This story came from a first sentence prompt (“It was the one thing he coveted most.”). There is, perhaps, some potential here, but the story is very fragmentary as is.
It was the one thing he coveted most. Which seemed so silly in a way. It was such a small thing, such an innocuous item.
It sat in the window of an antique shop that he walked by every day, twice a day, to and from wherever he was going. The shop was not often open, but the window was crammed full of a dusty range of objects, from a sewing machine table (complete with sewing machine) down to the little knick-knacks standing in a row, right on the other side of the glass from him.
The object that he wanted so much was a small, porcelain blue and white bird. The bird stood with it’s neck stretched up, it’s beak just barely open. It was only a few inches tall, maybe three, on a one inch square base.
He knew exactly where he would put it if it was his. The corner of the fireplace mantle. The mantle was otherwise bare, as he was not overly keen on what he typically referred to as dust collectors. There was just something about the little bird.
Each time he approached the shop he felt a slight frisson of fear in his belly. Would the bird still be there? What if it had been sold? His fears were, he understood, quite baseless. In all the time he had watched the bird, he had not seen anything come or go from the window. The thick layer of dust that lay over the objects spoke to their immobility. But he worried nonetheless.
It never actually occurred to him to go into the store and buy the object. Although he thought about touching it, holding it, feeling it’s smoothness. Although he had it’s new home in his house all picked up. Regardless of all of that, he never considered taking the step of acquiring it for himself.
It felt, in fact, as if it was already his.
And then, one afternoon as he was walking home, he was passed by one firetruck, then another, sirens blaring, speeding down the street. He could smell the faint scent of smoke, see the billowing dark greyness in the near distance before him.
He had a brief sense of worry about his home, but reassured himself that it was unlikely. Nonetheless, he walked more quickly.
A crowd was blocking his view as he got closer. The road was corked by two police cars, left sideways to stop traffic. People spilled off the sidewalk, onto the street.
He lived on the other side of the crowd.
Pushing his way through, he made his way to the barrier itself, where a large police officer stood, arms crossed, a blank look on his face. He tried to peer around the man, to see where precisely the fire was.
It was his house. The smoke billowed from an upper window and he imagined he could see flames behind it. His breath caught. Firefighters were swarming around. There was a ladder up to the window and people going in and out of the main floor.
He tore his eyes away, disbelief coursing through him. As he turned his head, into his sight came the antique shop, his little bird, the dusty window. At least that…
A firefighter came toward the shop, yelling over his shoulder something about protecting the store, using the roof. The door was, as always, locked. Don’t worry, the man called, we can just go through this window.
His breath caught in his chest as he watched the axe smash into the window, right above the line of porcelain figures, the firefighter’s boot land on the inside of the glass, heaving himself forward, the sound of breaking filling the air.