At twelve, Brian Derbez was a boy of short stature for his age and not very athletic. His father, Gerardo, didn’t understand his shy son very well. The young man was nothing like him….
Gerardo was always tall and stocky, and during his adolescence, he got into a lot of mischief. Gerardo tried to bolster his son’s self-confidence, but the more he tried, the more Brian seemed to pull away.
Brian was smart, Gerardo couldn’t deny that, and he had a scholarship to a prestigious private school across town. The boy was afraid to take the bus, but since the school was close to his work, Gerardo picked him up every afternoon.
Gerardo was a sergeant at the local police station, and by the time his job ended at 5:00 p.m., the school day was over. In the winter, Brian would wait in the library and do his homework. But in the summer, he would sit on the school steps and wait for his father, soaking up the sun.
One afternoon, when Gerard arrived, Brian was not on the stairs. He was at the school gate petting a dog. Brian looked at his father with a happy smile.
“Look, Dad,” he shouted, and then told the dog, “Dance!”.
The dog jumped up on his hind legs and did a little spin with his front paws in the air and stuck out his tongue happily.
“Isn’t that great?” the boy asked.
“Yeah,” said Gerardo, surprised by the enthusiasm Brian was showing. “Whose dog is that?”
“It’s Carlos’,” Brain said, and pointed to a man sitting on the sidewalk and leaning against the school fence. The man was in his forties and homeless.
On the ground beside him lay a bundle of blankets. The dog, however, was well cared for. It was a Golden Retriever.
On the way home, Gerardo said to him:
“Listen, Brian, I want you to stay away from that man and his dog, ok?”.
“Carlos is good and I want Gaspar!”, replied Brian.
“Gaspar?” asked Gerardo. “Is that the dog’s name? I’m sure Gaspar is a good dog, but I don’t want you to make friends with the strays, Brian, do you understand?”.
“But Dad…,” Brian protested.
“Not another word,” Gerardo said.
The next day, when Gerardo went to pick up Brian, the boy was studiously sitting on the stairs reading a book, but that night, his wife complained that half a roast chicken was missing.
“I don’t get it!” she said. “I set it aside to make sandwiches for Brian’s lunch and now it’s gone!”.
Gerardo looked at Brian and the boy looked so innocent that he immediately became suspicious.
“Was Brian bringing food to school for that homeless guy and his dog?” he wondered.
Gerardo began to keep an eye on the pantry and noticed that the cans of sausage kept disappearing. He now knew that his son was stealing so he could feed the dog and the homeless man every day.
His son, who had such a hard time making human friends, had grown attached to the dog. It was a shame that it belonged to a stray, a man who could be dangerous.
Two days later, Gerardo left work early and when he arrived at school, he surprised Brian at the door. He had a bag in his hand and said:
“Hi! Carlos, I brought your favorite pasta – and for you, Gaspar, your favorite sausages!”.
“BRIAN! What are you doing?” asked Gerardo.
The boy looked at him and, for the first time, Gerardo saw fear in his son’s eyes. Immediately, he felt a surge of anger.
“Get away from that man,” Gerardo shouted. “Get in the car!”
That night, Gerardo and his wife sat talking to Brian about the dangers of befriending strange men.
“Dad, I know about the danger of strangers. Carlos is NOT like that, he’s nice. You can tell he’s a good person because Gaspar loves him so much, and Gaspar is the BEST dog, the smartest dog,” he said.
“Brian,” Gerardo said quietly. “I’m sure Gaspar is a great dog, but you know what? Hitler had a great dog and he loved him, and I’m sure the dog reciprocated. A good dog does NOT make this bum a good person. Please stay away from him, Brian.”
“No!” cried Brian, and pushed his chair back. “Carlos is my friend and I love Gaspar! Why do you always have to mess everything up? I HATE YOU!”
That night, Gerardo made a decision. He was going to solve this problem in his own way….
Early that Saturday, Brian woke up to the sound of anxious barking. He thought, “It’s Gaspar!”.
Brain jumped out of bed and looked out the window. Gaspar was on the porch of his house barking anxiously.
“Gaspar!” said Brian as he opened the door, and immediately the dog ran to him. Gaspar put his head in Brian’s lap and began to whimper.
“What’s the matter, boy, where’s Carlos?”.
But the dog was just whimpering and shaking, so Brian decided to do something he had always been afraid of: go to his father’s work and ask for help.
Gerardo was speechless when he saw Brian at the police station with the dog by his side.
“Brian!” he uttered. “What are you doing here, how did you get here?”.
“Dad!” he shouted. “I think something bad has happened to Carlos. Gaspar came looking for me and he’s really scared…”
But Gaspar didn’t look scared, he was looking at Brian’s father and growling. Brian had never heard Gaspar growl before.
“Dad!” he asked. “What have you done?”
“Carlos was loitering near a school and was warned twice, so we arrested him!”.
“But Dad!” yelled Brain. “He didn’t do anything wrong! He’s not well, he needs help…. You don’t know anything about him! He’s a veteran and was in the bomb squad and worked with sniffer dogs to find explosives. That’s why Gaspar is so well trained. He’s a good man and you’ve arrested him, he’s just sick.”
“He’s not sick!” shouted Gerardo angrily. “He’s a bum!”.
Brian had tears in his eyes.
“No, Dad,” he said softly. “He doesn’t drink or anything, and most of the time he talks to himself. He needs psychological help.”
Gerardo was ashamed of himself, mostly because he couldn’t admit that there was a part of him that was jealous of Carlos and his friendship with his son.
He did some research and discovered that Carlos had a sister who had been looking for him for years. He contacted Carlos’ sister and she was overjoyed.
She took Carlos home and immediately enrolled him in a mental health clinic. Gaspar went too, of course. Brian missed Carlos, but especially Gaspar.
Then one day his father came home with a big smile on his face and a strange bundle under his jacket. He pulled out a puppy and presented it to Brian.
“Here you go,” he told him. “You have to name it!”.
Brian burst into tears, he was so happy. “Gaspar,” he gasped. “His name is Gaspar Two!”.