Once there was a very large clock. It was a clock tower, really, the kind that towers over the buildings around it and has gears inside that would make lovely traffic circles. With how tall the clock tower was, I suppose it wasn’t entirely surprising that a house could fit inside.
What may seem surprising was that anyone wanted to live there at all. The clock chimed loudly every hour from sun up to sun down. The neighboring buildings were well insulated, but the poor pedestrians near the tower when it chimed usually complained that their ears rang for at least an hour afterward.
It was ten times worse inside the tower. The sound echoed off the walls and multiplied until even the gears started to vibrate and hum. Living inside the clock tower would be dangerous, unless you were willing to leave for a short time every hour.
So, why did anyone want to live there? Rent was cheap. Very, very cheap. Since the people in the house kept an eye on the clock, they lived there for free.
Free rent in the middle of the city? The Smith family was willing to overlook a few minor problems. Plus, there were no annoying neighbors, or any neighbors at all, and rats and pigeons never stayed long. Neither did any annoying guests.
Living inside the clock tower gave their parties and get-togethers a definite time limit. Everyone learned to be punctual, very punctual. No one overstayed their welcome twice if they stayed behind when their hosts ran out the door, down the stairs, and across the street before the clock started to chime.
And so all was going quite well for the Smith family in the clock tower, until one day, their mostly quiet life was interrupted by a visitor who didn’t mind the noise at all. They had the misfortune to be haunted by a ghost who decided that he could almost feel the vibrations when the clock chimed. As a ghost, he missed being able to feel things, so he decided to stay.
In-between the hourly chiming, the ghost chattered endlessly about all the things he missed about being alive. He was a lonely ghost, and was delighted to find a new audience that only ran away from him once an hour. The poor Smith family wasn’t sure that they could handle this new inconvenience.
But the rent was better than cheap. Free rent in the middle of the city is nearly impossible to find. And the ghost wasn’t unfriendly. He was just noisy and glowed in the dark.
They got used to the ghost. After a while, his endless tales became mostly background noise. He never stopped to listen to replies, so he had no idea that no one was listening to him, either. The way he glowed in the dark was fine too, kind of like a large, person-shaped nightlight.
However, things weren’t quite back to normal. Fewer people came to visit. A noisy ghost was a bit too much on top of the hourly evacuations. The Smiths mostly didn’t mind.
That was until the ghost invited all his friends to move in, too. That was much less fine. One ghost didn’t make that much noise or glow excessively. A houseful? Not so great.
Even though they didn’t really take up any space, the house felt crowded. The noise level was constantly at a dull roar. The house was lit up by the equivalent of a set of stadium lights.
If you have ever tried to sleep while attending a football game and sitting in the stands of the team that was winning, you understand the difficulties they were facing. The Smith family decided to hold a family meeting.
They invited the ghosts, as they would likely be attending anyway. Some of the ghosts stopped talking as the Smiths sat down at the table. Mr. Smith cleared his throat. “We would like to talk about an important problem. This house is much too noisy and too bright.” The few quiet ghosts shrugged and started talking again.
“Do you think we could vacuum them up?” the smallest Smith child asked. “I saw an ad for a vacuum that could vacuum up anything.”
The Smiths had no carpet, so they didn’t have a vacuum. But, Mr. Smith thought it was worth a try. The next time they ran out to avoid the clock chiming, they bought the vacuum from the ad.
It really could vacuum up everything.
Once their house was back to as normal as a house inside a clock can be, they buried the vacuum in a graveyard late at night. They said several prayers over the grave, just in case. And they returned home to a quiet, empty house.
And they lived happily ever after, rent free and ghost free. The End.