A Read of The Dark Tower

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Drawing of the Three, The Pusher: Roland Takes His Medicine

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.

We last left Eddie Dean trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey, lying below the high-tide line and waiting for the lobstrosities to arrive, while a heavily armed and stone-cold mean Detta stood watch. Roland was tending to business and freaking out in the sociopathic mind of Jack Mort.

The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 1

We’re back with Roland inside the ugly mind of Jack Mort. Jack’s in a freakout over the brain invasion, but “because Mort was a monster — worse than Detta Walker ever had been or could be,” Roland doesn’t bother to “palaver” with him. Instead, he lets Jack scream and focuses on the list of things he needs to accomplish, digging around in Jack’s memory like it’s a “combination atlas and encyclopedia.”

What Constant Reader Learns: We’re told that Roland likes to improvise so a loose plan of action is all he needs. “When it came to planning, there were no creatures in the universe more different than Roland and Jack Mort.” Jack likes to plan out every move of his Pushes, even down to his getaway costume. Roland likes to improvise, which we’re told “has always been one of Roland’s strong points.” This is gonna be fun, I think…well, maybe not for old Jack.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 2

Last time we actually saw Jack, he was in his office. Roland had “come forward” and directed Jack to leave work early. Jack gets on the elevator, which freaks Roland out when it starts moving until the Mortcypedia (aka Jack’s brain) reassures him that hurtling downward in a metal box is an okay thing.

One of Jack’s coworkers is babbling in the elevator until Roland looks at him and tells him to shut up. In a fine little bit of point-of-view hopping, we learn the man on the elevator kind of hopes Jack is on his way toward a breakdown and a stay in a sanitarium.

What Constant Reader Learns: Well, we have a new vocabulary word this week, kiddies: Mortcypedia.

A minor sign the world has moved on: When’s the last time you heard the word “sanitarium”? The PC police would be out in force.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 3

The Mortcypedia continues to inform Roland of the world as he moves out of the building and onto the street. Jack Mort, after being freaked out and ignored, has fainted.

Roland is directed by the Mortcypedia to take one of the “tack-sees,” all of which are driven by tribes of “spix” or “mockies,” the latter an ethnic slur I had to look up, should you ever want to insult your Hispanic or Jewish friends. (The cabbie is actually, we’re told, a WASP from Vermont trying to break into show business.)

Between the Mortcypedia’s instructions and Roland’s cold eyes, the cabbie is sufficiently alarmed by the time he drops Roland off and is glad to be rid of him.

What Constant Reader Learns: I think Stephen King was as entertained by Mortcypedia as I was by lobstrosities. He’s using it, like, every other line.

Convenient Fainting Disease seems to be spreading like a lobstrosity-inflicted infection. Nice that when Jack faints, the Mortcypedia keeps on working.

More ethnic slurs, probably used to establish Jack Mort’s bad character (and, really, did we need anything else?).


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 4

As soon as Roland exits the “tack-see,” he sees a police car he immediately reads as posse, even without the Mortcypedia. He sees two gunslingers inside the car, drinking coffee, and Roland doesn’t think they look like very fit gunslingers.

Through Roland’s eyes, we see the sign above the storefront he’s come to: guns and sporting goods. Roland sees guns in the window and knows he’s at the right place. He stands at the window for a while, digging through the Mortcypedia and formulating a plan.

What Constant Reader Learns:Interesting that Roland identifies the cops right away as “posse” members and “gunslingers,” because he wouldn’t have been able to see their guns with them sitting in the squad car drinking coffee. But Ro’s smart like that.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 5

The cops notice RoJack looking in the gun shop window and make bad jokes about his sexual orientation.

What Constant Reader Learns:Just so we can continue our litany of ethnic and cultural slurs, we have the cops doing a little good-humored gay bashing. Because this whole politically incorrect theme seems to run throughout this book, makes me wonder what was driving it? What role does it have to play in our story — that Roland’s world is better? That when the world moved on, it left some of the ignorance and bigotry behind? That in a brutal world like Roland’s where mere survival is a battle, there’s no time to worry about hating someone else for their race or ethnicity or sexual orientation? Just tossing this out there for discussion, oh wise readers who know where this whole story is going. What do you think?


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 6

RoJack goes into the shop and, after consulting the Mortcypedia, asks to see a caliber chart. He’s given a copy of the Shooter’s Bible, which Roland finds exciting. He’s even more thrilled when he sees photography for what appears to be the first time — the Mortcypedia calls them “Fottergraffs.”

Finally, Roland sees a Fottergraff of a .45 pistol shell, and knows it will work with his guns. He is astounded that there are 50 bullets in a box, and that he can buy 150 bullets with the money in Jack Mort’s wallet. Such riches!

Roland’s story that he has his brother’s old revolver he wants to buy ammo for sounds fishy to the clerk since Roland is so clueless about the number of shells in a box. He knows that unless his customer has a handgun permit — and he suspects he doesn’t — this sale isn’t gonna happen.

Roland, however, as we’ve been told, is good at improvising and he quickly concocts a plan involving the “gunslinger” cops outside in their “carriage.” He asks to look at a cleaning kit, and while the clerk turns away, quickly drops Jack’s wallet on the floor and kicks it under the counter. “Roland had set out his own honeypot,” we’re told.

What Constant Reader Learns: I love it when Roland encounters the things in this world with such wonder — like the idea that he can cheaply buy all the bullets his little heart desires. “Ye gods! What a mad storehouse of riches this world has!” he thinks.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 7

Officers Delevan and O’Mearah are finishing their coffee as RoJack approaches their squad car. RoJack’s voice is flat and “expressionless,” not “fruity” like they expected. The cops are very interested when they hear that the store clerk has stolen RoJack’s wallet — they’ve been after the owner of the store for a while.

What Constant Reader Learns: Stephen King does one of those weird sidetracks here where we’re not only told something is going to happen that will almost cost the cops their jobs but that O’Mearah will take his sons to a museum years later and see something that will remind him of “Blue Suit” and that Delevan in nine years will see someone in a movie and scream “That’s him — that’s the guy in the f*ing blue suit!” — but he won’t finish his sentence because he drops dead of a heart attack. And that the star of the movie didn’t look like RoJack but delivered words in the same tone. The movie was The Terminator. This is all kind of clever…but just odd. It does tell us that RoJack sounds like a robot on steroids, I guess.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 8

The cops realize the store owner isn’t the one RoJack is talking about but, instead, it’s the owner’s brother-in-law — almost as good. Consulting the Mortcypedia, Roland is able to give them Jack’s name, address, and social security number, as well as a rambling story about how the clerk saw money in his wallet from a client who wanted to be paid in cash. Oh, and by the way, the clerk pulled a gun on him. This really interests the cops, especially that the gun behind the counter has an illegal spring-clip.

What Ro knows he can’t do, however, is give them a signature that will match the ones on Jack’s driver’s license and credit cards — at least not while Jack is still unconscious.

The cops tell RoJack to wait a full minute before following them in the story. He gives them thirty seconds.

What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, I had to laugh that sociopath Jack mort has a photo of his mommy in his wallet. What a sick freak. Oh, wait, you have a photo of your mommy in your wallet? Sorry.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 9

The clerk, Fat Johnny Holden, is outraged that he’d be accused of stealing the crazy guy’s wallet, and denies everything. The cops, of course, find the gun, and the clerk starts talking about his lawyer.

They’re all arguing so they don’t notice, RoJack turn the OPEN sign to CLOSED. But they listen when he leans over and points out the wallet under the case. When Abbott and Costello — uh, I mean, the cops — lean over, head to head, to look under the counter, RoJack takes their heads and cracks them together hard enough to knock them out cold. And RoJack comes up with the clerk’s .357 Magnum.

He has the clerk give him four boxes of ammo — which he pays for — then tells him to take out a pair of wristbands (the Mortcypedia tells him to say “handcuffs”). He cuffs the clerk, then takes the gunbelts off the cops and crisscrosses them across his hips under Jack’s suit coat.

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland is always aware that he’s not here to hurt anyone — just to get what he needs. So he doesn’t kill the cops, and he doesn’t kill the clerk. Love that this stays so true to the character of the gunslinger we’ve come to know. Ruthless…and yet not when he doesn’t have to be.

An interesting little flashback from Roland that he has killed other gunslingers before — didn’t “Alain himself, one of his sworn brothers, die under Roland’s and Cuthbert’s own smoking guns?” It’s a nice reminder of Roland’s past, which we haven’t seen much of in this book.

Okay, let’s thrown in a few fart jokes while we’re being politically incorrect — the clerk bends over to pick up the wallet and thinks his own gasular expulsion is a gunshot, something Roland finds faintly amusing.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 10

When Fat Johnny turns back around and sees RoJack with the gunbelts crossed on his hips, he immediately thinks of classic TV gunslingers. “With the suit and tie the effect should have been ludicrous, but somehow it wasn’t.”

RoJack then asks where the nearest drugstore is (after consulting the Mortcypedia for the proper term.

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland pays for his bullets, as a good gunslinger would, and after a few minutes spent with RoJack, Fat Johnny decides it’s time for him to get right with God. Guess meeting the combination of a sociopath and a gunslinger will do that to you.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 11

Whoops — we’re suddenly back to Eddie, lying trussed up on the sand waiting to be eaten. He refuses to beg Detta for help. “Begging would degrade him,” we’re told. “He had lived a degrading life; he discovered that he had no wish to degrade himself further in the last few minutes of it.” Eddie just hopes he can die without screaming, although he doesn’t think that’s possible.

What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is thinking about Roland, whom he no longer thinks will get back in time to save him. I wonder if it’s Roland’s influence (and maybe sobriety) that’s forced Eddie to grow up a bit. I know that, somehow, Eddie’s going to be saved. I just haven’t figured out how, exactly.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 12

The lobstrosities are here, and the first one rips off “a swath” of Eddie’s face, “splattering his left eye to jelly and revealing the bright gleam of bone in the twilight.” Detta laughs in the background. ….then we shift to Roland, and maybe he’s just imagining that happening. *beats head on desk in confusion*

RoJack goes to the drugstore, trying not to think about Eddie and refusing to let himself look back through the door to the beach and see what’s happening.

What Constant Reader Learns: Well, hell…this is like the “Who Shot JR” cliffhanger season on the old “Dallas” TV show, where the whole shocker turns out to be a dream. Maybe. We shift abruptly back to Roland after the lobstrosity “attack” and he’s telling himself to stop thinking such thoughts because the whole lobstrosity-eats-Eddie thing might not have to happen. So I don’t know if it happened or not. This annoys me because I’d already started worry about Eddie’s lost eyeball.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 13

Entering the drugstore, Roland reflects on the many alchemists, enchanters and magicians he has encountered. Some real, some successful fakes (because “there has never been a shortage of fools in the world).  Some could even call the demons or the dead. Roland specifically recalls Marten, “who, he suspected, he might meet again before he reached the Tower…or at it.” Yeah, I suspect that too, Roland.

So the bright, merchandise-filled interior of the modern drugstore was a surprising thing to Roland. He had to stop inside the door and gape at it. “Here he was in a world which struck him dumb with fresh wonders seemingly at every step, a world where carriages flew through the air and paper seemed as cheap as sand. And the newest wonder was simply that for these people, wonder had run out: here, in a place of miracles, he saw only dull faces and plodding bodies.”

But Roland learns from the Mortcypedia that the real drugs are in the back, so he heads to the prescription counter.

What Constant Reader Learns: When Roland’s reflecting on his past encounters with alchemists, magicians and demons, he recalls a creature he once encountered that the gunslinger believed to be a demon himself — “a creature that pretended to be a man and called itself Flagg.” How utterly cool to see that Roland saw Randall Flagg briefly, “near the end, as chaos and the final crash approached his land.” Flagg was being pursued by two young men named Dennis and Thomas, and they “had crossed only a tiny part of what had been a confused and confusing time in the gunslinger’s life.” I hope we get to see this encounter during the DT series!

Roland’s observation that our modern world is one in which nothing is magical or wondrous anymore feels like a Theme coming on, as we old English majors used to say.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 14

Here we meet the druggist/owner, Mr. Katz — son of the store’s founder who looks twenty years older than his age and resents being saddled with the store. He’s arguing with an old lady on the phone, Mrs. Rathbun, who wants her Valium. They exchange some derogatory thoughts and comments about gay people and stereotypes about Jewish people, to keep our ethnic slur theme marching along. He finally gets her off the phone when his assistant tells him there’s a problem.

The scream and gunfire probably would have given it away pretty soon, because he looks up and into the eyes of the gunslinger, who’s pointing one of the cops’ pistols at him. The security guard’s gun is smoking and mangled in the corner.

“I want Keflex,” RoJack tells Mr. Katz. “I want a lot. Now. And never mind the REX” (the Mortcypedia’s explanation for a prescription).

What Constant Reader Learns: Roland’s pretty good at shooting the other weapon out of someone’s hand. He’s used that trick a couple of times before….and what in the world is he up to? Must. Keep. Going.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 15

Katz the druggist thinks RoJack couldn’t possibly have request Keflex, so he tells him there is no cocaine. But no, RoJack repeats, he wants Keflex. Katz thinks he has the worst luck around. “He thought this might be the first penicillin robbery in history.”

Katz looks past RoJack’s shoulder, which was enough to tip Roland off that he needed to act. He whirls and fires, blowing out a plate-glass window. People scream and run. Then Roland turns back and tells Katz to get a move on.

What Constant Reader Learns: Well, hm. Roland reacts very quickly. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet been told what he’s reacting to.


The Drawing of the Three — “Roland Takes His Medicine,” Section 16

The curved security mirror in the corner of the store is something Roland had been admiring — it was beyond the abilities of any craftsmen in his world, at least as it was in the latter days. When Katz looked over his shoulder, Roland had looked up and seen a do-gooder with a knife headed his way, so he turned and shot from the hip using one of the cops’ guns, so he’d be less likely to injure an innocent bystander.

Again, Roland aims for the weapon and not the one wielding it, shooting the knife from the guy’s hand. The do-gooder suddenly remembers a pressing appointment and runs. Roland turns back to Katz and tells him to have his assistant (apprentice) get the Keflex.

Roland spent all Jack Mort’s cash on bullets, so he offers up the man’s Rolex to pay for the Keflex. Mr. Katz hefts it, and realizes it’s a $6,500 gold watch being used to pay for $60 worth of antibiotics. Katz thinks his luck has just turned around.

What Constant Reader Learns: Again, Roland is astonished when he learns there are 200 pills in the bottle of Keflex — he’d only taken 36 of Balazar’s pills and it had almost cured him, so he figures anything 200 can’t kill would be unkillable.

So, anyone know what a solid-gold Rolex would run these days?

That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll finish The Drawing of the Three with Chapter 4, “The Drawing” and the last section, “Final Shuffle.”


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