The Cleaners Part 29: Angry Grandma Rises

Arms Open Wide
Somehow, I felt as if I hadn’t seen Walter in years, but that couldn’t be right. I lay in bed, letting my love’s piano playing wash over me.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” I sang along under my breath.

I rolled out of bed, feeling strangely unsteady. “Must have stood up too quickly,” I mumbled. I put my hand on the banister and descended the stairs. Poor Walter, he worked so hard on his piano lessons and his work as the church organist. Combined with my money from the library, we could pay the mortgage for our house and have enough to meet day to day needs and put a little aside for the future, but we never felt really secure, and I knew he blamed himself.

“I once was lost…” I mumbled, holding my hand against the wall as I walked toward the piano room door. I stepped across the gap between my wall and the door. “… Now I see…” Walter was sitting at the piano. He was so wonderful to see.


I was falling. “Diane!” – The Caretaker’s arms caught me and gently laid me to the floor. “Ask me for help when you use the stairs! You should really let me move your bed downstairs!”

I shook my head, trying to loose the image of my husband transformed into a misshapen robot from my mind. “That’s our song!” I protested, “You monsters! Get out of my head!”

“I’m sorry. I had just finished re-tuning your old piano. Music is good for recovering patients. If you do not want me to play Pachebel’s canon, I know a variety of songs for a variety of instruments, and I can play any sheet music you provide.”

I had stopped listening at “Pachebel’s canon.” My memory was clearer than the event itself. I was singing a completely different song under my breath! It sounded grating and absurd playing it again in my head. “Ohhh…” I moaned, struggling not to burst into tears again for the fourth time in the three days since I’d been freed. “Caretaker, I’m losing my mind.”

“Diane, you are suffering from mild confusion. I am not a medical practicioner, but if I did not know your history, the fact that you became confused so soon after waking might lead me to describe this event as a perfectly natural episode of sleepwalking.”

This did little to comfort me, “But you do know my history. I thought if I got away from the stress and relaxed – the doctor told me I would get better.”

The Caretaker just looked at me for a long moment. Combined with his mannerisms, his :) looked somehow sad and contemplative. “Would you like my advice, Diane?” He asked finally.

“Uh…” I stuttered, suddenly unsure if I did want it, “W-what? What is it?”

“You should do something, Diane. Find something to occupy your time, keep your mind and body active.”

“What can I do?”

“Well,” murmured the Caretaker, “Is there anything you are passionate about?”

I sat silently on the floor slumped in the Caretaker’s arms. The arms of a machine that had stolen my husband’s name and whose friends were driving humanity to some kind of unprecedented economic extinction. A humanity so desperate that it was willing to lie, steal, and kill innocent people to save itself. Angry Grandma stirred in my chest and I felt nauseous. I heard my own voice in my head, strong and resolute, nothing like the weeping wreck I’d become. “There’s only one thing, Diane,” she said to me. I moaned, “But everything I do just makes things worse.” Angry Grandma ignored me. “There’s only one thing left,” she insisted, “that’s worth being passionate about.”

Then, for a moment, I forgot Diane, the miserable old woman with nothing left in her life but robots and regrets. I was Diane Wallace, wife of Walter Wallace, martyr to a cause he believed in. I called attention the bad business practice of automated door-to-door solicitation in Pennsylvania, I brokered peace between humans and Helpers in Montana, I faced off against a psychotic corporate executive and taught machines the values of civil rights in Michigan,all while suffering from a stroke. A tear dropped from my eye, but it was not the tear I had desperately held back before. As I tried to get myself up, the Caretaker stood and offered me a hand, but I refused. I dragged myself to the dinner table and, with some effort, pulled to my feet.

I held my head high, and the Caretaker looked up at me with what I imagined must be a :) of surprise and respect. It was so easy to forget how small they all were. I, on the other hand, was big. I was Angry Grandma, and if I still didn’t know what to do, I was going to figure it out.

By Sam Munk

Science fiction and Fantasy author with a focus on philosophical inquiry and character-driven drama.


  1. I really like the section you added. The line “There’s only one thing left…that’s worth being passionate about” struck a chord. Great chapter.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: