An Unlikely Dad

     Cruz Glass had just finished giving Hawk his morning run when he saw Elías coming out of the stone ranch house his great-great-grandfather had built. This was the first time the boy had been outside since he’d been dropped off by his mother a week ago. He watched tv and asked when his mom was coming back. Looking at him, Cruz could see his father in the shape of his eyes and nose but the rest was all his mother. Cruz still couldn’t believe that Melanie, Elías’ mother had dumped him at his ranch because her new husband wasn’t a “fan of children”. 

     As the boy walked towards the stables Cruz could only wonder what his best friend had ever seen in Melanie. Isaiah had been crazy about her and so excited to be a father. He’d only had a few months with his son. They’d been deployed for a covert mission targeting a high ranking terrorist leader in Yemen. It should have been easy in and out op for their team. Too bad the intel had been compromised. The terrorists had been waiting for them. Isaiah was gone along with three other brothers in arms and Cruz had a limp and limited use of his left arm. Now he had to figure out how to help Elías. 

     Entering the stable with Hawk nickering, Cruz looked for the boy and found him in front of Pixie’s stall. The boy was petting the two year old filly that had a smattering of white spots on her back legs while the rest of her body was a dark rust color. He was talking about his room in Brooklyn. 

“Hey Elías how are you today?”

“Hi Mr. Cruz, I’m-”

“You can just call me Cruz.”

“Oh, okay. I, don’t want to umm get in uh the way so I’ll…”

Elías started to turn away but Cruz called his name.

“I want to enjoy your time here. You don’t have to leave right now. I was also thinking you could learn how to ride. What do you think?”

Elías just looked at his feet without saying anything. Cruz sighed and decided to give the boy more time. 

“I’m going to feed and rubdown Hawk if you want to watch.”

He moved past the boy to Hawk’s grooming area and noticed the boy hadn’t left. As he removed the bridle and noticed him watching from a distance an idea came to him. He started narrating what he was doing out loud.

“After removing the bridle, I take off the saddle, girth, and saddle pad. I place them on the saddle rack. Then it’s time to brush him. Elías can you go inside the tack house and grab the brush case that has Hawk’s name on it?” Cruz watched the boy go to the tack house and come back with the brush set. He took out the combs and picked up the curry comb. 

“We use this comb first. Do you want to try it?”

The boy nodded and took the comb. Cruz slowly walked him through the whole process and together they walked Hawk to his stall. This was a beginning of sorts and Cruz would always remember that morning fondly as the start of the boy becoming his son.

©Esther Valencia