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.
We left Roland last week propeling Jack Mort through the world’s first and only antibiotic robbery as the trussed-up Eddie awaited his fate with Detta and the Lobstrosities.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 1
We start the last chapter of “The Pusher” with NYPD officers O’Mearah and Delevan coming back to consciousness at the gun shop where RoJack had whacked their heads together like bowling pins. They are not happy to realize the wimpy guy in the blue business suit has taken their holsters, guns and ammo. O’Mearah releases shady clerk Fat Johnny from the handcuffs after taking the man’s .357 Magnum.
What Constant Reader Learns: If no one has named a rock band “Detta and the Lobstrosities,” they should. Seriously.
O’Mearah appears to be in better shape than Delevan, who RoJack had noticed earlier was bleeding from his ear. He’s also slurring his words, so we probably have a shaky cop with a concussion—plus, we’re told, he was “not a man noted for even temper and restrained behavior under the best of circumstances.” I suspect this spells a big cluster about to come.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 2
As soon as the cops get to their radio, they hear reports of shots fired at Katz’s Drugs during a robbery by a sandy-haired perp in a blue suit. It’s their man!
They speed full-siren to the drugstore. O’Mearah has Fat Johnny’s gun, and the concussive Delevan gets the pump shotgun from underneath the cruiser’s dashboard.
What Constant Reader Learns: Some great description in this section. It’s easy to imagine the cops lurching their police cruiser to a halt with two wheels in the gutter and two in the sidewalk, “scattering pedestrians like quail.”
Also, a bit of foreshadowing: “What neither [cop] understood was that, when you were dealing with the gunslinger, it was usually better to leave bad enough alone.” Uh-oh.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 3
Roland steps outside the drugstore with heavy-laden pockets—four boxes of ammo and a ginormous bottle of Keflex. Immediately, he sees the police car roaring toward him, and steps back into the shop. In the store’s security mirror he sees Delevan leaning out the window with a rifle, chambering a shell just as O’Mearah brings the “carriage” to a halt. Roland hits the floor.
What Constant Reader Learns: Aw, poor Roland—he’s enjoying the sensation of holding a gun in a whole right hand. Still, after raising the gun to fire at the police car racing toward him, he lowers it again and ducks back inside the store—they’re gunslingers doing their duty, he thinks. Like paying for the ammo and the Keflex, Roland maintains his sense of duty and right/wrong.
It’s interesting to watch Roland interacting as himself here while Jack Mort is conveniently unconscious—he had to act too quickly to interact with Odetta, and he and Eddie had plenty of interaction as he extracted the younger man from his drug-smuggling crisis but, even then, Roland sat back and let Eddie be Eddie for a while. Here, mostly it’s just been Roland with the use of someone else’s body.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 4
Now we watch the scene unfold through the eyes of the druggist Katz. He screams for his assistant and the security guard to hit the floor. Unfortunately, the assistant lands on top of Katz, driving his head to the tile and breaking his jaw. But he is still aware enough to note the shotgun blast and hear the windows shatter along with bottles of cologne, mouthwash, and whatnot—before he, too, conveniently passes out.
What Constant Reader Learns: Is it just me, or has Stephen King’s mastery of the shifting point of view really moved leaps beyond where it was in The Gunslinger? It’s fun to read an action scene like this from the viewpoint of different characters.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 5
Roland watches the chaos caused by the scatter shot, and he’s horrified that one of these modern gunslingers is using a scatter-rifle in a crowd with innocent people at risk. “It was unforgiveable,” he thinks.
Roland knows the cops will expect him to either shoot back or run, so instead he literally crawls through broken glass farther into the store, which brings Jack Mort back to consciousness. Roland doesn’t care if Jack’s hands and knees are getting cut up; he crouches by the door and holsters his gun, knowing he won’t need it.
What Constant Reader Learns: Again, this whole Jack Mort section is serving to re-establish Roland’s moral fiber in our minds. He was so sick through much of the “Lady of the Shadows” section that Eddie and Detta/Odetta carried much of the action, and he was agog at the modern world and busy extricating Eddie from his mess in the first section. So we haven’t seen this clarity of Roland’s character since the flashes of backstory we got in The Gunslinger.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 6
O’Mearah realizes his partner Delevan has gone crazy, shooting his shotgun into a crowd. Delevan ignores his objections and chambers another shell.
What Constant Reader Learns: SNAFU in progress!
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 7
Things play out as Roland hoped. The cops race toward the store, assuming he’s already on the run. So when they come inside the door, he stands, laces his hands together, cracks Delevan in the back of his neck, and takes the shotgun. Then he swings the shotgun and whacks O’Mearah in the face.
With the cops down, Roland ejects all the shells from Delevan’s shotgun and drops it onto the cop’s body. “You’re a dangerous fool who should be sent west,” he tells him. “You have forgotten the face of your father.”
He walks to the gunslingers’ carriage and slides behind the “driving wheel.”
What Constant Reader Learns: In the spirit of leaving no loose ends, we’re told that later, in front of Internal Affairs, Delevan will claim no memory of this even and gets a sixty-day suspension. O’Mearah’s face will require three operations and four steel pegs.
Good thing Jack Mort is conveniently awake now that Roland needs to drive the carriage.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 8
Jack Mort is now a “screaming, gibbering thing,” but Roland realizes his hysterics are an act he’s putting on to keep from having to engage in conversation. So Ro gives him a nice little lecture, promising if he doesn’t shut up and answer his questions, he’ll put his right thumb into his right eye and pull out his eyeball. Mort can tell he means it, so he shuts up.After a little conversation, Roland instructs Jack to drive him to the Village in the patrol car.
What Constant Reader Learns: For the first time in a while, Roland steps back a little. He realizes Jack might be a psychotic murderer but he values his eyeball, so Jack doesn’t put up a fight.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 9
It takes twenty minutes for RoJack to get to Greenwich Village, and Eddie’s time is growing short. But Roland has more to do. When Jack asks Roland what’s next, Ro says he wants them to go to a subway station—the one where he pushed a young woman in front of a train some years ago. He had to trot out the old thumb-in-the-eyeball threat to get Jack moving toward the Christopher Street station and the “fabled A-Train.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Jack Mort puts up a struggle when Roland tells him to go to the subway station where Odetta was pushed. “He was not a schizophrenic as she was,” we’re told. “But he kept his secret self—the part of him that was The Pusher—as carefully locked away as an embezzler might lock away his secret skim.” He’s horrified that Roland can see everything in his memory.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 10
Two new cops—Staunton and Weaver—see the stolen police cruiser with RoJack inside stop down the block. They’re ready to move in when RoJack steps out. They realize he’s headed for the subway, and want to get him before he gets into the crowd. Staunton calls for RoJack to stop, prompting our hero to make a run for the stairway. The officer shoots—and hits Jack, who falls to the pavement.
What Constant Reader Learns: Holy crap, Roland. Oh, wait. We already know our gunslinger is a master at playing possum. I’m betting on a big possum act here.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 11
Jack Mort’s screaming “I’m dead!” But no, Roland says, you’re not. Yep, he’s playing possum and watching the cop/gunslingers approach. Roland gives a mental salute to the gunslinger who shot Jack Mort—he was a good shot. He should be dead—except the shot had hit Jack’s cigarette lighter. So instead, he has a shredded nipple, and is starting to catch fire.
Roland ignores the “smell of frying flesh” and allows the gunslinger/cop to roll him onto his back. The fire on RoJack’s chest begins to blaze and Officer Stanton makes his only mistake—horrified that he’d set a guy on fire, he bent forward to put out the flames and RoJack lifted his feet and kicked the officer into his partner. Before he runs into the subway, Roland praises Officer Stanton’s gunslinger abilities then warns him not to follow—“it’s almost over.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Jack Mort doesn’t smoke but carries an expensive silver lighter to be able to light his boss’s smokes and look like a man of taste and refinement. Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Not sure exactly what Roland’s up to yet, but we know he is the third—Death—and it isn’t him who will die. I’m betting Jack Mort’s chopped-up nipple and newly acquired body heat are going to be the least of his problems.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 12
The stairs to the subway concourse are crowded, but even the jaded New Yorkers cringe away from the burning man in the blue suit.
What Constant Reader Learns: No kidding. The burning, heavily armed RoJack is a truly bizarre image. I’m not wild about the illustrations in my version of the book, though…wonder what else is out there?
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 13
Roland ignores Jack’s shrieks of pain as he begins to burn more briskly. When he reaches the platform level, he drops Jack Mort’s pants, “revealing a pair of white underdrawers like a whore’s panties.” But Roland “had no time to reflect on this oddity.” He stuffs the bullets and Keflex into the tighty-whiteys just as he hears a train approaching.
RoJack runs for the platform, his hair beginning to burn as well—but despite the bullets and Keflex banging him from their hiding place in his underwear, he manages to jump the turnstiles. Inside, Roland tells Jack Mort he should just let him burn and it would still be better than what he deserves.
Roland sends a mental message to Detta/Odetta: Look through the door now! If she gets his message and looks, what she’ll see is Roland pushing Jack Mort’s body into the path of the oncoming train, holding the ammo and drugs he wants to bring back—if he’s able to get out of Jack’s body at the right time. At the last second, Roland looks back through the door and sees two faces—both Detta and Odetta—looking back.
Just before Jack Mort takes the A-Train (cutting him in two at the waist), Roland lunges at the door with his ammo and pills. Roland is aware that he’s back in his sick body, that Eddie is screaming, and aware that Odetta is shrieking in two voices. Roland’s mesmerized by Odetta/Detta (“twins who were not really twins at all but negative and positive images of the same woman”)—until Eddie screams again and Roland sees the lobstrosities tumbling out of the waves.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland realizes he’s about to “draw the three or lose it all,” and he “feels worlds tremble and reel about his head.”
Somehow he knows this is a train running the same route as the one that had run over Odetta. “In matters of the Tower, fate became a thing as merciful as the lighter which had saved his life and as painful as the fire the miracle had ignited.” Which covers a multitude of convenient coincidences, I guess.
And, uh, could someone please help Eddie Dean already?
This whole section was amazing—over the top, but amazing—and made up for the long beach slog. I was almost exhausted after reading it.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 14
Detta sees herself in the doorway and through the gunslinger’s eyes, and suddenly understands everything. She has a brief sensation of being turned inside-out, then of being torn in half.
What Constant Reader Learns: I guess this is Detta/Odetta’s great epiphany. It will be interesting to see what (or who) comes out on the other side.
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 15
Roland runs to where Eddie is still trussed up, screaming as a lobstrosity claws at his face. Ro’s moving “rustily” after his sick body has been lying still so long, and there’s some tugging and wrestling with the lobstrosities and Detta’s tightening ropes. Things aren’t going so well—Roland’s too weak to help and Eddie’s choking..until “the thunder of his own guns filled [Roland] with stupid wonder.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Is O/Detta shooting at the lobstrosities or are Detta/Odetta shooting at each other? Sort of. Figuratively. Or literally?
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 16
Well, figuratively or literally, Detta and Odetta are poised to kill each other but each realizes she can’t. “For the first time since a man named Jack Mort had dropped a brick on the head of a child…she was whole.” And she pulled the guns.
What Constant Reader Learns: Okey-dokey. So, Roland is the third, but there’s also a new woman made up of the two women who previously made up the one Lady of Shadows, and she’s kind of a fourth or fifth if Roland’s really the third. Got all that?
The Drawing of the Three—“The Drawing,” Section 17
Eddie sees a lobstrosity loom over his face—then it explodes into chunks. Another lobbie explodes just before it bites off Roland’s other hand. He turns to see a “woman whose beauty was heart-stopping, whose fury was heart-freezing.” She’s ranting in Detta’s patois, only at the lobstrosities instead of at the men.
The lobstrosities realize they aren’t going to win against the gun-toting crazy woman and run back toward the water. Eddie, meanwhile, is choking and Roland is too weak to loosen him. Odetta/Detta/New Woman pushes him out of the way and cuts Eddie loose.
What Constant Reader Learns: “Who are you?” Roland asks the new and improved Lady of Shadow. “I am three women,” she says. “I who was; I who had no right to be but was; I am the woman who you have saved. I thank you, gunslinger.” Then she kisses Roland before he conveniently faints again.
The Drawing of the Three—“Final Shuffle,” Section 1
“For the first time in what seemed like a thousand years, the gunslinger was not thinking about the Dark Tower.” Instead, he’s thinking about the deer he’s about to shoot. All he currently cares about is meat. He’s amazed as he realizes he’s getting well—and doesn’t “see the woman standing behind him, watching him with assessing brown eyes.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Well, unless Roland is dreaming or hallucinating, the trio has moved away from the beach and reached more hospitable environs. I don’t have a clue what to expect from “the woman” now. Stephen King doesn’t call her Detta/Odetta anymore so “the woman” she’ll be until we’re told who Woman Number Three is.
The Drawing of the Three—“Final Shuffle,” Section 2
A little backtracking. We learn that they’d spent six days after the beach confrontation eating lobstrosity and drinking brackish stream water as they traveled. Most of the time, Roland has been delirious, calling Eddie either Alain or Cuthbert, and calling “the woman” Susan. Eddie’s exhausted as he’s basically having to carry both of them. Eventually, they reach the woods and leave the Western Sea behind.
What Constant Reader Learns: Just in case we haven’t gotten a gross-enough vision of what our intrepid ka-tet looks like, we learn that the Keflex has given Roland some exploding bowel issues. Thanks, Steve.
The Drawing of the Three—“Final Shuffle,” Section 3
Roland’s making a botch-up of skinning and cutting the deer until SUSANNAH takes the knife and says she’ll do it. They have a friendly feast, and Roland feels content as he goes to sleep.
What Constant Reader Learns: Well, Susannah’s an *ahem* lovely name but it’s awfully close to Susan. Intentional? Please tell me we aren’t going to have a Stephen King-penned ménage-a-trois here, because he was just named by the Jezebel website as one of the worst writers of love scenes of all time.
The Drawing of the Three—“Final Shuffle,” Section 4
Roland’s dreaming of the Dark Tower. It’s standing “on the horizon of a vast plain the color of blood in the violent setting of a dying sun.” And it’s calling him.
Eddie’s awake; he asks Roland if he dreams of the Tower, and Ro says yes. They look at Susannah, who continues to sleep, then Roland digs in his man-purse and pulls out our old friend the jawbone of the man in black. It will tell them when and where to go, he says.
There’s a disturbing conversation between Eddie and Roland that lets us know Eddie’s aware that he and Susannah are pawns in Roland’s quest. “I love you both,” Roland tells him, crying.
“But you’ll go on..to the very end, no matter what,” Eddie says, and then he cries, too. He tells Roland that he followed his brother Henry to his own tower, which turned out to be poison. Eddie acknowledges that Roland saved him, but says if Roland’s Tower is just another addiction, he doesn’t want to die dirty.
“You want to know the only thing my brother taught me?” Eddie asks Roland. “He taught me if you kill what you love, you’re damned… Are you going to get all of us killed?”
Roland doesn’t really answer. “We all die in time,” he says. “But we will be magnificent…We are going to go, Eddie. We are going to fight. We are going to be hurt. And in the end we will stand.”
What Constant Reader Learns: “Susannah” is Odetta’s middle name, we learn. Now, Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker are Susannah Dean, and Roland loves her because she’ll fight and never give up and fears for her and Eddie both because he knows if he has to, he’ll sacrifice them without a second thought. I guess by being “Susannah Dean,” that means Eddie’s got the claim on her.
That last little speech gave me chills. The Stand. Should be the name of a book of its own. Seriously, though, it’s as if this book has been another set up, to build the team, and these passages are a reminder of why we’re really here—why Roland has been assembling his threesome. And the land ahead of them sounds bleak indeed.
The Drawing of the Three—“Final Shuffle,” Section 5
Eddie eventually goes to sleep, but Roland stays up a while, thinking about the Tower. “He would come to the Dark Tower and there he would sing their names.”
What Constant Reader Learns: As Roland says, it is not only the world that moves on, but its people as well. Time for all of us to move on. New adventures await.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll read the introductory pages of The Waste Lands, and “Bear and Bone,” the first chapter in Book One Jake: Fear in a Handful of Dust.