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In Toni Cade Bambara's "Raymond's Run," Squeaky and Raymond see the world much differently. It is because of this that Squeaky is responsible for Raymond because Raymond is mentally challenged:
…a lot of people call [Raymond] my little brother cause he needs looking after cause he’s not quite right.
Squeaky is a very serious and insightful youngster: she knows when people are sincere or when they're playing games with their words or behavior. She doesn't have time for such nonsense, noting, "People are so stupid sometimes."
When Squeaky meets Gretchen and Mary Louise on the street, she shows that she is a no-nonsense kind of person. She has no time for verbal confrontations. As Mary Louise prepares the way for an argument, Squeaky notes to the reader:
I’m ready to fight, cause like I said I don’t feature a whole lot of chit-chat, I much prefer to just knock you down right from the jump and save everybody a lotta precious time.
Raymond's life is very different. He operates by example: he does breathing exercises because Squeaky does, and he has learned to run by watching his sister—which she does not know until the end. As the story begins, we find that Raymond also lives in a fantasy world—it is all he is capable of doing:
I’ve got Raymond walking on the inside close to the buildings, cause he’s subject to fits of fantasy and starts thinking he’s a circus performer and that the curb is a tightrope strung high in the air…Or sometimes if you don’t watch him he’ll dash across traffic to the island in the middle of Broadway and give the pigeons a fit.
When we first begin to read the story, Raymond is pretending to be a stagecoach driver, which is all right with Squeaky as long as she can continue to condition her breathing for the upcoming race. For most of the story, it is Squeaky who watches out for Raymond, but ironically, she doesn't see him as a person until the end. Raymond does not know about winning. In fact, Squeaky observes—while she is racing and watching Raymond (who is not in the race) mimicking her actions on the sidelines—that Raymond has very little in his life. She has a vast collection of awards, but...
...what has Raymond got to call his own?
Squeaky decides she doesn't have to run and win races: she wants to help Raymond be a winner at something he's very good at. During the race, she sees...
...Raymond with his arms down to his side and the palms tucked up behind him, running in his very own style... it’s the first time I ever saw that
So Squeaky is more the adult (wise beyond her years), watching to make sure that Raymond does harm himself or disturb others. The only time Squeaky leaves that world of responsibility is when she is running and imagines for a moment that she is flying. For Raymond, this is how he lives his life.
And perhaps, though we can't be sure, it is what makes Raymond such a fine runner: for he is in an imaginary world where anything is possible.
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