Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Miriam Manglani

Linda didn’t ask for a step daughter with Down Syndrome when she married Allen six months ago. She exhaled in frustration and paced through her bedroom, her heals digging into the white plush carpet. “You said we’d go to the Country Club dinner tonight.”

“That was before I knew Greta’s play was tonight. She mentioned she told you about it,” Allen grabbed Linda by the hand and looked her in the eye before she could take another step.

“She’s working as a stage tech. She doesn’t even have a part in the play,” Linda gritted her teeth.

“I worked as a stage tech in high school too. It’s not an easy job.”

“I never said it was Allen, but we did have plans.” Linda pointed her well-manicured finger at Allen.  

“Honey, we can always attend the next Country Club dinner. They have them almost every month.”

“Who am I supposed to sit with? All the wives will have their husbands there.”

“You’re not coming with me to see Greta’s work? You know she painted all of the scenery and built all the sets. She worked after school everyday for three months on the project.”

“I can’t believe you’re expecting me to cancel my plans and come with you.This isn’t what I signed up for. Greta was supposed to live with Molly,” Linda placed her hands on her hips.

“Why do we have to rehash this all the time? I’ve told you over and over again. That was the plan until Molly got breast cancer and I had to take full custody of her.”


Linda shook her head at the haphazard pile of make-up on her vanity. Uncapped lipsticks, mascara brushes out of their tubes, coverup dribbling out of bottles, and eyeshadow pallets with missing brushes. “Greta!” Linda screamed. Linda marched out of the room, her hands balled tightly into fists. “I’m going going to kill that Egghead!” she mumbled to herself. “Come out now.”

Greta must have been feeling brave, because she walked out of the hall closet where she was hiding and stood right in front of Linda. Her face was covered in make-up so poorly applied she looked like a clown. She stared at the ground.

“How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of my things?” Linda gritted her teeth. She may have no brains, but Linda saw a small smile creep across Greta’s face. It was time for some consequences, and she wasn’t going to wait for Allen to come home.

“This is the third time you’ve destroyed my make-up.”

“But I won’t…I won’t do it again,” Greta blinked her slanted eyes.

“Get in the closet Greta!” Linda pointed towards the closet door and stomped her foot.

“No!” Greta plopped her fourteen year old, two hundred fifty pound body on the floor.

She knew there was no way she was going to get Greta off the floor using physical force. “I’ll give you a lollipop. A big one.”

“The kind with the colors all swirly?” Greta looked up at Linda.

“Yes, I’ve got one.” Linda gave a small smile. She always kept a lollipop or two in case of emergencies. A lollipop saved the day when Greta had an outburst the other day and missed the waitress when she threw her dinner, plate included.

“I want two,” Greta held up two fat fingers.

“Sure, but after you get in the closet.”

Greta stood up, her blond curly hair bouncing.

“Get in there!” With all of her might Linda shoved Greta into the large walk-in closet that was directly behind her.

“No! Where are my lollipops!”

“You’ll get them tomorrow when you’re a good girl.” Linda locked the closet door.

“You lie Linda! I’m going to tell daddy. You lie!” Greta pounded on the door.

After five hours, Linda opened the door and was assaulted by the stench of Greta’s gift of human excrement. I can’t believe the Egghead did this!


“Allen, I know you love Greta, but I’m finding it really difficult to live with her. There are places for people like her,” Linda took a sip of her wine. She was finally on a date with Allen. Her mother in-law was watching Greta. Good luck to her.

“What do you mean ‘people like her’?”

“Oh, you know dear. Down syndrome of course. She isn’t like us,” Linda twisted the paper napkin on her lap.  

“Greta has special needs, but she is just as human as we are. There is absolutely no way I’m sending her to an institution,” Allen slapped his hand on the dinner table. The low thud it made caused Linda to shake.

“Well, can she live with someone else then? Your mother for example? She loves Greta and they get along so well.” Linda clasped her hands together.

“Do you really think my seventy-five year old mother is in any condition to take care of a child full-time? Have you even given Greta chance? She is really great, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her dad. She is funny and so incredibly sweet.”

Sweet? Leaving me a stinky poop is sweet? Linda had not told Allen about the incident and wasn’t planning to since she didn’t want Allen to know she had locked Greta in a closet. “What am I supposed to do with a fourteen year old with special needs?”

“Take her to a movie or out shopping. Greta loves going to the mall. She doesn’t really like spending time in closets though,” Allen smirked.

“She told you?”

“Of course! Greta tells me everything.”

“And the poop? She told you about that too?”

Allen’s mouth fell. “What poop?”


Greta’s prom was coming up and she needed a dress. Linda agreed to take her shopping for one at Walmart since they had a plus size section.

 “That looks nice! What do you think Greta?” Linda ruffled the pink dress with sequins on the hanger.

“I don’t like it. Pink no good. Purple better. This one nice!” Greta grabbed the dress she was eyeing.

“That could work, but it looks like they don’t have your size. Can you just try on the pink one please?”

“Ok, but it too shiny.”

Greta come out of the dressing room and Linda couldn’t help but laugh. Greta looked like a pink disco ball in the dress.

“What is so funny?” Greta asked with tears in her eyes, her bare legs shaking. She started running towards the exit with the tags still on the dress.

Linda took off after Greta, but she was too late. Greta had tripped the store alarm and a police office had caught her.

“You can’t arrest her officer. She doesn’t know what she’s doing. Can’t you see she has Down Syndrome,” Linda pleaded.

“I don’t care what the girl has. She shoplifted, so I’m arresting her. You can meet us at the police station,” the police officer cuffed Greta.

“Linda! Help. I be a good girl now. I promise!” Tears fell down Greta’s cheeks.

At the police station, the store promised not to press charges after they realized what had happened.

“I’m really sorry Greta. I’ll never laugh at you again.” Linda said while looking at Greta.

“It O.k. I told you the pink one no good!” They both laughed.


After several shopping trips, Greta finds the perfect dress with Linda’s help. It was prom night and Greta emerged from her bedroom all dressed up in high heals and her new dress. Linda and Allen are beaming as they take photo after photo of Greta to commemorate the special day. They are shocked when the doorbell rings. Greta opens the door as if expecting the guest. A handsome boy dressed in tuxedo stands outside.

“I thought you were going stag,” Allen placed his hand over his mouth.

“Allen, I think it’s wonderful that Greta is going with a date,” Linda smiled.

“She is supposed to be focused on other things like her studies,” whispered Allen in Linda’s ear.

“She’s a normal teenager. You need to ease up on her.”

“Greta, invite your date in. We’d like to meet him,” said Linda.

“Come in Theo.”

Greta introduced her father and step mother to Theo.

“Thank you for taking Greta to the prom Theo. Greta hasn’t mentioned you at all. We’d love to learn a little about you. What year are you in school?,” Linda smiled.

“I’m a senior. Greta and I met in shop class. She’s really good with a wrench! I love fixing up cars, like The old chevy I’m driving us to the prom with. I found the frame and engine in the junk yard.”

“Yes, Theo good with cars. He teach me how to fix them,” said Greta with a big smile.

“What are your plans after high school?” asked Allen.

“Oh, my father owns a car repair shop. I plan on working there full-time.”

Allen coughed.

“That’s important work Theo. I bet you’re really good with it too,” said Linda.

“No plans for college?” Allen raised his eyebrows.

Theo shifted his weight from his right to his left foot and dug his hands into his tuxedo pockets.

“Not everyone needs to go to college dear,” explained Linda.

“We should get going. We don’t want to be late,” Theo grabbed Greta’s hand and placed a corsage around her wrist.

“Thank you Theo,” Greta pulled out the Boutonnière she had for Theo and pinned it to his lapel.

“You two look marvelous!” Linda gave Greta a hug.

“Thank you for sticking up for Theo,” Greta whispered in Linda’s ear.


Linda was sick with the flu and miserable in bed. Allen had gone out to get her some chicken soup, but she was craving something sweet.

Greta who was fixing herself something to eat in the kitchen. “Greta, do we have any cake in the fridge or something sweet like pie?” asked Linda.

“No, but I can make pie. I make good pie. I made for daddy when he was sick the best apple pie.”

Greta shook her head and put her hand on her forehead. You’ve got to be kidding me. Greta couldn’t even use a measuring cup. How’s she supposed to make me a pie? “You sure you can make some pie?”

“Yes, I bake good. You’ll see.”

An hour later, Greta walked over to Linda’s room with a piece of hot apple pie and a fork. “This for you. Feel better Greta.”

Linda raised her eyebrows and looked curiously at the pie.

“Try it. I know you’ll like,” Greta smiled.

Linda ate a forkful and her eyes grew wide. “It’s delicious Greta. How did you learn to bake like this?”

“Glad you like! I take cooking class in school. Feel better Linda.”

“Maybe you can help me cook for Thanksgiving this year. We have a lot of guests coming over.”

“Yes, but only if I get to make the pie!,” Greta clapped her hands.

“It’s a deal,” Linda ate another mouthful.


Linda was organizing a bake sale for the Country Club Sisterhood. She needed to get the table decorations on the top shelf in the garage. She leaned the ladder against the shelves and started climbing. When she was half way up the ladder with the decorations in sight, her footing gave way and she fell backward. Her head hit the concrete and she passed out. She woke up in the hospital with Allen and Greta at her side a week later.

“Hi Honey. We were so worried about you,” Allen grabbed Linda’s hand and smiled at her.

“What happened? The last thing I remember was falling from the ladder.”

“Yes, you got yourself a really big concussion. Greta heard you fall. Thank God she was home. She gave you CPR and called 911.”

“You did that for me?” Linda looked at Greta.

“Yes. I learn CPR in school.” Greta smiled. “I can teach you.”

Linda smiled and reached a hand out to Greta.

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