The first time you pass by the troll in the box you kind of try not to see it.
It's gross as fuck when people do this. You guess maybe it's better than driving them out into the country and dumping them to make it on their own, or those stories you've heard about people dumping unwanted wrigglers in sacks into rivers--those you try not to think about because fuck, that is not okay on any level but it's not like you can do shit about it.
It's a small troll. Way smaller than most--a runt probably, and its horns are tiny little round nubs almost hidden in its shock of black hair. And--oh, right. Okay. Yeah. You get why it's in a box on the side of the street, free
to good home: it's crying a little, and the stains on its small round grey face are a color they shouldn't be.
Of course it has no idea why it's been dumped here. It watches the people pass by uncomprehendingly. You try not to think that it's waiting for its person to come back.
You turn up the volume on your ipod and hunch into your jacket against the chilly drizzle that's begun to fall and you pass on. You can't fix the fucking world. God knows it needs it, but you're a DJ, not a politician, you can't make it illegal for people to do things like this.
Your set that evening is not among your best.
You're a little drunk when you leave the club. Your friends offer to share a cab but honestly you could kind of use the fresh air right now after hours in the hot noisy smoky atmosphere: it's raining, but you've never minded rain. You mind bright sunlight. That hurts your eyes.
And by now you're good enough to get gigs in places like this one, where you can actually walk back to your place without carrying anything too illegal in case someone tries shit. It's a weird feeling not to have to constantly be on your guard; it makes you paradoxically more aware of your surroundings in aesthetic terms rather than as potential sources of danger. So it is that you can hear the little quiet whimpers under the sound of the rain, and you think: that's not a good sound, someone is really unhappy, and then you realize where you are and what's making it.
Oh, fuck. It's still there.
The little troll from this afternoon is still there in its box, and you can just about still read what someone had scrawled on it in magic marker: UNWANTED FREE UGLY TROLL.
Maybe it's the vodka or maybe it's just that you're a gigantic fucking pushover, which your brother always pointed out, but you can't not go across the street to where it's still standing in its now extremely soggy box. The hair is plastered to its head and you can see that the horns are really very small indeed, and rounded. Unsatisfactory horns.
It looks up at you with big eyes, the pupils huge in the darkness, and it mewls and you can see it shivering, and...
Well, fuck Bro and fuck his rules and fuck the fact that this is an intensely dumb spur-of-the-moment thing to do but you just cannot walk away. If any version of you walked away you would have to go beat his ass the fuck up because this is wrong, this is just simply fucking wrong, and you reach down to lift the little troll out of the box.
It's heavy---no, he's heavy despite his diminutive size: you know they're denser, more compact than humans. He hangs in your hands like a soggy rag doll, too cold even to shiver.
You unzip your jacket and tuck him inside, and sluggishly his small hands close on folds of your shirt, and he presses close to you--fuck, he's freezing, fuck--and you give the soggy remains of his box a kick to attempt to relieve some of your feelings, and hold your small cold wet acquisition against your chest as you hurry the rest of the way home.
"What the fuck," Bro says, when you show him what you're holding. "What the fuck. Dave. You can't keep a troll, jesus christ, what are you even thinking? Where did you find it?"
"In a box in the rain on the side of the street." He's still clinging to your shirt, small squinched grey face buried against you. "He was there all night. He's fucking freezing, Bro. I couldn't leave him."
You think Bro is about to say something else, but just then the little troll sneezes, a tiny little utterly pathetic sound, and you see his shoulders slump. Gotcha.
"God damn it," he says. "You are doing the care and feeding. This is your responsibility, little man, not mine. That understood?"
"Fuck," he sighs. "It figures. My little brother not only brings home a troll, but he brings home the smallest most pathetic little runt of a troll I ever did see. Look at those horns. Fucking disgraceful."
You try not to smile, because now under the tone you can hear the same warmth he used when he would berate your dumb ass for stuff he really didn't mind all that much.
It is harder than you expected to detach your troll from your shirt. When you do pry him free he cries, and aw, fuck, that is a terrible noise, that is the sort of noise you do not ever want to hear, and you're about to helplessly hug him tight again when Bro leans in to ruffle his sodden hair. That seems to puzzle the shit out of him for long enough that the pair of you can get him undressed and into the tub--and once in the hot water he flails briefly and then settles, looking comically astounded.
He doesn't like soap, but then you kind of get that, it makes no sense, it stings eyes and tastes horrible, and obviously he is not the happiest of trolls while you and Bro get him cleaned up, but once he's out of the bath and wrapped in a towel he chills out and does this critically adorable yawn that shows lots and lots of tiny not-very-sharp teeth.
"He needs to go get...like...checked out," you say, not looking up from this edifying sight. "He might be sick or something."
"He needs his shots at least."
"Ugh, shots." You instinctively hold the towel-troll bundle closer to your chest. "I guess. He might be...what, microchipped or something, but fuck if I'm gonna give him back to whoever put him in that box."
Bro is putting his leather gloves back on, after the bath, and looks down at your armful. "Hey, little dude," he says, almost kinder than you have ever fucking heard him. "You got a name?"
Oh. That's right. They can do language.
The troll blinks great big eyes up at the pair of you and makes a sort of purry chirpy rattly noise that sounds a lot like "Krrkat."
And then he sneezes tinily again, and okay, yeah, there is no way at all you are going to not keep this little guy. You think Bro probably feels the same by the way he gives your shoulder a hard, brief squeeze with one callused hand.
Okay. You have a troll.
You have a troll. What the fuck do you do next?