Raymond's Run

by Toni Cade Bambara

 

I donít have much work to do around the house like some girls. My mother does that. And I donít have to earn my pocket money by hustling; George runs errands for the big boys and sells Christmas cards. And anything else thatís got to get done, my father does. All I have to do in life is mind my brother Raymond, which is enough. 

Sometimes I slip and say my little brother Raymond. But as any fool can see heís much bigger and heís older too. But a lot of people call him my little brother cause he needs looking after cause heís not quite right. And a lot of smart mouths got lots to say about that too, especially when George was minding him. 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 donít 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 even if I am a little girl with skinny arms and a squeaky voice, which is how I got the name Squeaky. And if things get too rough, I run. And as anybody can tell you, Iím the fastest thing on two feet. 

There is no track meet that I donít win the first-place medal. I used to win the twenty-yard dash when I was a little kid in kindergarten. Nowadays, itís the fifty-yard dash. And tomorrow Iím subject to run the quarter-meter relay all by myself and come in first, second, and third. The big kids call me Mercury cause Iím the swiftest thing in the neighborhood. Everybody knows thatóexcept two people who know better, my father and me. He can beat me to Amsterdam Avenue with me having a two-fire-hydrant headstart and him running with his hands in his pockets and whistling. But thatís private information. Cause can you imagine some thirty-five-year-old man stuffing himself into PAL shorts to race little kids? So as far as everyoneís concerned, Iím the fastest and that goes for Gretchen, too, who has put out the tale that she is going to win the first-place medal this year. Ridiculous. In the second place, sheís got short legs. In the third place, sheís got freckles. In the first place, no one can beat me and thatís all there is to it. 

Iím standing on the corner admiring the weather and about to take a stroll down Broadway so I can practice my breathing exercises, and Iíve got Raymond walking on the inside close to the buildings, cause heís subject to fits of fantasy and starts thinking heís 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 donít watch him heíll dash across traffic to the island in the middle of Broadway and give the pigeons a fit. Then I have to go behind him apologizing to all the old people sitting around trying to get some sun and getting all upset with the pigeons fluttering around them, scattering their newspapers and upsetting the waxpaper lunches in their laps. So I keep Raymond on the inside of me, and he plays like heís driving a stage coach which is OK by me so long as he doesnít run me over or interrupt my breathing exercises, which I have to do on account of Iím serious about my running, and I donít care who knows it. 

(page 1)

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