private landlords. In the new template, permission for pet ownership is assumed to have been given, unless the landlord objects within 28 days of receiving a written request, and landlords are dissuaded from refusing unless the pet is deemed “unsuitable” for the property.


If you're thinking that leaves an awful lot of space to weasel around in, you'd be correct. The best you have to protect your rights as a pet-owner is a suggestion in a recommended template that allows your landlord to refuse your request on the vaguest possible grounds.


Knowing landlords, I think it's pretty safe to say you're almost definitely in breach of your lease already. Do check, though, as you want to make any further decisions with a clear idea of their possible consequences.


You might write to you landlord now and ask for permission. I'd probably not mention that Bonnie is already in situ, as it were. It's possible that your letter will find your landlord in the throes of a deeply uncharacteristic bout of common bloody decency, and perhaps they'll accept. I wouldn't hold your breath, however.


Alternatively, you might choose to just, as you say, keep Bonnie “on the down low”. To be very, very clear I am not advising you to break your contract. But it would be unreasonable not to recognise it as an option.


If that's the approach you prefer, I recommend keeping visits from your landlord to an absolute minimum. As much as possible, try to meet him outside the house to discuss matters relating to your tenancy.


If he must come over, remember – you're entitled to 24 hours notice for any visit apart from repairs. Insist on having that notice. Hopefully that will give you enough time to rid the property of any evidence of Bonnie's existence.


You need to ask yourself some questions. How likely is it that your landlord will discover Bonnie by accident? Are you prepared to lose your deposit, or even face eviction if he does? Do you consider this a reasonable risk? Only you can say. But whatever you do, above all, please promise me this – give Bonnie a skritch from me.


[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 two o'clock on Thursday morning. Next – did you know that one in seven people in the UK will experience dental ejection at some point during their lives? And yet, our understanding of the condition is sadly limited...


[Speech fades into static as the radio is retuned. It scrolls through pop music, a voice saying “-two thousand million skin cells-”, a voice saying “-the cause of all the trouble-”, a voice saying “-won't even talk about this-”, a voice saying “-why not sell it to the world-” and more pop music before fading out.

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

H.R. Owen

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


Tonight's first letter was from an anonymous submission, the second letter came from Art, and today's advert was submitted by Bowl. Thanks, friends. Submissions are now closed for adverts and letters. Please do not send them – they will not get used.


Huge thanks to our latest supporters on Patreon, BertBert, Dany and Petticoated Swashbuckler. Arrr. Join them at patreon.com/monstrousagonies, make a one-off donation a ko-fi.com/hrowen, or show your support by sharing with your friends and familiars, and following us on Tumblr, @MonstrousAgonies, and on Twitter, @Monstrous_Pod.


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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