In Toni Cade Bambara’s story “Raymond’s Run,” the relationship between Gretchen and Squeaky improves considerably. Rivalry between the girls springs up over the issue of running and winning an upcoming race. One way these changes are documented is through the quality of their smiles.
Gretchen, who has recently move to New York, is reputedly a very fast runner. We hear of her first through Squeaky (the first-person narrator).
Gretchen ... has put out the tale that she is going to win the first-place medal this year.
Although Squeaky denies being concerned, the idea that she might have a serious challenger is a novelty because she always wins. She is also jealous because her friends Mary Louise and Rosie have started hanging out with the new girl. She is convinced that Mary Louise disparages her: “she hangs out with the new girl Gretchen and talks about me like a dog.” Squeaky sounds confident when Rosie suggests she might lose.
“I always win cause I’m the best,” I say straight at Gretchen ... Gretchen smiles, but it’s not a smile, and I’m thinking that girls never really smile at each other because they don’t know how and don’t want to know how and there’s probably no one to teach us how, cause grown-up girls don’t know either.
By the story’s end, Squeaky has been declared the winner of the race. The outcome was not initially clear, as she and Gretchen had crossed the finish line at almost the same time. While waiting for the judges’ decision, Squeaky (Hazel) had contemplated the idea of training Raymond as a competitive runner. She feels so warmly toward Gretchen that she wonders if she would like to partake in coaching him. Squeaky’s respect for the other girl is genuine, in part because of her running skill. The smiles that they share indicate their mutual respect.
And I smile ... And she nods to congratulate me and then she smiles. And I smile. We stand there with this big smile of respect between us. It’s about as real a smile as girls can do for each other.