Three. This is the number of your fate.
Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these first sections, join me by commenting here.
When we last saw Roland in the first chapter of the section of The Drawing of the Three called “The Lady of Shadows,” he and Eddie were watching through the door on the beach as Detta helped herself to some trinkets from Macy’s costume jewelry counter.
This week, we’ll look at “Ringing the Changes,” the second chapter of “The Lady of Shadows.”
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 1
We flash back to August 1959, in the emergency bay of Sisters of Mercy Hospital, where Julio, the ambulance driver, is talking to George Shavers, the intern who’d ridden in with Odetta after the subway accident. We learn that George is one of eight interns at the hospital assigned to ride with the ambulance in a new program. George knows that if Odetta’s life could be saved, he’d done it.
What Constant Reader Learns: We go into a lengthy memory with George of when a plane crashed at Idlewild four weeks earlier and sixty-five people had been killed. Three (yes) of the remaining five passengers were in bad shape. We get lots of nice SK gore — an eyeball resting atop a charred Samsonite suitcase, for example — but is any of this relevant to the story at hand? Not sure. All it really seems to do is show us that George went through that and still wanted to be a doctor — but maybe what happened with Odetta freaked him out more.
Trivia: Idlewild Airport was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in December 1963, a month after JFK was assassinated and two months before Roland and Eddie show up in Detta’s head at Macy’s.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 2
Julio has hung around because he wants to talk to George about Odetta — not so much how she’s doing, but what happened during the ambulance ride. George is relieved because he wants to talk about it too, although he wouldn’t have brought it up for fear of looking like a stupid intern. Then he’s ashamed because Julio, who basically has no future beyond driving an ambulance, has more guts than George with his bright future.
What happened was this: Odetta, described as “a pretty young black woman in jeans and a khaki shirt,” was waiting for the A train, and someone pushed her off the platform in front of the train. She’d crawled far enough off the tracks that the train cut off both legs from just above the knee on down. A white kid called the cops. An elderly black woman jumped down and used the do-rag on her head as a tourniquet for one leg and some guy’s belt for the other. And everyone else stood around doing nothing. Once the ambulance arrived, George got down on the tracks and tied off as many veins and arteries as he could. When they were on the way to the hospital, Odetta woke up and then the weirdness began.
What Constant Reader Learns: I wonder why Julio the driver, who would have been less directly involved with Odetta than the two EMTs, who’ve already gone off to hit the bars, is the one to stay. One of the EMTs would have been a more obvious choice. There’s probably nothing significant about it; just struck me as odd. George wonders if they’re not really out chasing women but, instead, have quit because they were freaked out, too.
The young black woman’s last words before passing out had been “Who was that mahfah? I gone hunt him down and kill his ass.” Which eloquence makes me think that Detta had made an appearance, and I wonder how this racial stereotyping is going to read here in 2011.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 3
George gave Odetta/Detta a shot of Demerol when they got her in the ambulance, enough to keep her out till they got to the hospital — or so he thought. She wakes up about six blocks before they get there. Odetta asks what happened to her, then closes her eyes. Detta opens her eyes and sputters some profanity and asks “Dis d’amblance? Dey get dat honkey mahfah?” She closes her eyes again, then Odetta asks what sort of accident it was — she only remembers coming out of a coffeehouse and going to the platform. She asks if she lost her legs, and when George says yes, she closes her eyes and it’s Detta again, screaming “You ain’t nuthin but a buncha honky sonsa bitches.” And on she goes, “talking like a cartoon black woman,” George thinks.
The paramedics have backed away, and they urge George to shoot her up with more Demerol. By the time George looks back at her, Odetta has returned, asking in her “tea room voice” if she’s going to live. And George realizes that Odetta is unaware of Detta, and vice-versa. Finally, the woman passes out.
What Constant Reader Learns: Brilliant scene. It was like watching a tennis tournament. Detta-Odetta-Detta-Odetta. I cannot wait to see how Roland’s going to handle this one. I suspect Eddie Dean and his drug mob are gonna look like a cakewalk.
And Detta does talk like a cartoon black woman.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 4
Julio asks George what he thinks, and the intern says he believes she’s schizophrenic. The driver asks: Who’s going to help her? When George answers that he already has helped her, it’s clear Julio doesn’t think he’s done enough. George feels guilty and walks away.
What Constant Reader Learns: Hm. Not sure I can make much out of this. Unless Julio makes George feel guilty enough to help Odetta out further along in the story? We shall see. George is awfully lacking in self-confidence. Aren’t interns supposed to be brash, or have I seen too many doctor shows on TV?
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 5
We step outside the story for a strange section in which Stephen King-as-narrator tells us that since the accident it’s mostly Odetta who’s been in charge, but that Detta has been showing up more and more. And what Detta likes to do is shoplift.
When Roland enters her head in Macy’s, Detta screams — “because the invading raping presence was a honky.” When she screams, of course, everyone looks at her, and the floorwalker realizes she’s stealing. He yells for Jimmy, one of the security guards, and Jimmy heads for Detta at a run, all the while thinking it’s going to be a “shit bust” because if you bust little kids, cripples or nuns, it’s always the cop who ends up looking bad.
What Constant Reader Learns: It will be interesting to see how Roland gets her out of this mess, since her screaming has pretty much ended any hope of making her slip the jewelry back where she got it. Besides, I’m thinking Detta isn’t going to be talked into doing much she doesn’t want to. The racial buildup continues as Detta screams not because some dude’s in her head, but because it’s a white dude.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 6
Roland is at first horrified “by the snakepit of hate and revulsion in which he found himself” in Detta’s head. But then he sees Jimmy the security guard running toward him and takes control. He recognizes a “strange duality” inside her, but doesn’t have time to worry about it. He turns the wheelchair, losing Detta’s purse in the process, and sees the security guard slip down on the junk from her purse.
What Constant Reader Learns: I really, really want to see this scene in a movie. Serious pratfall material.
Wonder what the repercussions are going to be of Detta losing her purse and her “credentials”?
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 7
Jimmy Halvorsen, the security guard, fumbles for his gun before realizing he can’t shoot a crippled black woman in a wheelchair for shoplifting junk jewelry. Besides, he thinks, where’s she going to go? The aisle she’s racing down leads to nothing but dressing rooms.
He gets to his feet and limps after her, just in time to see her roll into a dressing room and slam the door. He thinks he’s going to give her a good scare, at least, and is flummoxed when he pushes into the dressing room and finds it empty — no woman, no wheelchair. So the floorwalker bursts into the other dressing room and is screamed at by a woman in an A-line skirt and a Playtex Living Bra. Everybody is confused.
What Constant Reader Learns: Wonder how that wheelchair’s gonna roll on the beach, Detta?
Further sign that I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy. The Playtex Living Bra made me laugh out loud, and then the woman crossed her arms over her chest, which made me laugh louder because “Cross Your Heart” is a line of Playtex Living Bras.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 2 (“Ringing the Changes”), Section 8
We get the scene from Roland’s point of view now. As soon as the dressing room door shuts behind him, he rolls the wheelchair around, looking for the doorway and hoping Eddie didn’t follow through with his threat to shut it and trap Roland in 1963. But the door is open, and Roland “wheeled the Lady of Shadows through it.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I can’t wait to see how this plays out. I haven’t gottten a feel yet for whether or not I’m going to like Odetta/Detta as a character (so far? not so much), but I don’t think she’s going to bore me.
That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll read Chapter 3 of “The Lady of the Shadows,” titled “Odetta on the Other Side.”