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 half of chapter four of The Drawing of the Three, the chapter called “Detta on the Other Side,” his fever was returning but he was determined to solve the mystery of Detta/Odetta and rip off Eddie’s blinders.
This week, we’ll look at the second half of “Detta on the Other Side,” in which I suspect the wily Detta is not going to make life pleasant for the new men in her life.
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 9
This section starts out with a short sentence — “The day was a nightmare” — which tells me we’re headed for more fun with Detta (or not).
“Push” is the theme here (and, yes, we’ve seen a lot of pushing already — pushing forward, pushing on, pushing through doors, pushing bricks from buildings atop passing children, pushing drugs, pushing women in front of subway trains, push-push-push). Now, Eddie’s trying to push Detta along the beach in the wheelchair, and Detta isn’t playing nice. The sand itself makes the pushing hard, but Detta’s not helping, spewing uncomfortable racial tirades as they go slowly.
They reach an easier, harder-packed stretch of sand, and — whoops! — Detta’s chair takes a nosedive with her tied in it, cackling wildly even though the movements make her ropes draw tighter and she is upside down. Later Eddie discovers Detta pulled the brake and upended herself.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland offers to help push, but Eddie tells him his turn will come soon enough. I’m thinking right now, as Roland weakens, Eddie’s going to have his hands really, really full.
Eddie realizes with some morbid amusement that if Roland had snatched Detta from 1987 (Eddie’s “when”), the wheelchair would have weighed a lot less because of better technology.
When Roland reaches out to wipe the blood from Detta’s head after the wheelchair spill, she snaps at him in anger. But he sees fear “hidden far back” in her eyes. She is afraid of him. Wonder if Odetta’s fear is what’s keeping Detta in place so long?
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 10
Roland insists on pushing the wheelchair for a while, but before too long, the chair gets bogged in the sand again and Eddie takes over the job of pushing the witch, as he’s come to think of her.
What Constant Reader Learns: By thinking of Detta as a “witch,” seems like Eddie is thinking of Detta/Odetta as separate people part of the time instead of parts of a whole, and has to keep reminding himself that Odetta is still inside. Not sure if this will have any bearing on how things play out with her.
Eddie and Detta exchange barbs all the way down the beach, and some of it’s pretty funny because as annoyed as Eddie gets with her, he doesn’t lose control: “F** you,” Detta spat. “Cram it, babe,” Eddie responded pleasantly.
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 11
Our merry threesome stops and rests for an hour at midday. Eddie and Roland eat some leftover lobstrosity, but Detta’s still refusing to eat, claiming they’re trying to poison her.
While Detta babbles her string of obscenities, Roland and Eddie talk. “I can only understand about one word in every ten she says,” Roland tells Eddie, who says he can get two of every three but it really only comes back to honky mahfah. “Do many of the dark-skinned people talk that way where you come from?” Roland asks, to which Eddie responds, “No... it’s not real. It’s not real and she doesn’t even know it... She’s a pretty good actress...She sounds like a cross between the darkies in this book called Mandingo I read once and Butterfly McQueen in Gone with the Wind. I know you don’t know those names, but what I mean is she talks like a cliche.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland realizes Eddie’s observations about Detta making up her own “chain of memories” is right. Detta really believes they tried to poison her and ate beef in front of her, taunting her with it. “In the world of Detta Walker, Honk Mahfahs only did two things to brown women: raped them or laughed at them.”
Roland thinks about Tull — the last time he really ate beef — and wishes he had a beer. I’m thinking Ro’s got the right idea.
So, Eddie and Roland realize Detta is a cartoon character, a cliche. I could look for deep, dark meaning here and wander in literary hellholes, uh, I mean mazes. But really, it might be that in Odetta’s mind, which is where Detta was born, the cartoon woman is the only kind of “opposite” Odetta herself knows. She grew up rich and privileged, so a cartoon urban black woman is probably all she had to base her alter on. Might be as simple as that. Or not.
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 12
Roland uses his last sure cartridge to kill the night’s lobstrosity, leaving him only the cartridges that got wet, which might or might not fire.
Once again, Detta refuses to eat — she begins rocking the wheelchair, trying to turn it over so the guys can’t eat, and they brace the chair. Finally, she falls asleep
Eddie touches Roland’s face to test his fever, and Roland says he’s okay but he realizes both of them are showing signs of malnutrition. Roland worries that Eddie will get sick from exhaustion, and they both are showing signs of malnutrition — cold sores, scaly patches on their skin, loose teeth.
They talk about how far the third door might be and agree that they’re “neck deep in shit” — which makes them both laugh a little too hard. Aww…the boys are bonding. There is a real affection growing between them.
Roland says he’s turning in and tells Eddie to “be on his guard.” Again.
What Constant Reader Learns: Even sick, Roland is protective of Eddie, and I don’t think it’s simply based on his own self-preservation (lesson of Jake revisited). He doesn’t want to burden Eddie further with the knowledge that their last live ammo is gone now and worries about Eddie’s health as the younger man’s forced to carry more and more of the load.
Interesting that Roland recognizes the signs of scurvy — “Shipmate’s Disease,” he calls it — and recognizes they need fruit and greens. Since I have only seen Roland in the desert and mountains and beach, I wonder what his experience is on the water, or if this is something he’s only heard of before?
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 13
As soon as the guys go to sleep, Detta starts screaming. By the time Eddie jumps up, Roland’s already on his feet with his gun drawn. As soon as she sees they’re up, Detta stops screaming, saying she wants to make sure they’re on their toes in case there are “woofs” around.
“Don’t do it again,” Roland tells her, assuring her that if (as she asserts) they were planning to rape her, she would be “one well-raped woman by now.”
They go to sleep again and... Detta starts screaming again. This time, Eddie sees Roland walk to her and is sure he’s going to “swat her like a fly.” Instead, Roland drops to his knees, and says: “Listen to me, Odetta.” And Eddie can see fear on Detta’s face. Detta yammers at Roland, but he ignores her except for a quick “shut up” and keeps addressing Detta quietly.
Finally, Detta falls silent, and Eddie “had never in his life seen such hate and fear combined in human eyes.” Roland tells Odetta not to let Detta wake them up a third time, or he will be forced to gag her. “Honky voodoo bullshit,” she whispers at him, but then she shuts up.
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, Detta’s kind of amusing me in the sheer inventiveness of her ways to torture the guys. Screaming so they can’t sleep? Brilliant.
Now, what is Roland up to? Can he reach Odetta while she’s inside Detta? This never worked on One Life to Live with Vicky/Nick and Tess/Jess. Uh, not that I ever watched soap operas.
There’s something kind of otherworldly about Roland’s voice as it’s being interpreted through Eddie’s point of view: it’s “silken” and “like the onset of rain.” He seems to have gotten through to Odetta, though — or else he just scared the crap out of Detta.
When Eddie wakes up, he’s hoping Odetta will be there, but no such luck... Detta’s on a rant about how Roland’s going to be dead before long, but for today, she’s going to make their day memorable. And Detta’s “memorable” is kind of a scary thing to contemplate.
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 14
Another day of pushing along the beach. Detta’s chair fell over twice — the first time her handiwork and the second when Eddie pushed too hard in a sand trap.
They stop after about three miles, waiting for the lobstrosities to come out. Finally, Roland tells Eddie they’re out of live shells, and he’s pleased when Eddie doesn’t panic. Roland tells him he’ll have to try to kill one with a rock.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie’s getting fed up and exhausted. When Roland loosens the slipknots tying Detta to the chair, he almost tells Ro to let her choke. Then he remembers Odetta, although her memory is growing dim.
Eddie and Roland channel their inner 12-year-olds and share a big laugh over “ka” and “kaka.”
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 15
Eddie managed to kill a lobstrosity for dinner, although we don’t get any details. Detta is still refusing to eat, but Eddie continues to try and coax her to try it.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie’s bouncing between wanting to kill Detta and wanting to help her survive. They need to get Detta the Humpty Dumpty put back together again, or it’ll be Eddie gibbering on the beach.
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 16
Ro and Eddie make it through a night without Detta screaming...but she was still there the next morning.
What Constant Reader Learns: Well nothing, really, except Detta’s been around for an extended time, so I’m wondering if it’s because Odetta on some level thinks Detta can deal with this situation better, or if I’m just trying to insert too much logic into a situation where there is none.
I’m also thinking (much too practically since fictional characters don’t have bodily functions) how they’re managing the whole Detta’s-tied-to-a-chair-so-how-does-she-use-the-bathroom issue.
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 17
Next day, they make it only two miles — their speed is dwindling despite Detta’s relatively calm day. “Three fatal factors were drawing inexorably together,” we’re told. “Eddie’s weariness, the terrain, which after endless days of endless days of sameness, was finally beginning to change, and Roland’s deteriorating condition.”
Eddie is worried-beyond-worried about Roland, who this time “seemed not so much to be burning as fading, losing himself, becoming transparent.” The red lines of infection have returned.
As Eddie goes to sleep that night, he thinks “two terrible thoughts” — what if there is no third door? And what if Odetta is dead, leaving only Detta?
What Constant Reader Learns: I had a horrific notion that Roland could be lying on the beach dying — or even in the desert beyond Tull, or the mountains — and all of this is merely a figment of his dying mind. Kind of like the classic cliffhanger ending on Dallas all those years ago that had people talking and talking and next season, it all ended up to be a dream.
So, our travelers are coming to the end of the beach, and the sound of a “very large cat” squalling in the hills ahead mean we have some new monstrosities on the way, I’m guessing.
The Drawing of the Three — “The Lady of the Shadows,” Chapter 4 (“Detta on the Other Side”), Section 18
With a “Rise and shine, mahfah,” Eddie startles awake to see Detta’s still around. She tells him Roland’s dead.
For a moment, Eddie thinks she’s right — Roland’s still in his blanket. But eventually Ro manages to sit up, then stand, and Eddie likens it to watching televised fights back in his youth. The contender would be beaten to a pulp and still kept climbing to his feet — and Eddie would always wonder why the officials didn’t just stop the fight. But there’s no way to stop this one.
Detta has a headache, a short screaming fit about breaking a blue plate (for special), and then — ta-dah — Odetta returns. “Dear God, I’ve fainted again, haven’t I?” she says, all prim and proper.
And Roland promptly faints “some thirty miles south of the place where the Western Sea’s beach came to an end.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Oh boy — sounds like we’re about to start a new phase of our journey. How in the world is Eddie going to manage? And where are they going to get help for Roland?
That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll read the first half of the next section of The Drawing of the Three, titled “Reshuffle.”