What does Squeaky's encounter with Gretchen, Rosie, and Mary Louise tell you about Squeaky in "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, known as "Squeaky," has one chore in "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara; she has to take care of her older brother Raymond. That seems rather odd, but Raymond is mentally challenged, so it is more work than it might seem. Squeaky has plenty of confidence in her abilities (particularly her ability to run), and she is not afraid to take an unpopular stand of to stand alone among her peers.

One day, Squeaky and Raymond have an encounter downtown with three of her classmates. She tells it this way:

So I’m strolling down Broadway breathing out and breathing in on counts of seven, which is my lucky number, and here comes Gretchen and her sidekicks: Mary Louise, who used to be a friend of mine when she first moved to Harlem from Baltimore and got beat up by everybody till I took up for her on account of her mother and my mother used to sing in the same choir when they were young girls, but people ain’t grateful, so now she hangs out with the new girl Gretchen and talks about me like a dog; and Rosie, who is as fat as I am skinny and has a big mouth where Raymond is concerned and is too stupid to know that there is not a big deal of difference between herself and Raymond and that she can’t afford to throw stones. So they are steady coming up Broadway and I see right away that it’s going to be one of those Dodge City scenes cause the street ain’t that big and they’re close to the buildings just as we are. First I think I’ll step into the candy store and look over the new comics and let them pass. But that’s chicken and I’ve got a reputation to consider. So then I think I’ll just walk straight on through them or even over them if necessary. But as they get to me, they slow down. 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.  

Mary Louise gives Squeaky a fake smile and asks whether Squeaky will enter the May Day races; the answer is so obvious that Squeaky refuses to answer. The only one of the three girls Squeaky sees as having any merit is Gretchen anyway. Rosie is sure Squeaky will not win, but of course Squeaky stares her down and says she will win because she is the fastest. The short exchange is uncomfortable and false, mostly because girls have been taught that they must compete rather than be friends. Now the trio turns its attention to Raymond.

Mary Louise tries to engage Raymond in conversation, but Squeaky is a tigress and tells her any questions she has should be directed at her. Rosie makes a sassy remark and it is the last comment any of them makes because Squeaky effectively silences them by threatening to beat them up (something she is not afraid to do--and these girls know it).

Gretchen is the boldest of the three and, after she walks a circle around Squeaky while giving her the once-over, Gretchen thinks better of saying anything more and her two "sidekicks" follow her down the street. Squeaky simply continues her breathing exercises as they walk to the ice cream shop. Raymond is oblivious to all of it.

This encounter reveals several things about Squeaky. First, she is protective and is not about to let any little girls try to taunt her brother. Second, she is bold, effectively stopping these mocking girls from their mission. Third, she is confident and knows both what her job is and who she is. Finally, she is unmoved by what her peers think about her. 

Sources:
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