I don’t have much work to do around the house like some girls. My mother does that. And I don’t have to earn my pocket money by hustling; George runs errands for the big boys and sells Christmas cards. And anything else that’s 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 he’s much bigger and he’s older too. 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, 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 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 even if I am a little girl with skinny arms and a squeaky voice, which is how I got the name Squeeky. And if things get too rough, I run. And as anybody can tell you, I’m the fastest thing on two feet. 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—except two people who know better, my father and me. He can beat me to Amsterdam Avenue with me having a two-fire-hydrant head start and him running with his hands in his pockets and whistling. But that’s 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 everyone’s concerned, I’m 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, she’s got short legs. In the third place, she’s got freckles. In the first place, no one can beat me and that’s all there is to it. Every time, just before I take off in a race, I always feel like I’m in a dream, the kind of dream you have when you’re sick with fever and feel all hot and weightless. I dream I’m flying over a sandy beach in the early morning sun, kissing the leaves of the trees as I fly by. And there’s always the smell of apples, just like in the country when I was little and used to think I was a choo-choo train, running through the fields of corn and chugging up the hill to the orchard. And all the time I’m dreaming this, I get lighter and lighter until I’m flying over the beach again, getting blown through the sky like a feather that weighs nothing at all. But once I spread my fingers in the dirt and crouch over the Get on Your Mark, the 5 dream goes and I am solid again and am telling myself, Squeaky you must win, you must win, you are the fastest thing in the world, you can even beat your father up Amsterdam if you really try. And then I feel my weight coming back just behind my knees then down to my feet then into the earth and the pistol shot explodes in my blood and I am off and weightless again, flying past the other runners, my arms pumping up and down and the whole world is quiet except for the crunch as I zoom over the gravel in the track. I glance to my left and there is no one. To the right, a blurred Gretchen, who’s got her chin jutting out as if it would win the race all by itself. And on the other side of the fence is Raymond with his arms down to his side and the palms tucked up behind him, 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. But the white ribbon is bouncing toward me and I tear past it, racing into the distance till my feet with a mind of their own start digging up footfuls of dirt and brake me short. Then all the kids standing on the side pile on me, banging me on the back and slapping my head with their May Day programs, for I have won again and everybody on 151st Street can walk tall for another year.