Two Days of Heaven



Tim Bussen


In recent days my mind has been flitting back to the film Days of Heaven, a 1978 production by a favorite director of mine, one Terrence Malick. It tells the story of a man and woman, deeply in love and on the run. They find what they believe will be their paradise on an idyllic Texas-panhandle farm. Stuff happens—blah, blah, blah—and then, of course, everything goes all to hell.

Why the look back at this particular movie? Answer: of late I, Mr. Tim Bussen, have experienced soaring highs and crushing lows similar to those of these desperate lovers. Allow me to explain. Mrs. Lane’s departure was a difficult surprise for all of us. On her last day I went to offer my goodbyes. Turning to leave, a thought crossed my mind: with Mrs. Lane vacating, what would become of her sweet office?

You see, as a Benedictine educator of 19 years I am steeped in the ethos of our founding order. I immediately recalled Abbot Gregory’s pamphlet, “Twelve Hallmarks of a Benedictine School,” which describes, as its eighth mark, Stewardship: “Saint Benedict valued both frugality and the good stewardship of the monastery’s resources.” 

Contemplating this mandate, two urgent questions bubbled up into my consciousness. Would I trust the administration to properly shepherd the resource that is this prime real estate? Answer: of course not. Would I then sit back while the tenantless office went to seed?

I moved in immediately. Put up a sign and everything. Nothing ambiguous about it—this was my office. I plopped down in the comfy chair, kicked my feet up onto the broad length of desk, took a deep, bracing breath. I had finally found my professional paradise. But then, just like in the movie—blah, blah, blah—everything went all to hell.

The blahs: on my second blissful office day Mr. Nickolai—I know, right?—appeared at my threshold. I was, he told me, being evicted. I kindly referred him to the sign on the door: Office of Mr. Tim Bussen. Cut and dry, end of discussion. Worn down by this intrusion, I headed toward the closet (which I had repurposed as a napping den). To my irritation, Nickolai persisted. The office was to become the Tutoria room. I did the only thing I could. I went primitive. “You can have your precious office,” I told Nickolai, “and do with it what you like.” Then, assuming my most intimidating wrestling stance, I growled, “All you have to do is—turn me on my back.”

Now, I’m the kind of guy who assumes everyone is like me: upstanding, decent, pure of intention. I never expect someone to take advantage of my innocence. I know better now.

Nickolai offered a soft smile. In a gentle coo he coaxed, “Wouldn’t you first like to take your nap?” Capitulating to his suggestion in spite of my suspicions, I yawned. He produced a pillow and fuzzy blanket. “Hmm, well…a short doze couldn’t hurt,” I murmured. “And then”—my eyelids were leaden—“there’ll be plenty of time to show you”—knees weakened— “what’s wha-” 

I slunk to the floor and drifted off. My dreams were of the joyous years ahead which I’d enjoy as an office-owning big shot.

When I awoke, workers were hauling Tutoria garbage into my office. Nickolai stood over me, smirking. I had been sleeping…on my back.

What lessons have I learned from this fall from grace? For one, don’t try to steal a farmer’s fortune by pretending your lover is your sister. And also, malicious actors roam this earth, none more malevolent than our Assistant Head of School for Human and Spiritual Formation. Whom I will never forgive.

Nevertheless, the adage is true: it is better to have office-ed and lost than to have never office-ed at all. I will fondly remember my Two Days of Heaven.