This is what I'm working on now (while I wait to hear the fate of my Civil War novel) -- a loosely connected series of short stories set in my neighborhood or someplace similar.
Here's the opening of The Carrion Crow:
THE CARRION CROW
Frances packs up her little overnight bag and takes three containers of her special chicken vegetable soup out of the freezer. She is making ready to go stay with Miz Petunia Shelton who is lingering on death’s doorstep past all reason. After two weeks of waiting by their mama’s bedside to be with her at the end, old Miz Shelton’s children have given up. They need to get back to their jobs and their own lives in Charlotte and Atlanta and Knoxville. They all still work, though they are up in their sixties, and since their mama won’t die, they have called in Frances who used to be an aide in a nursing home and isn’t afraid to change a diaper or clean up a mess.
She looks around her little apartment for the Word Search book she is working on and for her bag of romance novels from the library. A job like this involves a lot of sitting and she wants to be sure to have some entertainment on hand. TV might bother the patient though Frances has been in houses where the TV runs night and day, a winking blue light and a low background noise that some folks get uneasy without. You never know just what you’ll find.
This ain’t her first rodeo, sitting with the dying when their family couldn’t or wouldn’t do the job. There are some who call her the Angel of Death for her calm and gentle way with the dying one. There are others, and she could name names but won’t, who call her the Carrion Crow or maybe the Carrying Crow and say she does this job in hopes of carrying off bits and pieces that the dying person or their family might give her.
It’s true that folks have given her things. The dying, when they’re still in their right minds, are often eager to be shed of worldly possessions; maybe thinking on the Bible verses about the rich man and the camel and the eye of the needle, they want to lighten themselves to ease the trip to the other side. Or maybe they just like to believe someone will remember them kindly when they look at the plate with the Praying Hands, or the little microwave that’s been in the box since the grandchildren sent it last Christmas, or the mouse-stained quilt top that’s lain at the back of the closet shelf for thirty years. Frances always accepts whatever it is in the spirit in which it’s given and finds a place in her life for these precious gifts, trying to remember to say a little prayer for the giver every day.
Sometime she sits in her recliner (a gift from Juanita Sprinkle’s daughter after Juanita passed) and goes around the room, looking at all the mementos and naming and praying for each of the ladies she’s stayed with – and she only stays with ladies any more, after the bad time she had with old man Ray. Who would have thought a feeble old fool on his death bed could have had such nasty thoughts or been so bad to grab?
The Word Search is in the pocket of the recliner. She pulls it out, along with her red ballpoint pen, and drops it in the bag with the library books. Her only houseplant – a jade plant that the late Dessie Randall gave her -- has had its little drink and will do fine even if she’s gone a week or more.
Frances climbs into her cute little blue Ford Escort – the one that started the whole Carrying Crow business when Patsy Ramsey left it to her in her will – starts it up and pats the steering wheel. “Thank you, Miss Patsy,” she says. “I hope you’re resting easy up there.”