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. Join me by commenting here.
When we last saw Roland at the end of Chapter 5 in the section of The Drawing of the Three called “Showdown and Shoot-Out,” he and Eddie Dean had a massive battle with the mob in the office of the drug lord Balazar and had fled through the door back onto the beach in Roland’s world. Roland closed the door behind them, effectively shutting Henry off from any hope of returning to his own world (and his drugs).
This week, we’ll look at next section, entitled “Shuffle.”
The Drawing of the Three — “Shuffle”
Roland and Eddie are both having their problems, with Roland fading in and out of consciousness with fever, and Eddie going through heroin withdrawal but still managing to feed antibiotics to Roland. So Roland remembers “only a series of images, moments, conversation without context; images flashing past like one-eyed jacks and treys and nines and the Bloody Black Bitch Queen of Spiders in a card-sharp’s rapid “Shuffle.”
Eddie can only tell Roland the whole process took less than a week because that’s all the antibiotics he had.
What Constant Reader Learns: Uh…well, I suspect that this section is going to be a confusing jumble of images from Roland’s and Eddie’s respective week of hell…and will probably feel a lot like The Gunslinger. Or maybe not.
As twilight falls, Roland hears a gunshot over the sound of breaking waves on the beach. He smells gunpowder and gropes for his revolvers and thinks “it’s the end.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Hm. My guess is that Eddie’s off shooting something, and my best instincts tell me he’s using their dwindling ammo on lobstrosities.
Roland smells something good — something cooking — and he hears the pop and smells the smoke of a fire. He realizes he’s hungry, and thinks that probably means he’s getting well. He tries to say something to Eddie, but can’t get his throat to work. Eddie shoves some whitish pink chunks of meat at him, and is in a really pissy mood.
Roland’s getting his sense of irony back — he wishes he had some “astin,” and thinks it’s funny that all the drugs are for him and none for Eddie.
What Constant Reader Learns: Gah. They’re eating lobstrosities — I know it. Wonder if they taste like lobster or “strosity.”
Roland is uncharacteristically nurturing when he realizes what bad shape Eddie’s in — he reaches an arm out to comfort him (and earlier had held onto him through the shakes), but Eddie’s having none of it. He tells Roland he’d kill him if it wouldn’t leave him alone except with the lobbies.
Roland manages to tell Eddie they need to go north, and points up the beach. Roland’s about to zone out again when Eddie slaps the crap out of him so he can feed him his pills. He does so with a most unsympathetic “Open wide for Dr. Eddie, you kidnapping f***.”
Roland takes his pills but then he forces Eddie to draw closer with his “bullshooter eyes” and tells him he has to make a choice: stand and maybe live, or die on his knees — and Roland doesn’t care which he chooses. To which Eddie replies that he can “eat s*** and die.”
What Constant Reader Learns: God, I love Eddie Dean. He and Roland are already like an old bickering married couple. I think he enjoys slapping Roland, but when Ro’s eyes fly open and stare at him, it makes him uneasy and he backs down…a little. Wonder how many people have dared slap Roland over his long life and lived to tell about it?
Roland awakens again to a gunshot. He opens his eyes, looks at the stars, decides everything’s okay, and closes them again.
What Constant Reader Learns: Well, I could read into this brief section that Roland is developing a trust that Eddie will take care of him, but that would probably be stretching it.
Eddie’s feeding Roland more meat. Both men are feeling better, but Eddie is worried about the lobstrosities. He thinks they are getting a little closer and that he and Ro need to move. “They may be ugly, but they ain’t completely stupid,” he says. “They know what I been doing.”
At first, Roland doesn’t know what he’s talking about, until Eddie points at the beach and says “Dad-a-chack, dum-a-chum….I think they’re like us, Roland — all for eating, but not too big on getting eaten.”
Roland is horrified to realize, finally, what he’s been eating. He’s so revolted he can’t speak. “What did you think I was doing?” Eddie snarls at him. “Calling Red Lobster for take-out?”
What Constant Reader Learns: Did I mention that I love Eddie Dean? I know Roland didn’t appreciate that line, not knowing what Red Lobster is, but it made me laugh out loud.
Funny that Roland is sure the lobstrosities are poison, practical man of the world that he is, while Eddie points out that rattlesnakes are poison, too, but people eat them. (Tastes like chicken.)
So, is it just me, or is it kind of weird that when Roland tells Eddie to f** himself, Eddie breaks into a kind of weird Billy Crystal “that’s mah-vellous” impression? It has kind of an over-the-top man-in-black vibe to it. Or maybe Eddie just has a goofy 21-year-old’s sense of humor.
Next time Roland comes to, he’s being dragged down the beach, strapped to a makeshift travois by his gunbelts, while Eddie sings “Hey Jude” — and Roland wonders how Eddie knows a song that he knows. But he passes out before he can ask.
What Constant Reader Learns: Last time we heard “Hey Jude,” Roland was coming into Tull. Interesting what does and doesn’t occur in both worlds. Don’t know that this particular song has any deep meaning. There is a line in there about not carrying the world on your shoulders, which Roland seems to be doing.
Roland wakes with an uncharitable thought — that Cort would bash Eddie’s head in if he saw the makeshift travois. Then he realizes Cort instead might compliment Eddie for being so enterprising because, as ugly and makeshift as it is, the thing works.
Roland sits up for the first time and feels stronger. He spots the first lobstrosity of the evening on the beach, and Eddie shoots one right in the middle of its “Did-a-chick” speech.
Eddie tells Roland that he considered shooting himself a couple of times with one of Roland’s guns. When Roland asks why he didn’t pull the trigger, Eddie says he was afraid it would be a dud shell and then he’d crap in his pants and have to wear them like that because it was nighttime and Lester the Lobster might get him.
Then he gets serious and says he knew Roland needed him. He explains that he’s one of those people who needs to be needed, and that Ro doesn’t understand that because he’s not one of those people.
What Constant Reader Learns: I wonder if the lobstrosities “Dum-a-chum” phrases have any particular meaning, or if it’s just some rudimentary communication?
This time, Eddie breaks into a bad waiter impression, asking Ro if he’d prefer “filet of creepy-crawler or filet of creepy-crawler.” Roland says he doesn’t understand him, to which Eddie replies: “Sure you do. You just don’t have any sense of humor.” So Eddie is going to be a series of pop-culture quotations, I think. Later, he says, “Michigan seems like a dream to me now,” a line from Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” a song about a quest.
Love it that Roland actually laughs — and laughs hard — when Eddie talks about crapping his pants and being eaten by Lester the Lobster. I didn’t know Roland could laugh. Have we seen Roland laugh?
Eddie is no dumb bunny despite his corny sense of humor. He recognizes that if Roland needs to he will use Eddie and toss him aside, but that Ro’s “just smart enough so it would hurt you to do it, and just hard enough so you’d go ahead and do it anyway. You wouldn’t be able to help yourself.” Roland responds by snarkily asking Eddie where he lost his sense of nobility and purpose, and it hurts Eddie’s feelings…which sort of proves Eddie’s point all along.
Over the next THREE days, Roland steadily gets better. He’s able to walk some. At night, next to the fire, Eddie tells Roland about his brother Henry. Turns out Henry was one manipulative SOB who let Eddie grow up thinking he (Henry) had sacrificed his own future and life to take care of Eddie — an opinion reinforced by the boys’ mother.
Roland thinks how much better off Eddie would have been if Henry had just walked away and left him alone. Except, he thinks, “people like Henry always came back…first they changed trust into need, then they changed need into a drug.” He thinks Henry was Eddie’s drug long before heroin was.
After his story, Eddie wants to know what Roland thinks it all means. “It’s ka,” he says — duty or destiny. Eddie thinks it sounds more like “ka-ka.” He wants to know where it is they’re going. Eddie points to something much farther down the beach, but Eddie can’t see anything yet. They spend a restless night and begin walking again before sunrise, the soft light making them both look much younger.
It’s another door, and on this one is written: THE LADY OF SHADOWS. “Here is where you draw the second of your three?” Eddie asks. “It seems so,” Roland answers.
Eddie grabs one of Roland’s guns and orders him to open the door — that they’re both going in and Roland’s not leaving him there alone. Roland tells him he’s being foolish — it might be a different world, it might be Eddie’s world, but in a different time or place. But Eddie says he’ll shoot Roland if he doesn’t take him along. Roland reaches for the door, determined to test him.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland finds nothing unexpected in Eddie’s story about Henry, but he realizes Eddie needs to tell it, so he listens. It reminds me of when Roland stops at the desert dweller’s house after the massacre in Tull, and the man lets Roland tell his story because he also realizes Roland needs to deal with what happened by talking about it.
Roland does a little woolgathering while Eddie talks, and we learn that there were thirteen gunslingers who made it through his class of fifty-six, and now he’s the only one left of the thirteen, “the last gunslinger, going steadily on in a world that had gone stale and sterile and empty.” We’re told that maybe he survived because the “dark romance in his nature was overset by his practicality and simplicity. He understood that only three things mattered: mortality, ka, and the Tower.”
Where will we go next? And will Eddie go with him?
That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll read the first chapter, “Detta and Odetta,” of the book’s next big section, “The Lady of Shadows.”