“There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.”
—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
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, Roland and Eddie had left John Collum on Turtleback Lane and were, literally, making a flying leap at the magical door between worlds, trying to get back to the New York where Susannah and Jake were last seen.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 7: Reunion, Section 1
We start out with the human leader of the low-man posse, Flaherty, having a temper tantrum outside the door leading to Fedic. Unlike Jake and Susannah, he doesn’t have the secret password, so he’s raining down gunshots and fists on the door to no avail. The taheen Lamla is unfailingly polite, but he recognizes madness when he sees it, and he winces at Flaherty’s outburst. Flaherty sees it and turns his rage on Lamla, who thinks: “I’m dead. After a life of service to the King, one unguarded expression in the presence of a man who needs a scapegoat, and I’m dead.”
Then there’s a “gasp” of air around them, and the low men and vampires bolt at the sudden appearance of “two newcomers, men with raindrops still fresh and dark on their jeans and boots and shirts.”
Flaherty doesn’t quite know what to make of Eddie, but he recognizes the gun, and he knows the other one must be Roland of Gilead.
Roland asks who is in charge and eventually Flaherty steps forward and, just in case Roland didn’t plan to kill him quickly, throws out a few insults about good old Mom and John Farson. He hoped to distract Roland with a little trash talk and get the draw on him, but he’s badly outmatched and two quick shots take him down.
Then the killing begins, with Roland and Eddie working as an efficient team. Soon, everyone but Lamla is dead. He figures he has nothing to lose, and so he asks, “Will you grant me parole, gunslinger, if I promise ye peace?”
Uh, that would be a no. And the taheen who started the section thinking he’d be Flaherty’s scapegoat ended his days with a final, “Be damned to you, then, chary-ka.”
What Constant Reader Learns: So, maybe we’ve talked of this before, but someone like Flaherty, who’s been doing the King’s dirty work but is still a human…he, as well as the others, recognize the guns and know of Roland. Is there like a Crimson King Tutorial course on Lynda.com? Just wondering how newcomers into the King’s fold learn all this history and internalize it so much. It took Eddie and Susannah a while; Jake, with his Touch, less so. I’m probably being much too practical, of course.
“Chary-ka.” Would translate to something like one whose fate it is to dole out death? I think a couple of my coworkers might have new nicknames…
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 7: Reunion, Section 2
Roland and Eddie, ever the neat gunslingers, have shot Flaherty and his posse so that their bodies are piled against the door to New York like many pieces of firewood. Not a single one, we’re told, ever had a chance to fire their weapons.
Eddie calls to Susannah through the door, and is beyond relieved when she answers from the other side. He cries without realizing it until suddenly his cheeks are awash in tears.
Roland asks the word that will open the door, and both Jake and Susannah answer: Chassit. And in a scene recreated in the film The Abyss, Eddie (playing the Ed Harris role) reaches through a shimmering transparent membrane, touches Susannah’s hands, and she pulls him through to Fedic.
What Constant Reader Learns: Do Roland and Eddie have an unlimited supply of bullets now?
Sai King steps way out of point of view for a bit of philosophizing here. I swear I heard violins at this passage and, yeah, there might have been some eye-rolling. But we’ve already established that I’m cold and heartless: “Do any of us, except in our dreams, truly expect to be reunited with our hearts’ deepest loves, even when they leave us only for minutes, and on the most mundane of errands? No, not at all. Each time they go from our sight we in our secret hearts count them as dead. Having been given so much, we reason, how could we expect not to be brought as low as Lucifer for the staggering presumption of our love?” *Snort.*
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 7: Reunion, Section 3
While Eddie and Susannah have a smoochy reunion, Jake and Roland exchange a long, solemn look while “Oy sat at Jake’s feet and smiled for both of them.” They exchange a “hile” or two, and Jake addresses Roland as father. “Will you call me so?” Roland asks, and Jake replies, “Yes, if I may.”
Roland is very pleased, and holds out his arms. “Looking up at him solemnly, never taking his eyes from Roland’s face, the boy Jake moved between those killer’s hands and waited until they locked at his back. He had had dreams of this that he would never have dared to tell.”
And yet Jake is realistic, as he thinks back about the friends he’s lost—and his real parents, for whatever they were or weren’t worth—and knows that Roland has betrayed him in the past and might yet again. “Certainly there were miles ahead, and they would be hard ones. Still, for now, he was content…It was enough to hold and be held. Enough to stand here with his eyes shut and to think My father has come for me.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I still don’t feel Eddie and Susannah—their “romance” always seemed wooden and forced to me, as was their reunion, but the scene between Jake and Roland was truly touching. It was the ultimate humanizing of the gunslinger, and it’s hard not to compare the obsessed Roland who let Jake fall in his pursuit of the Man in Black with this Roland, who seems older, more fallible, more capable of passing on responsibility, more trusting. Capable of love. His body is growing frail as his heart grows stronger. Hell, maybe that’s true of all of us. [Let nobody say I can’t be philosophical when forced to it….but I still don’t buy the Eddie-Susannah insta-love romance.]
Okay, that was sweet. This whole first big section was really a nice ending for Song of Susannah. Now, we are in Fedic, and I suspect the days ahead will indeed be hard ones. And nobody’s even thought about that baby yet.
And…that’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of the final book of the Dark Tower saga.