Discussion Topic

An analysis of Squeaky's character development, traits, motivations, and interactions throughout "Raymond's Run."

Summary:

Squeaky, the protagonist of "Raymond's Run," is a determined and protective young girl. Her primary motivation is to excel in running while caring for her brother Raymond. Throughout the story, Squeaky's character develops from being solely focused on her own success to recognizing and nurturing Raymond's potential, showcasing her growth in empathy and maturity.

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What are Squeaky's best traits in "Raymond's Run"?

Squeaky, in "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara, has several excellent character traits. She is a loving sister and takes good care of her brother, Raymond. She is protective of him and will stand up to anyone who makes fun of him or treats him badly. Squeaky is also very determined. She knows she is a fast runner, but she trains every day to make sure she stays one. She plans to win the May Day Race and practices constantly to keep up her speed and to stay in shape. Squeaky is proud of her ability and is not embarrassed to practice her running anywhere and anytime she can. By the end of the story, Squeaky is also very proud of Raymond when she realizes he is a great runner, too.

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What was Squeaky's attitude in the middle of "Raymond's Run"?

Squeaky is a multi-facted character; therefore, there are several words that would describe her in the middle of the story:

  • Protective (of Raymond)
  • Realistic (about her circumstances--see the paragraph about the May Day celebration)
  • Self-assured/confident (in her running ability; not embarrassed to be seen practicing; her personality in fact borders on being a braggart)
  • Belligerent (always ready to fight before talking things out; insults others freely)
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How does Squeaky change throughout "Raymond's Run"?

Squeaky loves her brother Raymond dearly, and does everything she can to protect him from the dangers of everyday living, as well as the cruel taunts of the mean girls at school. At the same time, she has to combine protecting her brother with training as an athlete. It's by no means an easy task, but it's one that Squeaky has gotten used to by now. A strong, self-reliant character, Squeaky has developed multi-tasking skills that would put many grown adults to shame.

Inevitably, this means that Squeaky lives in a kind of bubble from which it's incredibly hard to escape. Squeaky would never admit it, but her brother's serious disability and his constant need to be looked out for prevent her from doing more of the kinds of things she wants to do in life. Thank goodness she has athletics as an outlet.

However, once Squeaky discovers, to her amazement, just how fast a runner Raymond is, new vistas immediately open up to her. Now, for the first time, she's found a way to combine her training with keeping an eye on her brother. By supervising Raymond's training, Squeaky can hone his raw talent while at the same making sure that he stays out of trouble.

Squeaky's whole way of seeing Raymond has now changed. Instead of seeing him as disabled, she now sees him as someone possessed with great potential as an athlete, and she's only too happy to help Raymond develop that potential.

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How does Squeaky change throughout "Raymond's Run"?

At the beginning of the story, Squeaky comes across as a strong, no-nonsense kind of girl. She is able to fend for herself and also takes care of her older brother, Raymond, who is mentally challenged. This should be quite a big responsibility for Squeaky considering her age, yet she is able to take this in stride. For instance, she says that anybody who wants to be unkind to Raymond has her to contend with and that she’d most likely just “knock down” whoever it was.

She is also highly independent and does not fear to live in her own skin. Because of this, she is disdainful of people who “act like things come easily for them," like Cynthia Proctor, and of events such as the May Pole dance, where she’d have to dress up and act all girly just to please her mother. She knows her capabilities on the track and is contemptuous of the new girl Gretchen, who thinks that she is a better runner than her. In fact, she is so confident of her racing skills that she is not afraid to tell everybody that Gretchen is no competition to her.

Towards the end of the story, Squeaky learns that Raymond too is quite a runner. This is after Raymond runs on the other side of the fence, during her race. For the first time in her life, she does not worry about whether she has won the race or not, rather she thinks about how later on she can work on coaching Raymond to be a better runner, to have some of the glory she too has had in life. The fact that Gretchen could have just as easily won the race, teaches her empathy for Raymond and others, even for Gretchen herself. She realizes that Gretchen is a great athlete and smiles at her. This is her first friendly gesture towards Gretchen. Squeaky describes the smiles that pass between her and Gretchen, as “smiles of respect.”

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How does Squeaky change throughout "Raymond's Run"?

When the story begins, Squeaky is very eager to prove herself by winning every race she runs in, and she also devotes herself to protecting her brother Raymond, who is developmentally disabled, by threatening anyone who menaces him. She spends a great deal of time practicing her stride and her running so she can be the best, and she sees Raymond as someone to protect and other girls as people to keep up her guard around.

However, by the end of the story, she realizes that Raymond has his own capacities as a runner and that she can coach him to be a runner. She comes to understand that he is more capable than she had thought and that her role is not merely to defend him as one would defend a child but also to nurture him and encourage him to get some glory. In addition, she realizes that she and her running rival, Gretchen, can be friends and partners rather than merely rivals. In recognizing the new relationship that she might have with Gretchen, Squeaky comes to understand that girls can help each other rather than just be rivals. 

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How does Squeaky change throughout "Raymond's Run"?

At the beginning of the story, Squeaky sees her job as being the sole protector of her little brother, Raymond. Raymond is mentally challenged and Squeaky is willing to take on anyone who challenges or makes fun of him but she also sees her brother as somewhat of a burden. She does not see Raymond's potential as a runner. However, during the May Day race, she notices something for the first time. She writes, "it occurred to me that Raymond would make a very fine runner. Doesn’t he always keep up with me on my trots? And he surely knows how to breathe in counts of seven cause he’s always doing it at the dinner table, which drives my brother George up the wall." Squeaky realizes that even if she doesn't win the race, she can always coach Raymond and do other things herself. The realization allows Squeaky to also recognize the good qualities in her rival, Gretchen, and the two girls smile at each other. This implies a future friendship between the two girls and a realization that her brother also possesses talents. So Squeaky is freed to become both a friend to Gretchen and less of a protector and more of a coach to Raymond.

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How does Squeaky change throughout "Raymond's Run"?

By the end of "Raymond's Run," Squeaky certainly changes her attitudes as she begins to see Raymond as a person in his own right, and she realizes that others, such as Gretchen, are not necessarily antagonistic toward her.

As she prepares to run in the May Day fifty-yard dash, Squeaky happens to notice her brother Raymond:

I see that ole Raymond is on line on the other side of the fence, bending down with his fingers on the ground just like he knew what he was doing. 

The race begins, and Squeaky gives all her attention to winning; however, as she nears the finish line, she notices Raymond on the other side of the fence, running with his arms down and his palms turned up:

running in his very own style, and it’s the first time I ever saw that and I almost stop to watch my brother Raymond on his first run.

For the first time, after she crosses the finish line and wins the race, Squeaky does not celebrate her win; instead, she delights in what her brother has accomplished. She recognizes that he does, indeed, "know what he's doing." Squeaky is proud of Raymond and decides to focus on him as the winner rather than upon herself:

It occurred to me that Raymond would make a very fine runner. Doesn’t he always keep up with me...? And he surely knows how to breathe. . . if I’ve lost this race. . . or even if I’ve won, I can always retire as a runner and begin a whole new career as a coach with Raymond as my champion.

Clearly, Squeaky now perceives Raymond as a person in his own right whom she can serve, not as the brother she must protect and have as a dependent. Squeaky then looks at Gretchen and smiles, no longer considering her an adversary, but instead recognizing Gretchen's ability for the first time:

Cause she's good, no doubt about it. . . 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.

Now, Squeaky perceives Gretchen in a positive light; in fact, she even considers asking her to help her coach Raymond. Squeaky's remarks directly contrast her earlier comments about the insincerity of smiles among girls. It is apparent that she has come to trust Gretchen, whereas before she suspected her of insincerity.

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From "Raymond's Run," how would you describe Squeaky's personality?

In Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run," Squeaky is bright, perceptive, genuine, determined, frequently defensive, and very loyal.

While she seems somewhat boastful about her running ability, there may be some underlying defensiveness in her boasts. Running is the one thing that Squeaky has to make her stand out from others. Also, Squeaky perceives the hypocrisy in others, like Cynthia Procter, who pretends that she does not prepare for competitions and it is simply good fortune that lets her win. Squeaky wishes to let the reader know that, unlike Cynthia, she is not phony; she is genuinely a good runner and has no false modesty about her talent.

Squeaky, who assumes the responsibility of looking after her brother, is clearly very defensive of Raymond, not permitting anyone to derogate him because they have an unfair mental advantage over her brother. However, it is when Squeaky sees that Raymond has a talent for running that she begins to put other ideas of hers into proper perspective. After she wins her race, Squeaky notices Raymond's agility in climbing the fence that separates them; she also reflects upon how fast he has run.

...it occurred to me that Raymond would make a very fine runner. Doesn't he alway keep up with me on my trots?

As she considers her new plans for Raymond, Squeaky glances at Gretchen and changes her attitude toward her.

I sort of like her for the first time.... Maybe she'd like to help me coach Raymond.... And she nods to congratulate me and then she smiles. And I smile...with respect between us. It's about as real a smile as girls can do for each other....

So, at the end of May Day, Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker has not only won a race; she has made great strides in maturing and ridding herself of negative attitudes.

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From "Raymond's Run," how would you describe Squeaky's personality?

Squeaky is a determined young girl.  She is dedicate to running: it is her greatest joy.  She runs everywhere, even while taking care of her brother Raymond who has special needs.  She runs always with the idea that more running will make her a better runner, and she works hard at this.

Squeaky is defensive.  She is ready to fight if someone picks on her brother Raymond, whether it is a boy or girl, and has a quick, razor-like comeback if anyone gives Raymond or her a hard time.

Squeaky has a strong sense of self and has no problem speaking her mind.  One she puts her mind to doing something, she feels comfortable with who she is, what she chooses to do, and had confidence in explaining herself to others.

Squeaky is realistic.  When the girls all participate in the May Day dance, she knows that she is not cut out for the fancy dress, shoes and dancing.  Running is her gift and her joy.  She is focused on this and has no time for behavior that she considers frivolous.

Squeaky is supportive and generous.  When she realizes how well Raymond runs, she decides that she is going to do all she can to help him succeed.  After all, she has experienced the thrill of running and winning, but Raymond has little to make him feel special the way running makes Squeaky feel special.

Lastly, Squeaky can be forgiving.  Although Gretchen has been unkind to her, Squeaky offers an "olive branch"/a gesture of peace (a sign of truce) in the smile she gives Gretchen after the race, and Squeaky believes that together she and Gretchen can help coach Raymond to be a really good runner.

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What motivates Squeaky throughout "Raymond's Run"?

At the beginning of Toni Cade Bambara's short story "Raymond's Run," Squeaky describes her impressive running abilities and claims to be the fastest kid in her neighborhood. Squeaky then mentions that she is primarily motivated to win the fifty-yard dash at the annual May Day races. Squeaky also mentions that she has never lost a race and is determined to win the first-place medal again. As the story progresses, Squeaky runs into her enemies, Mary Louise, Rosie, and Gretchen. Gretchen is the new girl in town as well as Squeaky's main rival in the upcoming races. During the girls' tense interaction on Broadway, Rosie tells Squeaky that she won't win this year, and Mary Louise makes a disparaging remark about Raymond.

Following Squeaky's minor altercation with the three girls, she is more motivated to beat Gretchen in the big race and prove her enemies wrong. Toward the end of the story, Squeaky notices that Raymond is keeping up with her in the middle of the race when she sees him out of the corner of her eye. After winning first place, Squeaky is no longer focused on her running career and becomes motivated to help train Raymond. Squeaky's motivation to train Raymond and take an interest in his running career depicts her maturation and growth. Squeaky thinks outside herself to help her mentally disabled brother and hopes that her former rival, Gretchen, will be willing to help her train Raymond.

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What motivates Squeaky throughout "Raymond's Run"?

Squeaky is a feisty narrator who makes the best of her life. A talented runner, she is determined to continue to win races and, especially, to beat her rival Gretchen in the May Day race. She spends a good deal of time with her mentally handicapped brother, Raymond, whom she takes care of and cares about.

Squeaky's determination to develop and use her running talent motivates her to excel. She is clearly a person who is not afraid to assert herself and try to be dominant, and as the story shows, in doing so, she earns the respect of rivals like Gretchen.

But Squeaky is not simply self-centered. When she realizes that her brother has the family running talent, she is delighted, not threatened. This is a way that he, too, can excel despite his mental handicap. Her generosity of spirit comes through in the way she is thrilled for Raymond, even when she is the one who won the race. She is energized and motivated by the idea that she can coach him. She also, for the first time, is able to see beyond the idea that other girls are rivals with whom she can't be friends: she is now hopeful that Gretchen will help coach Raymond, too.

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How does Squeaky react when Raymond is mocked in "Raymond's Run"?

When people try to make fun of her brother Raymond, Squeaky stands up for him.

Squeaky introduces her brother by saying that she has to take care of him and she sometimes refers to him as her little brother because he seems to be touched in the head.  She does not allow anyone to make fun of him though.

But now, if anybody has anything to say to Raymond… they have to come by me. …. 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….

Squeaky is very protective of her brother.  She does not seem ashamed or embarrassed of him.  In fact, she appears to want him to be who he is. All she cares about is that no one messes with him.  She stands up for him because she knows kids will tease him, and she would rather get into a fight to defend him than listen to people call him names.

The self-confidence that Squeaky exhibits helps the reader understand her situation.  We know that taking care of Raymond is a big job, but we also know that she is very good at it for someone her age.

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What do Squeaky's interactions and thoughts at the story's end reveal about her character in "Raymond's Run"?

The reader learns a great deal about Squeaky's character in the resolution of "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara.

For the first time, Squeaky sees her brother in a new light:

...but then like a dancer or something he starts climbing up nice and easy but very fast...how smoothly he climbs hand over hand and remembering how he looked running with his arms down to his side and with the wind pulling his mouth back and his teeth showing and all, it occurred to me that Raymond would make a very fine runner.

While Squeaky loves Raymond and is a devoted protector, she has never seen him as an individual with his own gifts. Here she sees what a wonderful climber he is as he moves effortlessly up and over the fence that separates him from his sister. Upon further recollection, she also stops to recognize and admire Raymond and his fine running skills, displaying techniques she has mastered herself (such as breathing and stamina).

Squeaky also realizes that winning the race, which had been so recently the most important thing on her mind, isn't what matters most to her now. Raymond's training to be a great runner becomes Squeaky's new priority. If she wants to be really good at something else, she will be able to pursue it without difficulty. She can study more for the spelling bee or take piano lessons. She also has firmly established her reputation as one of the toughest kids in the neighborhood. She has a lot of ribbons and medals, but also realizes that Raymond does not. In fact, she asks herself:

But what has Raymond got to call his own? 

Squeaky wins the race, but there is more she recognizes beyond her need to look after Raymond and his career as a runner. Gretchen is there, having won second place. Gretchen, Squeaky realizes, is a very good runner in her own right. She admires the other girl for her dedication to the sport.

And she nods to congratulate me and then she smiles. And I smile. We stand there with this big smile of respect between us. 

This is the first time in the story that Squeaky has mentioned respect for anyone or anything other than her parents—she's always been the kid that has never put up with any nonsense from anyone. Acknowledging this sense of respect is a sign of Squeaky's growing. There is every indication that a friendship is forming between these two who were so recently fierce competitors. Squeaky even thinks that perhaps Gretchen might be interested in helping her train Raymond.

Squeaky sees Raymond and his running potential for the first time. She realizes that she has more than she needs and wants to see Raymond have something of his own. She puts Raymond's interests before her own; she sees Gretchen through new eyes, with a newfound respect for the other girl. And friendship seems a new possibility for this highly motivated young girl who is not as tough inside as the reader might first believe.

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Discuss a detail of the character Squeaky in "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara; show to what extent things change in the end and what brings about this change.

Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, also known as Squeaky, is the protagonist of "Raymond's Run" by Toni Cade Bambara. One of the hallmarks of a protagonist that she undergoes a change, and that is true for Squeaky in this story.

What is most notable about Squeaky is that she is committed to running. It is the thing she does best, and she is not afraid to tell everyone just how good she is at it.

There is no track meet that I don’t win the first-place medal. I used to win the twenty-yard dash when I was a little kid in kindergarten. Nowadays, it’s the fifty-yard dash. And tomorrow I’m subject to run the quarter-meter relay all by myself and come in first, second, and third. The big kids call me Mercury cause I’m the swiftest thing in the neighborhood. Everybody knows that....

Unlike the people who pretend they never practice or work hard to get better at whatever it is that they do (the kind of people Squeaky despises), Squeaky works hard and publicly, practicing some aspect of running no matter what else she may be doing. She dismisses even the thought of anyone else who thinks they might possibly beat her, confident that she will win because that is what she has decided to do. The characteristic she most consistently displays, then is the desire to win races. It is her obsession.

When the day of the race arrives, Squeaky sets her mentally challenged brother Raymond in a nearby swing and begins her pre-race rituals. When she finally stands at the starting line with her next-fastest rival Gretchen Lewis, Squeaky has no doubts about the eventual outcome of this race. When the race begins, it is as if she is in a kind of trance and the race is mostly a blur; however, today she sees that Raymond is running the race with her on the other side of the fence. After the race is over, she thinks about seeing Raymond running so well next to her and thinks that maybe Raymond could learn to be a runner. She says:

And I’m smiling to beat the band cause if I’ve lost this race, or if me and Gretchen tied, or even if I’ve won, I can always retire as a runner and begin a whole new career as a coach with Raymond as my champion.

Over the course of her short race, something in Squeaky changes. Instead of thinking only about herself, she begins to think about her brother running next to her and about how she can make him successful. She also, remarkably, does not see winning as being quite as important as it was just a few minutes ago--though she is certainly happy to hear her name, Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker, called as the winner.

In case we think that Squeaky will no longer be interested in winning, however, Squeaky tells us she can always beat Cynthia, the best speller, at the spelling bee or learn how to become the best pianist in the school. She is still determined to win, but seeing Raymond changes her thinking about running. She knows she can win races, so now she will stop to help Raymond be successful at something. The last line of the story is indicative of Squeaky's willingness to think about more about others than herself; she has ribbons and trophies, "[b]ut what has Raymond got to call his own?" 

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How do Squeaky's priorities change by the end of "Raymond's Run"?

In the beginning of her story, the first-person narrator Squeaky, tells about herself and her goals; however, at the end of the narrative, Squeaky acquires a new focus: her brother Raymond and his own potential as a runner.

Squeaky's altered focus brings her new maturity. While Squeaky loves and protects her brother Raymond, her perception of him as mentally-challenged and in need of protection is altered to one of envisioning Raymond as a champion on his own. This alteration of view point changes at the May Day race in which Squeaky is again participating. As she bends down, preparing for the starting gun, Squeaky notices her brother on the other side of the fence. He, too, is “bending down with his fingers on the ground just like he knew what he was doing.” Then, as she races down the lane, Squeaky glances through the fence at Raymond, "on his first run," who runs well, but in a unique manner as his palms are tucked up behind him; nevertheless, this posture works for Raymond. 
    When she quickly looks forward, Squeaky sees the finish ribbon and breaks through it. Then, she hears Raymond shaking the fence and calling to her.

...but he keeps rattling the fence like a gorilla in a cage like in them gorilla movies, but then like a dancer or something he starts climbing up nice and easy but very fast.

After watching how easily Raymond climbs the fence and again runs with his palms up behind him, it suddenly occurs to Squeaky, "Raymond would make a very fine runner." As she considers this new idea, Squeaky reflects

...I’ve got a roomful of ribbons and medals and awards. But what has Raymond got to call his own? So I stand there with my new plans, laughing out loud.

In her excitement of thinking about Raymond's new future ahead of him, Squeaky also considers asking her competitor, Gretchen Lewis, if she would like to help her coach her brother. These new loving thoughts of Squeaky bring her great joy and she has a "real smile" for Gretchen as she receives her second prize.

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How do Squeaky's priorities change by the end of "Raymond's Run"?

Raymond and running are the two indispensable parts of Squeaky’s life. Like a bodyguard, she always sticks with his brother, Raymond, as he’s slightly mentally challenged. She wouldn't let anybody play pranks on him or cause him any trouble.

She says she won't hesitate to “knock you down and take my chances even if I am a little girl with skinny arms…” This shows her deep love for her brother. 

Moreover, running’s not her pastime activity but her passion. She’s never lost any race. She enjoys her reputation of being “the fastest thing on two feet.” Most of the time, she’s either running or doing something to excel herself as a runner. She says,

“And you can see me any time of day practicing running. I never walk if I can trot, and shame on Raymond if he can’t keep up.”

This May Day race is quite crucial to her. Gretchen, a new girl, “has put out the tale that she is going to win the first-place medal this year.” Though she rules out the possibility of losing to her, she knows she can’t take her competitor lightly. She has to win the race.

Until the race begins, retaining her title has been her primary objective. All her attention and efforts are focused in maintaining her reputation of an invincible runner. 

While Squeaky is on the track, all set to start the race, she observes Raymond behaving strangely. He’s “yanking at the fence to call” her. She observes, 

“like a dancer or something he starts climbing up nice and easy but very fast. And it occurs to me, watching how smoothly he climbs hand over hand and remembering how he looked running with his arms down to his side and with the wind pulling his mouth back and his teeth showing and all, it occurred to me that Raymond would make a very fine runner.”

Even though being slightly abnormal, Raymond has got the potential to become a great runner. He might establish himself as a terrific runner. This is Squeaky’s discovery during the May Day race of this year. This is a moment of illumination to her.

With this realization, she has found her new role and new objective in life. She’s going to coach Raymond and perfect him in running.

She is so overwhelmed with the possibility of a bright future for Raymond that winning or losing the race no more matters to her. Even when the judges are yet to declare the name of the winner, Squeaky’s already in a triumphant mood. She’s already immensely happy realizing that Raymond instead of remaining dependent on others all his life, he might make his own place in life and the society. 

This is the change we notice in Squeaky. Before the race, she wouldn’t like anybody to wrest the crown of the fastest runner from her, but while after the race, the possibility of her losing the race to Gretchen doesn’t seem to bother her at all. She is already jubilant at her brother’s bright prospect. She just wants to start coaching him as a runner.

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What is Squeaky's reputation in "Raymond's Run"?

Squeaky does not have many friends, and she has a reputation for being a tough loner.

Squeaky’s reputation partly comes from the fact that she has to take care of her older brother, Raymond, who has special needs.  Squeaky does not let anyone mess with her brother.  Anyone who wants to start something with Raymond has to go through her first.

But now, 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 play the dozens or 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 …

Squeaky’s release is running.  She loves to run, and prides herself on being the fastest in the neighborhood.  She has a reputation as a very good runner, and she is proud of that reputation.  She believes that no matter what she will be the first place runner in the May Day Race.  No one else has a chance.

And tomorrow I’m subject to run the quarter-meter relay all by myself and come in first, second, and third. The big kids call me Mercury cause I’m the swiftest thing in the neighborhood. Everybody knows that …

Squeaky does not really get along with the other kids because she is such an individualist.  She does not approve of kids who pretend to be modest about their accomplishments when they really are working hard.  She also doesn’t approve of girls she considers fake.  She believes that girls don’t mean it when they smile.

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.

The other girls give Squeaky a wide berth because she likes to be tough, but she really is lonely.  She is thrilled when Gretchen comes in second place and proves she really can run.  The two girls smile at each other for real.  Squeaky has finally found a potential friend.

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