There once was a man who collected clocks — tall and solid grandfather clocks; short and plump grandmother clocks; stylish wall and mantle clocks; and cuckoo clocks, of course. Not only did he collect clocks, but also all kinds of wrist and pocket watches. Even a few hourglasses took pride of place among his collection, and a magnificent hand-carved sundial adorned the outside wall of his house. In short, if it told time, he owned it. It had all started many years ago when he bought his first pocket watch with his hard-earned savings. At last, he had time in his pocket. But the pocket watch wasn’t enough. He also wanted to see the time on the walls, next to his bed, in the bathtub, at the dining table, and so on. So he bought ever more clocks and watches until the house was packed with them from cellar to attic, and each one of them he set to a different time. Now he had captured all the world’s time in his single home. There was tall New York, reaching for the ceiling; Sydney dangled over there, above the kitchen sink; there lay Paris, shining on the mantelpiece; there stood Brussels, brooding in a corner. But all those clocks needed tending — winding springs, turning keys, changing batteries, turning hourglasses, dusting dials, then back to winding… He no longer shaved, nor cut his hair, the bathtub was full of watches, and he hardly ate and slept anymore. Time is greedy. Keeping time takes time. And with all the constant ticking and chiming and dozens of cuckoos pecking at the air, no wonder the man went a little cuckoo himself. One day, after he’d tended to all of his clocks and watches, he rushed out of the house and into the city, a large hourglass dangling from a chain around his neck, his arms swinging wildly like the sweeps of a windmill. He smiled and laughed at everyone he met, crying out “ASK ME, ASK ME, ask me any time and I’ll tell you where, ask me anywhere and I’ll tell you the time! Ask me Timbuktu and I’ll tell you half past ten,” and his scrawny, rigid arms circled and stopped, his left finger pointing at the ground, his right finger pointing … well, pointing to somewhere in the sky. The people laughed and shook their heads. “Poor old fool.” And so it went, day after day, until one day he stopped a little girl, threw both his arms straight into the air and said “Look, it’s midnight!” The little girl gave the old man a puzzled look. “Sorry, Pappy, but the sun’s up there,” she pointed, “up high, it’s close to noon.” “Yes, but I say it’s midnight,” he giggled, “…in Shanghai! I know, I know, because I’ve caught all time!” The little girl shrugged and again pointed at the fiery globe high in the sky. “Well then, Pappy, have you also caught the sun? Locked her up in a little cage filled with little screws and tick-tock cogs? I say, if you can’t capture the sun, you can’t capture time. And now I have to go, mommy’s waiting. We’re going to enjoy the sun, going for a nice, long swim in the lake, because we have all the time in the world.” Bewildered, the old man watched the girl go, and when she ‘d turned the corner, he looked up at the sun. Then he went home, and stopped all of his clocks and watches.
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