The Summer That Melted Everythi - Tiffany McDaniel Page 0,1

would come differently. The man who invited him was my father, Autopsy Bliss. Autopsy is an acutely strange name for a man to have, but his mother was an acutely strange woman. Even more, she was an acutely strange religious woman who used the Bible as a stethoscope to hear the pulse of the devil in the world around her.

The sounds could be anything: The wind knocking over a tin can. The clicking of rain on the windowpane. The erratic heartbeat of a jogger passing by.

Sometimes the things we believe we hear are really just our own shifting needs. Grandmother needed to hear the spook of the snake so she could better believe it actually existed.

She was a determined woman who pickled lemons, knew her way around a tool box, and raised a son by herself, all while earning a degree in ancient studies. She had the ancients in mind when she named her son.

She would say, “The word autopsy is a relative of the word autopsia, which in the ancient vernacular of the Greeks means to see for oneself. In the amphitheater of the great beyond, we all do our own autopsies. These self-imposed autopsies are done not on the physical body of our being but on the spirit of it. We call these ultimate examinations the autopsy of the soul.”

After the summer ended, I asked my father why he had invited the devil.

“Because I wanted to see for myself,” he answered with the definition of his name, his words doing their best to swerve his tears lest they be drowned on impact. “To see for myself.”

Growing up, my father was the wood in his mother’s lathe, held in place and carefully shaped over the years by her faith. When he was thirteen, his edges nearly smoothed, the lathe suddenly stopped turning, all because his mother slipped on the linoleum floor in their kitchen and fell backward with no parachute.

The bruises would come to look like pale plums on her flesh. And while not one bone had been broken, a spiritual break did occur.

As Dad helped her to her feet, she let go of a moan she’d been holding. Then, in a giddy woe, she dropped her knees back to the linoleum.

“He wasn’t there,” she cried.

“Who wasn’t there?” Dad asked, her shaking contagious to him.

“As I was falling, I reached out my hand.” She made again the gesture of that very thing. “He didn’t grab it.”

“I tried, Momma.”

“Yes.” She cupped his cheeks in her clammy palms. “But God didn’t. I realize now we’re all alone, kiddo.”

She took the crucifixes off the walls, buried her Bible in the infant section of the cemetery, and never again poured her knees down to the ground in prayer. Her faith was a sudden and complete loss. Dad still had the fumes of his faith left, and in those fumes, he found himself one day walking into the courthouse, where his mother was getting reprimanded by the judge for unabashedly vandalizing the church—the second time.

While Dad waited outside her courtroom, he heard voices a few doors down. He went in and sat through the trial of a man accused of pulling out a shotgun at the coin laundry, leaving bloodstains that couldn’t be washed out.

To Dad that man was the devil emerged and the courtroom was God’s filter removing that emergence from society. As he stood there, Dad could see tiny breaks in the courtroom wall. The holes of a net through which a bright, warm light shone, pure and glorious. It was a light that made him want to stand and shout Amen