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Pictures at an Exhibition

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He’d never had an office before. He’d had places to keep his stuff, obviously, but he’d never had an actual office, much less an office with a door. It was just one of the many things he was having to get used to in his new position and his new life.

He’d been Chief of the L.A. office for about a month before he had time to look around and realize that his office was still very impersonal. A map of Europe was joined by prints of a P-38 and a B-17, but there was nothing else on the walls or anywhere else that said this office belonged to Daniel Sousa. Well, there was his crutch on the coat hook, but that almost didn’t count. He didn’t want his crutch to be the thing that defined his office, anyway. His leg defined enough of his life already.

He put his pen down and leaned back in his very comfortable chair to contemplate the walls around him. If he had thought a little more about it, he might not have painted the walls brick red since it made the place a little dark sometimes, but he had enough to be worrying about without budgeting money to repaint his office. So the walls would stay red, but maybe he could bring in a few things from home to make this place feel a little more homey. He spent more time here than he did at his actual home right now, after all, and it didn’t look like that was going to change any time soon.

His thoughts on interior decorating were interrupted when Rose brought in a stack of telephone message slips with a smile.

“You’re a popular man, Chief,” she teased him, and he chuckled as he took the stack and started shuffling through them. Peggy had called for some reason, but the rest of the messages were pretty standard.

“Thanks, Rose,” he said, and she smiled again before leaving the office. He glanced around one more time, then put the appearance of his office out of his mind. These calls weren’t going to return themselves and the never-ending reports weren’t going to write themselves. He could think about interior decorating later.

--

Later turned out to be a Sunday night during a phone call with his family. Ines was out with Pete, but he’d talked to Charlie and Katie and even heard Maddie babble something that Tillie translated as “Hi Tio Daniel” before Tillie had herded the kids off to bed and his Pai had taken the phone.

“So how are things going out there?” Pai asked seriously, and Daniel told him as much as he could about what he was doing and how he was settling in. He was careful to keep his stories light and focused on how different everything was here rather than the challenges of learning how to keep the office up and going in a town that had so much happening. Even if he could have talked about any of that, he didn’t want to worry his Pai.

“I’m glad to hear things are going well there,” Pai finally said. “It sounds like just about everything is different, but mostly in a good way. You’ll let us know if there’s anything you could use from home.”

It wasn’t a question exactly, but Daniel almost assured Pai that there wasn’t anything he needed. Just before he started to, though, he thought of his office. He wouldn’t say his bedroom at home was really decorated, not like Tillie’s, but there were a few things in there that might fit in his office.

“Actually, Pai, I was wondering if you could send me my Dodgers cap sometime. My office here is still a little bare. It might be nice to add some personality to it.”

“Oh, sure, I bet we could do that. Might even be able to find your old mitt somewhere too,” Pai replied, and Daniel chuckled.

“I don’t know if I need that, but I’ll leave it up to you.”

“And Tillie. You know she’s going to want to get in on this.”

“I’d be worried if she didn’t,” Daniel agreed fondly.

--

He hadn’t expected a quick delivery, but by the end of the week, a package was waiting on his doorstep when he got home from his physical therapy appointment. He’d worked hard with Nurse Violet and was feeling comfortably sore, but he was still curious to see what his family had sent him.

The first thing he saw when he opened the box was his mitt and a well-worn baseball in it. He chuckled as he pulled it out. Trust Pai to not only find but actually send his mitt. Next came a picture of the church in the village the Sousas had come from in Portugal (which he’d last seen in the attic), a couple of brass horses he recognized from his bookshelf headboard, and finally his Dodgers cap. An envelope with some unframed family pictures was tucked in at the side. They’d sent a little pocket snapshot of the whole family, a studio portrait of Pai and Mamãe, and a picture he’d sent them of himself leaning on a Jeep and smiling.

He could see why Pai and Tillie had sent every item and he smiled at how well his family knew him. They’d neatly reminded him of where he came from, who he’d been, and what he’d done without any of it being too personal to put in an office. Even the church in the village could just be a nice picture he’d taken in Europe or something.

--

It took a little while before he had time to get frames for the pictures, but eventually he was able to take everything in and start arranging and then rearranging things. When he was done, he looked around again from behind his desk. Now his office looked like it belonged to him. Now it looked like Daniel Sousa was Chief here, and not just because his name was on the door.

Speaking of his name on the door, at that moment Rose knocked on said door and brought in a new sheaf of message slips. She paused and looked around, then smiled. She’d dropped a hint or two that he should do something about his office and it was clear she approved of the new decor.

“Still a popular man, Chief,” she told him, and handed the stack over before leaving again.

He glanced around one more time to enjoy the new feeling of belonging, then picked up the first message slip.