In Toni Cade Bambara's "Raymond's Run," looking after Raymond can be difficult.
At the start of this short story, Squeaky (the narrator) lets the reader know not only about her brother's limitations, but also about how she handles those who are less than kind to him:
But a lot of people call him my little brother cause he needs looking after cause he’s not quite right. And a lot of smart mouths got lots to say about that too...But...if anybody has anything to say to Raymond, anything to say about his big head, they have to come by me. And I don’t...believe in standing around with somebody in my face doing a lot of talking. I much rather just knock you down and take my chances even if I am a little girl with skinny arms and a squeaky voice...
The reader understands that Raymond may be big, but he acts much younger than he is. While Raymond may not be able to defend himself, Squeaky has the attitude and muscle that protects him. And if those things don't serve her well, she runs because catching her is nearly impossible. Not only does she love running, but she is also great at it.
Whereas Squeaky's other brother and her father have other responsibilities, her job is to keep an eye on her brother Raymond. It is a difficult task, which is more clearly understood when she describes the kinds of things Raymond likes to do:
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. And sometimes after a rain he likes to step down off his tightrope right into the gutter and slosh around getting his shoes and cuffs wet. Then I get hit when I get home. Or sometimes if you don’t watch him he’ll dash across traffic to the island in the middle of Broadway...
Squeaky is a bright youngster who knows how to limit Raymond's ability to get into trouble. While they are walking, she makes certain she is between Raymond and the street, and with her speed, it might make things a little easier for Squeaky to keep up with him. However, there are times when Raymond gets away from Squeaky, playing in puddles in the gutter or running undeterred across the street. This makes life difficult in another respect: when Raymond plays in the puddles and gets wet, Squeaky gets in trouble when she arrives home.
Squeaky takes her running very seriously. One might think that having a brother who keeps her so busy could interfere with her preparations for the next race. Even with watching Raymond, Squeaky finds a way to watch out for him while she does her exercises:
I never walk if I can trot, and shame on Raymond if he can’t keep up. But of course he does, cause if he hangs back someone’s liable to walk up to him and get smart, or take his allowance from him, or ask him where he got that great big pumpkin head.
Squeaky is ever vigilant. While walking and doing her exercises, she runs into some girls from school. There is some slightly hostile posturing about the upcoming race and who is going to win. When that conversation is over, one of the girls starts to speak to Raymond. Immediately, Squeaky makes sure there is no confusion: she tells Mary Louise that if she has anything to say to her brother, she had better say it to Squeaky and leave Raymond alone.
Raymond is a youngster with a wonderful imagination—"fits of fantasy," as Squeaky puts it. One moment he is in the circus; another time he is driving a stagecoach. While he is hard to keep up with during this play time, he is good natured.
It is interesting that Squeaky is extremely loyal to her brother and protective of him. She does not spend time complaining about having to watch him. When she does her breathing exercises, he pretends to be driving the stagecoach. When Squeaky is done speaking with the girls, Raymond starts driving the coach again. They work well together.
She takes care of her mentally challenged brother, Raymond, with both pride and compassion.
Squeaky protects her brother and is mindful of his well being. The level of concern she has for Raymond demonstrates that taking care of him is not just a job: she loves her brother even though watching out for him can sometimes be a challenging task.