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 second chapter of “The Lady of Shadows,” he had “come forward” to stop Detta from shoplifting. She screamed and drew the attention of a security guard, so Roland had no choice but to hijack O/Detta’s wheelchair and roll her onto the beach.
This week, we’ll look at “Odetta on the Other Side,” the third chapter of “The Lady of Shadows.”
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 1
In a long sentence that lasts for a page and a half, Roland thinks: if this were a normal woman, the first thing she’d do when she suddenly found herself in another world is ask “where am I?” But of course, Odetta doesn’t — because Odetta isn’t normal. Instead, she asks: “What exactly are you planning to do with that knife, young man?”
What Constant Reader Learns: As soon as he goes through the door with who is apparently Odetta, Roland zooms back into his own body. And when we last saw his body, it was lying on the beach and Eddie was about to slit its throat. So either Eddie is a slow throat-slitter, or he dithered, or the whole scenario with Roland and Detta in Macy’s took place in a really short period of time or in a period of time that ran differently than in the world at the beach. Take your pick. Probably all of the above.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 2
Now that Roland’s back in his body, he looks up at Eddie and also wonders what he’s planning to do with the knife. He realizes he isn’t fast enough to stop Eddie from cutting him if he planned to. But of course Eddie doesn’t. He just throws the knife away in the sand.
Odetta turns to look at them and then the questions begin: “Where am I? Who pushed me? How can I be here? How can I be dressed, for that matter, when I was home watching the twelve o’clock news in my robe? Who am I? Where is this? Who are you?”
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland immediately, from her flood of questions, hones in on “Who am I?” and the fact that before she asked who Roland and Eddie were, she asked who she was herself. Well, this should be interesting.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 3
Eddie looks from “the lovely young/old face” of Odetta back to Roland and wonders why she doesn’t know that she was in Macy’s instead of at home in her bathrobe. Eddie’s confused (duh), and makes a totally weird comment about Christa Macauliffe’s left hand being mounted on a guy’s wall next to a prize marlin. Then Odetta wants to know who Christa Macauliffe is, and if she’s one of the missing Freedom Riders…and I feel as if I’m watching a Dark Tower version of the old Laurel and Hardy “Who’s on First” skit. Roland concludes that she’s in shock.
We get a view of the Macy’s Escape through Eddie’s point of view, and how in the dressing room as the security guard busted in and just before the door closed on that world, the scene seemed to freeze into a still photograph.
Odetta finally starts to cry, and Eddie turns on Roland and says, “You brought her here, so go on and tell her, man!” Then he pauses and adds, “And then tell me how come she doesn’t remember herself.”
What Constant Reader Learns: After all the wondering and WTHs of The Gunslinger, it’s kind of fun to know about Odetta’s history and watch as Eddie and Roland try to figure it out.
When Eddie’s wondering about Odetta’s memory lapse he asks why her last memory was “listening to some blow-dried dude talk about how they found that gonzo down in the Florida Keys with Christa McAuliffe’s left hand mounted on his den wall next to his prize marlin.” This is totally whacked to me. When The Drawing of the Three first came out, it was 1987, right? And Christa McAuliffe (from Stephen King’s general neck of the woods) died in early 1986 in the Challenger explosion. So I assume, the story is that her hand landed somewhere and a dude in Florida mounted it on his wall. Besides the sick-puppy nature of it, there’s the whole issue of why Eddie would say Odetta was sitting in 1964 listening to news about something that wouldn’t happen until 1986. Except, of course, Eddie’s kinda silly. This whole exchange struck me as bizarre, even by Dark Tower standards.
A new favorite line: “I know what you mean, Roland, old buddy…I felt a little shock myself when you came busting into my head like Walter Payton on crack.” Heh.
Speaking of Eddie’s ruminations, it’s pretty funny that when he was watching through the door as Roland propelled Detta’s wheelchair down the aisle of Macy’s, he was reminded of the movie of The Shining, when little Danny Torrance (“redrum”) wheels his trike down the hotel hallway.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 4
Roland doesn’t answer at once. He gets the knife and sticks it in his gunbelt, playing for time as he tries to figure out what the deal is with the woman. He realizes that she’d fought him as soon as he’d come forward — she wasn’t surprised to find him in her head, but was angry and determined to get rid of him. And he realizes that as soon as they came through the door, she was a different woman.
There’s something else going on he can’t understand or quite remember — something about the doorway itself.
“You’re nothing but a goddam machine,” Eddie grouses at him, and kneels beside the weeping Odetta and puts his arms around her and tries to comfort her.
Roland gets his little feelings hurt at being called a machine. He watches Eddie try to comfort the woman, though, and realizes it’s true. He is capable of “going on and on, slamming with brutal relentlessness through miles and years, even dimensions, it seemed, in search of the Tower.” But he realizes he could not have done what Eddie is doing — giving comfort to another person. And the realization scares him: “If you have given up your heart for the Tower, Roland, you have already lost,” he tells himself and cries inwardly,“I do want to love.” But his eyes “remain as dry as the desert he had crossed to reach this sunless sea.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I do love Eddie. “You’re going to be okay,” he tells Odetta, “as long as you like lobster.”
While Eddie comforts Odetta, Roland realizes Eddie’s going to be all right now because he has someone else to take care of even though Henry is gone. But Roland has a real zing of horror over what the quest for the Tower has cost him — maybe his humanity. And if he has lost the ability to love, he might gain the tower and lose the war…or something deep like that.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 5
Roland thinks he will answer Eddie’s question later about why Odetta doesn’t remember what happened, because Eddie needs to stay on guard. Roland has realized the woman in the wheelchair isn’t one woman, but two — and one of them is dangerous.
What Constant Reader Learns: For a slow, methodical guy, Roland was able to think through this problem pretty impressively.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 6
Eddie tries to explain things to Odetta as best he can (omitting the part about the shootout). She sits quietly, absorbing it. Even though it was Eddie’s turn to get the water, Roland goes again — a gesture Eddie finds touching. Odetta stares out to sea a while and finally says, “no.” She has decided that she’s still in Oxford, Mississippi, suffering from a head injury and that none of this — the beach, Roland, Eddie — is real. Turns out she was in a coma for three weeks when she was five, and she dreamed a lot then. And she thinks that’s what’s happening again. Either that, or she’s gone insane.
Eddie asks what happened to her, and she tells him a long story about going to Elizabeth, N.J., in the “Jim Crow car” on the train. She and Eddie have a tussle over whether it’s rude to say “Negro” or “black” — a sign times have moved on — and says she was hit by a brick. Maybe it was an accident, but probably not.
Odetta’s mention of Oxford Town triggers a memory for Eddie of Henry and wet diapers for some reason. And the line from the Bob Dylan song: “Somebody better investigate soon.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, Stephen King. Let’s have a talk. You can’t just throw out: “At one moment Eddie would guess she was five years older than he, at another he would guess fifteen. There was one thing he didn’t have to guess about: he was falling in love with her.” And then talk about how his skin prickles when she talks and all this nonsense.
WTH? Seriously? Legless woman rolls onto the beach, sheds a few tears, and Eddie’s immediately in love with her? Okay, I get that Eddie’s potential love-matches are limited. He can crush on Roland, who’d probably shoot him, or a lobstrosity, who’d whack off more than a couple of fingers if he got intimate (Did-a-chum). But really. I’m kinda annoyed here. You’re gonna have to work to win me back.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 7
Odetta and Eddie continue the “get to know you” phase of their romance (gah), and she asks if he was really a heroin addict. “Am,” he says. “It’s not a thing you get over.” She says he doesn’t seem like an addict, at which he preens a little at his attractiveness. “Too clean-cut?” he asks. “No, too white,” she answers, then later apologizes.
Eddie asks her to at least consider that he — and they, and Roland, and the beach — is real. He proposes that maybe he got bopped over the head by Customs, and is lying in a Bellevue ward dreaming up her and Roland.
Odetta argues that her experience was different than Eddie’s, making her coma more likely, because she has a lapse in her memory. She doesn’t buy the whole stealing-in-Macy’s story because she doesn’t even wear jewelry. “You better look at your hands, Odetta,” Eddie says. They are, of course, covered in rings. He also points out that she didn’t get bopped in the head in Oxford, because she remembers coming home from Oxford — that’s not where her memories stop. She won’t listen, and her headache returns.
What Constant Reader Learns: So, in order to better cast Eddie as our romantic lead (give me a few minutes — I’m kind of pissed about this turn of events, okay?), we get a long spiel about how well he cleans up for a junkie, even using Roland’s knife to shave with on the beach and washing himself as well as he can, lacking soap.
Eddie and Odetta have an interesting exchange of slang — she doesn’t know what “gay” means and she is offended she he says she is “black,” for example — and he realizes how things changed between her world and his. Don’t worry, Eddie, I’m sure love will conquer all.
At the end of this section, Eddie walks back to meet Roland, and Odetta is sitting in her chair, having a really bad headache. Which probably means Detta is about to make an appearance.
The Drawing of the Three — The Lady of the Shadows, Chapter 3 (“Odetta on the Other Side”), Section 8
Eddie realizes Roland doesn’t look so well, and Ro admits he’s getting sick again. They didn’t have enough of the Keflex to knock out his infection. Eddie’s trying to figure out what’s wrong with Odetta, so Roland sits him down for a serious talk — because he realizes Eddie’s fallen in love with her. *grumbles* “She is two women in the same body,” Roland tells him, adding that there was something else strange and important that happened when he “went forward,” but he can’t remember what. He tells Eddie to be on his guard, because the woman from the Macy’s side of the door is as deadly as a lobstrosity.
Eddie says he understands, but of course he doesn’t, because he’s such a lovestruck monkey’s butt.
What Constant Reader Learns: Et tu, Roland? You don’t think this whole lovesick Eddie business is nuts? I’m ready for Detta. She’ll put a stop to this nonsense.
That’s it for this week! Next week — same time, same place — we’ll read Chapter 4 of “The Lady of the Shadows,” titled “Detta on the Other Side.” Uh-oh.