Gretchen’s sidekick says that Gretchen will win the race.
Gretchen’s sidekicks are Mary Louise and Rosie. Mary Louise used to be a friend of Squeaky’s when she first moved to Harlem. Everyone picked on her, and Squeaky defended her. Rosie is fat and mean. Squeaky does not consider Mary Louise and Rose worth talking to. She says it is like “talking to shadows.”
“I don’t think you’re going to win this time,” says Rosie, trying to signify with her hands on her hips all salty, completely forgetting that I have whupped her behind many times for less salt than that.
As far as Squeaky is concerned, Gretchen is the one who is really talking in this “ventriloquist act.” Squeaky assures Gretchen that she will win. She talks directly to Gretchen because she does not consider Gretchen’s sidekicks worth talking to.
To Squeaky, racing is the most important thing to her. It is her status in the neighborhood and her badge of honor. Her argument with Gretchen is part of the larger picture of her status in the neighborhood. Gretchen is asking if she is entering the race, and indicating that she will win (through her sidekicks), in order to posture and solidify her status in the neighborhood. Squeaky does not have sidekicks. She has her brother Raymond, whom she has to fiercely protect, and her speed. That is how she keeps her status in the neighborhood. This is clear when Rosie tries to talk to Raymond, knowing full well about his situation.
“You got anything to say to my brother, you say it to me, Mary Louise Williams of Raggedy Town, Baltimore.”
She defends her brother, defends her honor, and defends her status in the neighborhood. Running, and racing, is her outlet. It is how she maintains control and perspective.