1

Pancakes

Morning. He hated it. Timothy rolled over slowly as the clock continued to sound its irritating alarm. He stared with bleary eyes at the display… 5:30. God, he hated his job. Well maybe not the job itself, but waking up for it wasn't all giggles and sunshine. His work he could stand. Sure, real estate wasn't the most exciting area to work in, but in Wheeler, Oregon, it's not like people were scrambling to buy houses. Most days he just sat around at his desk and played solitaire on the company computer until his shift ended; maybe filed a few papers here and there. Not much happened in this town, anyway… probably why so many of his friends had left for busier parts after high school. The only time he'd ever left Wheeler was on family vacation, and from what he learned on those trips, he figured it was much safer to stick to what he knew.

Slowly, he got out of bed and turned off the alarm. He groaned as his back popped. He was only twenty-eight and he could already feel his body breaking down… he did not look forward to old age. Grunting, he stretched and turned on the TV set on his dresser across from the bed. The news was just starting. He walked over to the dresser and retrieved a pair of underwear. "Hello and good morning," a handsome middle-aged man with an obvious toupee buzzed, (he had to look into buying a new television) He walked into the bathroom, turned on the hot water in the shower and sat down on the side of the tub to wait for the water heater to kick in. "I'm Dan Sheppard…"

"…And I'm Darla Sanders." a woman's voice interrupted. "Today's top story…" Timothy stopped listening as he jumped into the shower, sighing contentedly as the hot water loosened his cold and aching muscles. Commercials were blaring when he finally got out to towel off.

"… Having trouble sleeping;" a woman's voice hissed soothingly, "feelings of sadness or hopelessness; these are all signs of a serious hormonal imbalance known as depression. If you or a loved one suffers from these and other symptoms, Zantarac can help. Zantarac works by…" He lost focus on the TV yet again as he brushed his teeth, looking all the while at his reflection in the mirror. Somber gray eyes stared back at him from a plump face just beginning to show the signs of aging. Hairline crow's feet were forming at the corners of his eyes; various other lines just starting to partition what used to be a smooth and seamless visage. The rest of his body wasn't in particularly excellent shape either. He was chubby, he admit, but he wasn't fat… though he guessed he could lose a few pounds. But his weight wouldn't be such a problem if only he had more vertical space to allot it to; he was a bit on the short side when it came to men his age. And if that wasn't enough, he was also developing quite the bald spot on the back of his head, which, coupled with his large plastic frame glasses, did not cut a very attractive overall figure. He cleaned his toothbrush, spit into the sink and began shaving, bending over it so as to keep the little hairs from littering his sink-top. Those were almost impossible to clean up, and by all rights he was far too lazy to do it at any other time than the present moment.

Slapping himself with aftershave, he walked back into his bedroom and directed his attention to the hazy picture on his television screen while simultaneously slipping on a pair of brown dress pants. The newscasters were laughing at a scripted joke they had just made. Being a newscaster must involve quite a lot of acting, he mused. After they had finished chuckling, the camera zoomed in on the female news anchor, her make-up encrusted face assuming a look of serious concern. "On a much sadder note, the body of an woman was found in her Wheeler home yesterday afternoon after emergency services were called by concerned neighbors saying that she had not been answering her door or telephone since that morning." Timothy stopped midway through buttoning his shirt to listen better. The thought that a woman could have been murdered in Wheeler was… "The identity of the woman has not been revealed as of yet as police are still investigating the case," she continued, "but so far the woman's death is believed to be a suicide. We will have more on this tragic story at six… And now, it's time for our list of upcoming celebrity birthdays!" she beamed.

Timothy turned the television off before she could continue. A suicide… as far as he could remember, he'd never even heard of anyone in town having suicidal thoughts, let alone making an attempt. Then again, that wasn't something people normally advertised. He sighed. Bad things just happen whether you like it or not, he guessed. At any rate, he had to get to work soon.

A delicious aroma tickled his nose as he plodded down the stairs from his bedroom. Sweet. Mom was making pancakes today. He still had no idea how she still got up so early every morning to make breakfast. Old habits must die hard, especially for old people. He looked at the pictures lining the walls of the stairwell. Most of them were from much younger times, while Dad had still been alive. It had been a terrible boating accident; to put it simply, he'd been working for a small-time crabbing company out on the Nehalem River, and he'd lost his footing pulling up a particularly heavy cage. The current was strong. He'd been swept out to sea before his crewmates could even gather enough wits about them to go after him. By the time they found him the next day, (it was pretty lucky they found him at all) he was already dead. Whether the cause was hypothermia or asphyxiation the coroner wasn't able to tell. Timothy's mother had taken it pretty hard. He hadn't even been old enough to know what had happened… it only dawned on him that his father wasn't coming home a month after the incident, after his child-like state of blissful denial had finally run out. He'd cried for weeks, then.

It was only made harder by his lack of siblings. His father had passed before Mom could have any more children, which must have been just as hard for her to deal with as the loss of her husband. She'd always wanted a big family, too, having been an only child herself, but she refused to remarry. That was commitment for you.

As the years progressed, it became less of a burden… but there was always that question nagging at the back of his mind, the same question that haunted him about almost every event in his life. What if, what if, what if…