Raymond’s Run Summary
In Toni Cade Bambara’s “Raymond’s Run,” Squeaky decides to coach her brother Raymond, who has an intellectual disability, in track.
- Squeaky is a skilled runner. She has a wall of trophies and wins every race.
- At a May Day celebration, Squeaky and her rival, Gretchen, face off in a big race. While running, Squeaky sees Raymond running alongside the track and realizes that he could be a runner, too.
- Squeaky wins the race, but the win has little importance for her, as she has already decided to put her own running career on hold in order to coach Raymond.
Last Updated on January 11, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 846
Squeaky, the first-person narrator, is a small girl with a squeaky voice, which is how she got her nickname. Her real name, Hazel, is not revealed until near the end of the story. Unlike other girls she knows, she does not have to help her mother around the house or work at a part-time job. Her occupation in life is to look after her brother, Raymond. Raymond is bigger and older than she is but needs constant minding because he is “not quite right.” Squeaky is fiercely protective of Raymond and will always defend him physically if anyone jeers at him, despite her small size. If a fight gets too rough, however, she will run away, and this strategy is always successful, since she is “the fastest thing on two feet.” Squeaky has always won every race she entered, and the older children call her Mercury because she is so swift.
One day, Squeaky and Raymond are walking down Broadway. Raymond is on the inside, near the buildings, pretending to drive a stagecoach, and Squeaky is doing breathing exercises, because she is serious about her running and takes every opportunity to practice and improve. She doesn't mind who knows this, unlike Cynthia Procter, a girl at her school who secretly studies for tests and practices her piano scales but then pretends that she has done no work. As they are walking, Squeaky and Raymond meet Gretchen, a girl who has recently arrived at Squeaky’s school and is now her principal rival, accompanied by her two sidekicks, Mary Louise and Rosie. Mary Louise used to be Squeaky’s friend when she first moved to Harlem but now hangs around with Gretchen, while Rosie is “fat” and “stupid,” and enjoys insulting Raymond.
Squeaky feels tense when she sees the other three girls approaching and considers trying to evade them but says that she has a reputation to consider. When they are standing opposite one another in the street, Mary Louise asks Squeaky if she will be competing in the May Day races. Squeaky does not bother to respond, both because the answer is obvious and because she is only interested in Gretchen, and thinks there is “no use wasting my breath talking to shadows.” Mary Louise then asks Raymond what grade he is in at school, and it seems that a fight is about to break out. However, Gretchen silently walks around Squeaky and Raymond, then continues walking up Broadway with her friends, leaving them to continue on their way.
On May Day, Squeaky takes her time getting to the park, because she is not taking part in the dancing but only cares about the fifty-yard dash. She puts Raymond in the swings—a tight fit—and goes to find Mr. Pearson, who pins the numbers on the runners. Mr. Pearson asks if Squeaky is going to give someone else a break this year, pointing out the new girl, Gretchen. Squeaky finds the suggestion that she might forfeit the race on purpose outrageous and pins her number on herself. She then lies on the grass and waits until the fifty-yard dash is announced.
Just before Squeaky races, she always feels as though she is in a dream, in which she is “flying over a sandy beach in the early morning sun.” However, as soon as she is on her mark with her fingers in the dirt, the dream departs, and she is completely focused on winning. This time, as she is about to start, she sees Raymond on the other side of the fence from the track, getting ready to run. The race begins, and Raymond runs alongside the competitors. He has a unique style of running, with his arms hanging by his sides and the palms of his hands “tucked up behind him.” Squeaky is so intrigued that she almost stops to watch Raymond, but she keeps running and is soon surrounded by other children, who are congratulating her on winning the race.
However, it is not clear that Squeaky has won. The loudspeaker announcement is indistinct, and Mr. Pearson is arguing with the announcer. In the confusion, Squeaky starts thinking about Raymond’s performance and decides that he would make an excellent runner. She thinks that whether she lost the race or tied with Gretchen, or even if she won, she could coach Raymond rather than focusing exclusively on her own running in the future. By the time Raymond comes up to her, she is delighted to see him and proud of his ability as a runner.
As it turns out, Squeaky did win the race, but this no longer seems particularly important to her. She looks over at Gretchen, who came second, and they smile at one another in a friendly manner. She thinks that Gretchen might help her to coach Raymond, as she is evidently a talented and serious runner. Squeaky reflects that she, like many others, has often been too preoccupied to focus on the really important matters in life, which are “honest and worthy of respect . . . you know . . . like being people.”