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.
When we last saw Roland at the end of Chapter 3 in the section of The Drawing of the Three called “The Prisoner,” he was riding along as customs agents hauled Eddie Dean into the airport, suspecting him of drug-smuggling.
This week, we’ll look at the fourth chapter of “The Prisoner,” entitled “The Tower.”
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 1
Eddie is sitting in an interrogation room in the airport in his underwear. It’s filled with seven customs agents who all seem to be smoking cigarettes. The agents try all kinds of tricks to get Eddie to confess to something, and he’s using a lame allergy story to explain the tape marks on his chest. Eddie’s been shooting up in the groin so he won’t have track marks on his arms, and worries they’ll search him there or do a blood test.
Finally, Eddie consults Roland, who’s been quiet for a while, asking permission to lose his temper. Ro tells him to go with it. He manages to back the agents down. Once he realizes he’s won, Eddie finally asks Roland’s name.
What Constant Reader Learns: All of a sudden, Eddie’s really glad for Roland’s company. Guess he realizes what creek he’d be up, paddle-less, without the big guy’s help. It’s interesting that he so quickly has learned to take his cues from Roland even though the guy’s obviously from some other place. I mean, really other.
We learn that Eddie’s only 21 years old. This surprises me, for some reason. I knew he looked like a college kid but I hadn’t realized it’s because he could be a college kid. I work with college kids. They’re ridiculously young. Or maybe I’m ridiculously old. A possibility.
Such a great way to show tension: “Eddie felt as if he could take about five of the cigarettes in that pack, line his mouth with them from corner to corner, light them all, inhale deeply, and be easier in his mind.” I sit in awe of such descriptive writing.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 2
As he takes a cab from the airport, Eddie’s aware that he’s being tailed by both Customs and Balazar’s men, who are driving a pizza van. Originally, a limo was supposed to pick Eddie up at the airport, but it wasn’t there after his two-hour delay. Eddie knows Balazar might kill him, thinking he ratted him out.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie keeps looking behind him, and instead of traffic he sees the door to Roland’s beach. He’s fascinated that wherever he goes, the door travels with him. It had also been with him in the interrogation room at the airport. So Eddie and Roland appear to be linked mentally; the door exists between them and not in any physical place like the airplane restroom. The only times the door disappears is when Roland leaves Eddie to go through without him, and Eddie finds that scary now. Amazing how quickly he’s accepted and wants Roland’s presence.
The last time Roland left Eddie, we learn he’d gone back into his body on the beach, moving it away from the water line so the lobstrosities wouldn’t eat him. He comes back exhausted and said he had to crawl, so we know Ro’s physical body is getting weaker and weaker. Wonder how Eddie’s going to get the man some antibiotics? Eddie’s able to look through the door and see the lobstrosities doing their claw-raising and chittering.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 3
The cab drops Eddie off in front of the apartment building where he lives with Henry. The tail with the Customs guys cruises past, but Balazar’s pizza van pulls alongside him and stops.
What Constant Reader Learns: As fascinated as Eddie is with the door, Roland is with New York City and its buildings. I wonder if cities, as such, didn’t exist in Roland’s world, or did Roland just never see them?
Roland is waiting for Eddie to give the word—ready to take him through the door into his world if the situation becomes more dangerous. I know he’s going to have to do this eventually anyway, if Eddie is to be one of Roland’s fellow travelers, so maybe we’ll have a big drug scenario. Although it doesn’t make sense for Eddie to go until he gets drugs to help Roland survive. Patience, grasshopper.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 4
In a little flashback, we learn Eddie stopped at a kiosk on his way out of the airport and bought some Anacin and a couple of hot dogs and a Pepsi. Eddie and Roland go through a bit of choreography but finally all the food and aspirin in Eddie’s hands fade out and disappear as Roland takes it through the doorway. Eddie leaves the airport trailing a stream of Customs officials.
What Constant Reader Learns: Signs that Time Has Moved On, #5: Well, sort of. I mean, I think they still make Anacin, but does anyone actually take it?
I’m thinking Eddie’s really smart for realizing there are a couple of Customs guys watching him on his way out of the airport, but Roland tells him no, there are five. Eddie feels Roland moving his eyes and pointing them out. This really freaks Eddie out, and scares him—not having Roland see for him, but how much Roland can see that he can’t.
Funny exchange when Eddie is wondering if the hot dogs will make Roland sick. “Don’t worry about the food,” Ro says. “I’ve eaten bugs while they were still lively enough for some of them to go running down my throat.” “Yeah,” Eddie replies, “but this is New York.”
While Roland is off eating, Eddie realizes he likes Roland as well as fears him. He realizes that in time he could even love him the way he loves his brother Henry. *Bangs head on desk* Watch out, Eddie my man. People who love Roland don’t tend to live long or die easily.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 5
We’re back with Roland now, when he went through the door to the beach the first time, while Eddie was being interrogated. He sees the lobstrosities and realizes it isn’t the tide that brings them but the darkness. His body is weak, and he thinks if Eddie can’t get him some medicine—if strong-enough medicine exists—he won’t live another six or eight hours.
As weak as he is, Roland still has that steel trap of a mind working. He drags himself out of lobstrosity range, then realizes he needs to protect Eddie’s cocaine, or his only hope for survival might be killed. He finally succeeds, and goes back through the door.
What Constant Reader Learns:
Roland realizes, just as Eddie did earlier, that the door moves with him wherever he moves. He and Eddie are bound through the door now and he somehow knows that if the door between them should ever be closed, it wouldn’t reopen. “When that happens,” Roland thinks, “he must be on this side. With me.”
Roland knows he’s going to use Eddie, and his conscience (posing as the man in black—or IS it the man in black?), gives him hell about it. “Now you intend to draw your three…and condemn all of them to something you would not have for yourself: a lifetime in an alien world where they may die as easily as animals in a zoo set free in a wild place,” the man tells him. Ro tries to convince himself that anything’s worthwhile because of the Tower.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 6
The second time Roland returned to his body, holding the food, he had to work to get his physical self awake enough to eat and drink. First, he pops the three Anacin, then takes the lid off the paper cup of Pepsi. He takes a swig and almost has a sugar orgasm. He’s so astonished he forgets everything for a few moments and guzzles it. After a while, Roland begins to feel better and he thanks God and Eddie Dean. He eats the hot dogs, although he doesn’t like the idea of eating dog, and thinks they aren’t nearly as tasty as tooter-fish. After eating, he rejoins Eddie, who’s now in the cab, rushing along the road with other vehicles, “and not a horse pulling a single one.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland thinks the Pepsi has even more sugar in it than that glutton Marten used to put in his morning coffee. It’s so good, in fact, that Roland’s eyes stray to the bags of cocaine and he wonders briefly if what is called “cocaine” in Eddie’s world was what in Roland’s world was known as “sugar.” He decides not, however, and I’m glad because I’m not sure what would’ve happened had Roland poured a few extra tablespoons of Eddie’s “sugar” into his Pepsi.
While feeling grateful to Eddie, Roland warns himself not to get too attached, to realize that while Eddie has some strength to him, he’s essentially weak. He compares Eddie to Hax, the hanged cook, who poisoned reluctantly, but did so anyway.
But mostly, Roland doesn’t want to care too much for Eddie because he doesn’t want to lose sight of his duty, and that’s a bitter thing for him. “I’m damned for my duty,” he cries out to the lobstrosities (who probably give him a hearty “Didda-chum” in response). I’m having a moment of real sympathy for Roland, who realizes what kind of sacrifices his “duty” asks him to make and feels damned for it. Yet he really doesn’t know how to NOT do what he sees as his duty.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 7
We’re back to the present now as Eddie stands on the sidewalk—and Roland in his head—watching the pizza van pull up, unsure what to expect. A buck-toothed man named Col Vincent looks out the passenger side window and, beyond him, Eddie can see Jack Andolini—Balazar’s enforcer. Col does most of the talking, and he’s pretty stupid. He’s waiting for Eddie to start jittering around like a junkie, but Eddie-with-Roland is calm and serious.
Jack wants to take Eddie to Balazar. Eddie wants to go upstairs first, but learns Balazar has taken all his drugs—and his brother. Eddie starts to panic, but Roland tells him to straighten up and get control of himself.
What Constant Reader Learns: As the pizza van pulls up, Roland thinks, “Just another version of Diana’s Dream. What was in the box? The golden bowl or the biter-snake? And just as she turns the key and puts her hands upon the lid, she hears her mother calling ‘Wake up, Diana! It’s time to milk!’” Uh, yeah. That’s just what I was thinking too, Roland.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 8
Jack stops Eddie before he gets in his building. “Be cool, Eddie,” Roland warns—using the term he’d just learned and seems amused by. So Eddie manages to be cool while making Jack think he’s on a rant. It seems to settle Jack down a little. This is something he knows how to deal with. Finally, Eddie gets in the van because he (and Roland) knows there is no choice.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland seems to instinctively know when it’s okay for Eddie to rant and curse, and when he needs to take a step back. Interesting that the well-honed ability of the gunslinger to read an opponent works just as well with Italian drug lords and their minions.
We learn that even though Henry’s been taken by Balazar, he’s far from fine—has been on a downhill slide with drugs for a while. I get the feeling that although Eddie thinks of Henry as the big brother who takes care of him, that it’s really Eddie doing the caretaking these days because Henry’s all he has.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 9
Enrico Balazar is certain Eddie is running for the Feds. He’s in his bar’s office, the bar is closed, and he’s waiting with his two bodyguards. Down the hall, three other guys are playing Trivial Pursuit with Henry, who answers every question with: “Johnny Cash.” The “gentlemen” think this is uproariously funny.
What Constant Reader Learns: Signs the World Has Moved On, #6: Trivial Pursuit was a hot board game in 1987. Today? Not so much.
Johnny Cash? DING DING DING aka The Man in Black for a thousand, Mr. Trebek. Nothing like a good pop culture joke slid in on the sly.
The word “godfather” is never said, but there’s a big godfather vibe going on here with Balazar being the quiet-spoken gentleman who dresses like a peasant. He builds elaborate towers of cards (symbolic much?) that he recognizes can’t stand for long—it’s the building of them that matter. The only time he’d ever been upset when a house of cards fell was when a drunken Irishman had blown them over intentionally.
There is a looooooong section here about Balazar and how he turned out as he did and who influenced whom and whatnot, and I found myself skimming the backstory. Hope this doesn’t come up on a pop quiz.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 10
Balazar doesn’t like it that Customs only questioned Eddie for two hours. He doesn’t understand it that Eddie wasn’t taken to the 43rd Street headquarters for questioning. He doesn’t know what happened to his cocaine. And he wants answers, after which he plans to kill Eddie and Henry both. He builds his tower of cards and has some chatting in a sort of pidgin Italian with his bodyguard, who assures him that, no matter what, Eddie Dean is good and f***ed.
What Constant Reader Learns: Balazar is pretty sharp. He knows something is off in this whole situation, but he has no idea. I suspect one ruthless drug kingpin will be no match for a gunslinger.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 11
When the van pulls up near Balazar’s bar, Col Vincent looks at Eddie and sees Roland looking back at him. He does not find this reassuring.
What Constant Reader Learns: Col wasn’t the sharpest dude to begin with. Now, his mind’s really scrambled. I’m figuring he doesn’t live too long anyway; he has that classic “Stephen King character who’s too stupid to live” air about him. You know—there are a few in every book.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 12
Roland sees something through Eddie’s eyes that excites him so much he leaps forward without thinking. “It’s the Tower in the sky, drawn in lines of red fire! Cuthbert! Alan! Desmond! The Tower!” But Eddie struggles back to the surface, trying to tell him something, and Roland listens desperately as his body, back on the beach, twitches and trembles.
What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting that Roland’s excited enough for his disembodied body (can one have a disembodied body?) to have a visceral reaction back on the beach. We haven’t seen this before, which I guess tells us how excited Roland is.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 13
Eddie’s on a rant, trying to calm Roland down (for a change) and assure him what he sees is only a neon sign of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The Leaning Tower is the name of Balazar’s bar. Roland finally looks more closely and can see the workings of the sign. He agrees to “be cool” and let Eddie handle things. For a while.
What Constant Reader Learns: I love the reversal of roles here as Eddie is the one getting Roland to chill.
Does it mean anything that Roland doesn’t recognize the letter H? He recognizes T and E in the word “the,” but not “H.” Probably not.
The Drawing of the Three—The Prisoner, Chapter 4 (“The Tower”), Section 14
Col Vincent’s staring at Eddie’s face when Ro leaps forward to look at the “tower,” which is when he sees the blue eyes. He tries to tell Jack but, by then, Ro has retreated and Eddie’s eyes are back to normal. Col’s doubting what he saw. They all get out of the van and walk into The Leaning Tower.
What Constant Reader Learns: Not much in this last section, but I have a feeling the next chapter will be verrrrry interesting.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll read “Showdown and Shootout,” chapter five of The Drawing of the Three’s first big section, “The Prisoner.”