A Read of The Dark Tower

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Sections 8-15

“Go, then. There are other worlds than these.”

—Jake Chambers

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 or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.

Last week, Eddie and Roland (especially Eddie) had struggled to convince Calvin Tower to follow through with his promise to sell the vacant lot to them.

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 8

Aaron Deepneau finds a couple of Band-Aids and, after pouring disinfectant on the entry and exit wounds on Eddie’s arm, applies them to the two holes there. While drawing a glass of water to go with the pain pills, Deepneau asks Eddie where he is from. Eddie tells him Brooklyn, Co-Op City. Aaron gives Eddie a strange look, and tells him Co-Op City is not in Brooklyn. It is in the Bronx and always has been.

Eddie is about to tell Deepneau that was ridiculous when his own location in the whole concept of the multiple worlds hits him. What does it mean that he grew up in a world where Co-Op City was in Brooklyn yet in Deepneau’s world, which they think is the “real” one, it has always been in the Bronx.

What Constant Reader Learns: The Band-Aids Deepneau gets for Eddie’s wounds have Snow White and Bambi on them. Whose house was this supposed to be? Pretty funny image, anyway. And since this is the “real” world, Bambi’s probably not a flesh-eating deer.

Eddie’s epiphany scares him. This world isn’t the “real” world; it’s the “key” world, and Eddie knows about keys. The world with Co-Op City in Brooklyn isn’t quite real. Callahan, he thinks, was probably from this real world but had somehow moved to another world after the boy’s funeral in ‘Salem’s Lot. “John Cullum’s retired professor friend was right,” he thinks. “The column of truth did have a hole in it. Eddie wondered if anyone knew how deep that hole went.”

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 9

Fifteen minutes later, Roland and a very different-acting Calvin Tower come back into the cabin. Tower asks Deepneau if he has drawn up a bill of sale, then goes to the refrigerator and passes beer around to everyone. He says he’s ready to sign, but is still dragging his feet.

Roland speaks to Tower again in the Dutch-like language. Tower flinches and signs the bill of sale immediately. Eddie signs for the Tet Corporation, and Deepneau signs to witness both signatures. But Tower isn’t completely cowed; he wants the dollar he was promised, then after a moment realizes he feels better.

Eddie’s been thinking about his encounter with the two men in the future who would save Callahan from the Hitler Brothers, and he repeats the Yiddish phrase one of those men used—do Deepneau and Tower know what it means? Deepneau laughs and says it’s one his mother used a lot. So Eddie knows that they are the ones.

Eddie then looks at the pen they had used to sign the bill of sale and it hits him: they own the vacant lot. They own the rose. And he still has a bullet in his leg.

What Constant Reader Learns: It’s been a hard few minutes for Eddie as he realizes the world he grew up in is no more real than the other ones he’s visited. (Perhaps he, himself, is a figment of sai-King’s imagination.) I’m sure Eddie will revisit that thought, but he was distracted, and rightly so, by what they’d just accomplished: “The rose belonged to the Tet Corporation, which was the firm of Deschain, Dean, Dean, Chambers & Oy. It was now their responsibility, for better or for worse. This round they had won.”

Wonder what Roland said to Tower that got him to hustle over to sign the papers.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 10

A few minutes later, Eddie is laying on the floor of the cabin “in his ridiculous knee-length Calla Bryn Sturgis underbritches,” holding a leather belt loaned to him by Deepneau. Beside him is a basin filled with disinfectant. The hole in his leg is swollen and painful, so Eddie hopefully asks Roland if he can hypnotize him. No time, says Roland as he digs around in the kitchen and comes back with pliers and a paring knife.

Roland tells Eddie that there is something Cort told them when they were boys: that pain rises from the heart to the head. He tells Eddie to double up the leather belt and put it in his mouth. Eddie does as Roland instructs and remembers that in almost every western movie he’s ever seen, there was a scene such as this when one would have to bite a belt, a stick or something while a bullet was dug out. “Of course we have to remove the bullet,” Eddie thinks. “No story of this type would be complete without at least one scene…”

The other shoe drops. Eddie asks Roland if he remembers what movies are, and begins to describe The Magnificent Seven, the plot of which closely mirrors the experience of Calla Bryn Sturgis and the wolves (only with banditos rather than wolves and roont children). And there were seven fighters that day in the ditch as they took on the wolves. The director of The Magnificent Seven, Eddie says—the movie dinh—was John Sturges.

Roland thinks for a minute and then says, “Ka.”

What Constant Reader Learns: I love this scene! It’s such a cliché Western scene that it has to be here, and it gave me a charge to read it even as Eddie realized both what a cliché it was and how similar the M7 plot was to the episode they’d just completed. But Eddie still hasn’t reached that “OMG I’m a character” moment, or is avoiding it.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 11

Roland tells Eddie that in order to catch the pain, he has to bite down on the belt the instant he feels the pain. As he waits for Roland to start cutting, Eddie realizes that now that he has seen the basic pattern, it can’t be unseen. Roland is the hero, Eddie is the hot young star of the moment, and they are in a familiar cabin setting.

Finally, Eddie thinks it: “They were characters in someone’s story.” Even as he thinks it, he begins to reject it: “I refuse to believe that I was raised in Brooklyn simply because of some writer’s mistake, something that will eventually be fixed in the second draft.”

Then Roland goes to work.

What Constant Reader Learns: This is a huge realization. Mind you, I have no idea if they are some writer’s mistake. If so, after thousands of pages, it will feel like the whole “Who Killed JR” business. For those of you not of sufficient vintage, that scenario goes like this: Back in the day when the TV show Dallas was popular, one season ended with a huge cliffhanger: JR Ewing was shot. People spent the whole freaking summer theorizing on “Who shot JR.” When the first show of the fall season came on, people gathered around to get their questions answered…and found out JR was having a nightmare about being shot. Or something like that.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 12

Fortunately, Roland has removed bullets before, so he knows what he is doing. The entire process takes less than two minutes, but it feels longer to Eddie. Finally, Roland taps Eddie’s hand with the pliers and drops the flattened slug into the palm of his hand as a souvenir. Eddie examines the slug for a minute, then tosses it across the floor. Ever the collector, Tower picks it up.

Eddie begins to ask Calvin about the books in the bookcase that ended up on the Calla side of the Unfound Door. Specifically, he wants to know about ’Salem’s Lot by some dude named Stephen King. Why was that book valuable?

Tower explains that the first edition run of that book was limited and that almost all of them had been sold in New England, where King lives. The value comes because that first edition had the name of the priest as Father Cody on the dust jacket, when it should have been Father Callahan. Of course, Stephen King was a young author and not critically acclaimed, but at some point, Tower thinks the book might be of more value.

Eddie makes it to his feet unsteadily, and Deepneau offers him the rest of the Percocet. Eddie wants to accept them, but he thinks back to the speech he made to Tower about swallowing a bitter pill. He also knows Roland is watching him. That’s enough to make him decline.

What Constant Reader Learns: Yeah, the old “slug as a souvenir” is a necessary part of that classic western scene as well.

Aaron Deepneau is really funny in this section. He has no problem telling ol’ Calvin he’s full of it, especially when Tower reverts to form and begins instructing Eddie on how he wants his books back and in excellent condition.

I imagine sai King got quite a chuckle as he wrote, “This particular author…may amount to something one day, or he may not.”

Eddie’s determined they aren’t going anywhere until they visit sai King. On the way, he says, he’ll pick up some aspirin. I had to laugh at this: “‘Astin,’ Roland said, with unmistakable affection.”

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 13

A few minutes later, all of them are standing outside as Eddie and Roland prepare to depart. They can still hear sirens in the distance and see smoke in the sky, but it is beginning to thin. Roland has already asked Eddie twice if the trip to Bridgton is necessary, but finally he accepts that if Eddie thinks they need to visit the “tale-spinner,” they will go.

Of course what Roland doesn’t know is that Eddie has heard from Susannah again, from her version of the Dogan. She’s a prisoner in her own body, she tells him, and the year is 1999. He tries to send her a message to slow Mia down if she can, to prevent her from going to the place where she’s supposed to have her baby. He also tries to tell her that Callahan and Jake are on their way.

He knows that before the day is over, they’ll have to make their way to Turtleback Lane in Lovell, where walk-ins are common and they can perhaps find a door. But first, they need to see Stephen King, who, like them, is on the Path of the Beam, in the way of ka.

Deepneau warns them to take it easy on their drive because there will be lots of cops out as well as Jack Andolini and what is left of his men—plus they don’t have driver’s licenses or licenses for the guns they carry. And Roland tells them they should move on as well, getting the expected arguments from Tower, who’s set his sights on a number of collectable books in the area.

What Constant Reader Learns: I like that Roland’s trusting Eddie more and more. Of course he also realizes that if Eddie wants to see this Stephen King guy so badly, even when he knows he needs to get to Susannah, that it must be important.

As they’re saying goodbye, Eddie does the “long days, pleasant nights” thing, but Deepneau says he doesn’t have many days left. Remembering the scene with Deepneau and Tower as unlikely vigilantes, Eddie says he has reason to believe Deepneau has at least another four years left in him. He also gives Tower a pretty good stock tip: “Microsoft.”

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 14

Telling Tower about Microsoft made Eddie remember a conversation he’d had with his brother, the “great sage and eminent junkie Henry Dean.” They’d been talking about stock, and Henry told him all that computer stuff was nothing but crap. And people were flocking to it like lemons.

When Eddie asked what lemons had to do with it, Henry responded, “Didn’t they teach you anything in school, bro? Lemons are these little animals that live over in Switzerland, or someplace like that. And every now and then—I think it’s every ten years—they get suicidal and throw themselves over the cliffs.”

“Oh,” Eddie says, choking back laughter. “Those lemons.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Nothing, really, except it was a funny little story that didn’t do much to move the real story along. Except that in some reality, some world, there might be suicidal lemons. Perhaps sai King will know.

Oh, and I did enjoy Henry’s reference to “Bill F’ing Gates and Steve F’ing Jobs-a-rino.”

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 15

Eddie reminds Tower that he is from the future and that he should buy Microsoft stock in the beginning for a steal and then he’ll grow very rich from it. Tower is doubtful, but Roland tells him if Eddie says it, it must be true. And besides that, they need to go and see the writer.

When Eddie is in Cullum’s car ready to leave, it hits him that he will never see Tower or Deepneau again. Other than Callahan, none would see them again: “The final partings had begun.”

As they are going up the driveway, Roland turns and waves—a most un-Ro-like gesture. “It’s the end-game now,” he tells Eddie. “All I’ve worked for and waited for all the long years. The end is coming. I feel it. Don’t you?”

What Constant Reader Learns: Ah, Roland. The end-game has begun but what will the end bring? Will it be worth your long, hard work? Or will you be defeated with the flick of an eraser or delete button on some tale-spinner’s keyboard? And where the heck are Callahan and Jake?


And…that’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with our read of Dark Tower Book Six, Song of Susannah.

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