Summer time was always hot in Pensacola,Florida and this particluar
Satruday was no exception as William Sherman Thompson and his younger
sister Grace Elizabeth made thier way down Johnson Avenue in the Ensely
section of this coastal town in extreme northwest Florida.Sherman
slapped his thigh for the upteenth mosquito landed on his bare leg. He
wiped the back of his neck with sweaty hand. It was barely eight o'clock
in the morning and already he knew it would be a scorcher. August always
was. For a moment he wondered what it would be like to live in
Anchorage,Alaska. They had studied about Alaska his last term at school.
"How much further, Sherman?" his sister whined, breaking into his
thoughts of snow drifts and much cooler temperatures.
"Four houses up once we make it to Pine Place,"Sherman answered, staring
ahead at the row of shotgun houes and ramshackle bungalows, still
damaged from the ravaging they took with Hurrican Ivan the year before,
that lined the streets in this poor working class neighborhood in
northest Pensacola. It was eerily quiet, not even a paper carrier in
Their mother had dropped them off about ten mintues before on the corner
of Old Palafox and Johnson Avenue as she hurried to her job to the
drycleaners up on Bayou Boulevard. It was her morning to open and the
only reasons she agreed they could go was if they walked up to the
parsonage from her usual route to work. At the time Sherman thought it
was worth the walk but now he wasn't so sure.
Anyway, Sherman and Grace, as they were called, were invited to go on a
bowling excursion with the other youth in their church. Nine altogether,
as their church was very small in numbers.
Reverend Temple asked that they meet at the parsonage at nine and all
ride together across town in the church van. They were early due to
their mother's scheudle but Sherman didn't think that the Reverend
Temple would mind much.
Sherman and Grace made their way up Johnson and turned left onto Pine
Place, Here, the houses were much the same, only closer together and
every bit in need of repair. Many possessed cracked driveways, junked
cars and gardens that held more weeds than blooms.
The Parsonage was no exception. An A-frame structure that was once shiny
white but now the color of a dirty sock, it sat on a corner lot with the
only redeeming feature a massive, centuries old Live Oak tree that had
bravely withstood Ivan.
Sherman and Grace made their way up the cracked walk to the sagging
front porch, a reminder of the ravaging storm. Sherman knocked on the
door as Grace lagged behind on the steps, rubbing the reddened heel of
her left foot.
"I told you to wear socks",Sherman commented. "Now you are going to have
a blister and won't be able to bowl".
"The socks did not match my outfit", she said, holding a pair of blue
socks and pointing to the purple short overalls she wore.
Sherman turned back to look at Grace and it was at that moment a blue
jay swooped low and landed on the ground just beyond the steps to peck
at an acorn. He watched it fly off again only to land a few feet beyond
to the west and peck around what looked like a dark blue laundry bag
lying between the oak tree and the southwest corner of the house.
Curious, Sherman stepped off the steps,with Grace trailing, and went to
inspect the laundry bag. He thought it odd that the Reverend would leave
his laundry outside his house.
Only it was not laundry.
It was a man's legs. Legs encased in dark blue trousers. Legs that
belonged to Reverend Temple.
Reverend Temple wasn't moving.He was lying on his stomach, his face
pressed against the grass. He was wearing a wrinkled dark blue shirt and
it was stained on the front. Dark red in color.
Sherman heard Grace cry out.
"Hold still," he said.
"Is he..." she whispered.
I think so," Sherman said.
Excerpted from "The Empty Pulpit" by Sandra Arrants. Copyright © 2007 by Sandra Arrants. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.