“Go, then. There are other worlds than these.”
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.
Last week our ka-tet, perhaps unwisely, split up, with ka sending Roland and Eddie after Calvin Tower, and Jake, Oy, and Callahan after Susannah—while the wily old Henchick and his Manni fellows chanted up some magic in the Calla’s Door Way Cave.
Song of Susannah, 3rd Stanza, “Trudy and Mia,” Section 1
On June 1 of 1999, a woman named Trudy Damascus is crossing Forty-sixth Street in NYC, heading toward the large, dark glass skyscraper, 2 Hammarskjold Plaza—often referred to as the Black Tower by people who work there.
Trudy is a hard-headed, New York businesswoman. There are no “out of this world” experiences on her mind as she walks—until she sees something that changes her world: a woman materializing out of nowhere right in front of her. A wide-eyed African-American woman. For just a second, Trudy can actually see Second Avenue through the materializing woman and even something that looked like the mouth of a cave. Then the woman finishes materializing.
The woman, Trudy is alarmed to see, is only about four-foot-eight, and her jeans are empty below the knee…until she grows some legs. And her bare feet are white.
The apparition basically mugs Trudy, who conveniently has an extra pair of shoes in her bag. First the woman asks her size, then says, “Susannah says…you look like about a size seven.” Before the woman gets that sentence out, she thumps herself in the forehead and becomes Susannah, begging for help. Then she morphs back to Mia, who says (of the chap), “It can’t come yet—not right out here on the street. You got to make it stop a while.”
Trudy is more than a bit unsettled. She can’t even get enough words out to scream for a cop. Mia tells her to run and keep her mouth shut or she’s going to hunt her down and cut off her breasts—at which point she reveals the sharp-edged plates in her bag. Being a wise woman, Trudy hoofs it. When she finally gets to the corner and looks back, the “apparition” is gone.
What Constant Reader Learns: Ah, so the vacant lot is no longer vacant by 1999…and of course Susannah WOULD end up in 1999 so that 19 and 99 and 999 are all covered. I do wonder why she ended up at that particular time—or if she just ran through the door thinking “New York” and that’s the “when” ka chose. Perhaps this will be revealed as we go along.
Nice touch with the people who work in the building calling it the “Black Tower.”
And other than “just because it’s Stephen King,” is there an actual reason Mia has white legs even though she’s an alter of Susannah, who is black? When Mia was back in her swampish banquet room munching on frogs, did we see what she looked like? I know she had legs. When she and Eddie and the others went todash before and she sprouted legs, were they white? Inquiring minds want to know these things but cannot remember.
We get a sort-of look at Susannah/Mia (and maybe even Detta), with her jeans and a white shirt smeared with blood. She’s still carrying some of the throwing plates from the Calla, as well as the bowling bag.
A nice little biblical nod. Trudy’s last name is Damascus, and it was on the road to Damascus that the Roman officer Saul, who’d made it his life mission to persecute Christians, was stricken blind and converted, becoming the Apostle Paul. Trudy Damascus, too, has had her world view changed.
Song of Susannah, 3rd Stanza, “Trudy and Mia,” Section 2
Fortunately, Trudy kept some softball practice clothes in her office (since she’d had a bit of bladder leakage from her encounter with Susannah). So she changes clothes, and then calls the police. The policeman who takes her report is Office Paul Antassi, and Trudy allows herself to imagine that is an Italian George Clooney.
Officer Antassi arrives at Trudy’s office around 3:30 to take the report, looking disappointingly unlike George Clooney. Trudy is upset enough to tell him every detail of what had happened on the street corner of Second and Forty-sixth Street—including her certainty that the woman was getting ready to throw that dish at her.
After the officer asks some polite questions and makes enough sympathetic noises, it finally dawns on Trudy that he’s doing the patronizing thing cops do with crazy people, like she’s seen on so many TV dramas. So instead of asking him out to dinner, she throws him out of her office.
What Constant Reader Learns: Well, not to sound like a grouchy feminist, but why can’t tough businesswoman Trudy have this encounter that blows her mind without doing anything other than questioning her own sanity and what it all means. But noooooo. Even when she’s thinking she’s encountered God-only-knows-what, she takes time to daydream that Officer Antassi might look enough like an Italian George Clooney that she might ask him out to dinner and then who knows what might happen? Um, no. Sorry, but if I had a woman appear in front of me on the sidewalk, grow mismatched legs and feet, and threaten me with a sharp metal plate if I didn’t give her my shoes? Call me unromantic, but I’m not indulging in a daydream about George Clooney.
Song of Susannah, 3rd Stanza, “Trudy and Mia,” Section 3
Trudy leaves work early (very out of character) and walks back to the corner of Second and Forty-sixth. She finally realizes that she’s calming down just from standing on this corner. She hears a sweet, humming sound, then realizes, “That’s not humming, that’s singing.”
She says this aloud, and a man passing by stops and tells her he’s been coming to this very corner for years—it even cured his acne.
Trudy asks Acne Dude if he really thinks walking by this street corner had cured his skin condition, and he acknowledges that it sounds crazy…which is Trudy’s cue to talk about what’s happened to her.
Acne Dude decides she’s crazier than he is and walks away.
Before he gets out of shouting range, Trudy asks him what was on this corner before the Black Tower was built, and he says (of course) that it was a vacant lot.
What Constant Reader Learns: Glad to know Acne Dude is still treading the same path after his former run-in with Calvin Tower more than a decade earlier (unless this is a different level of when altogether).
Poor ole Trudy’s just going to have to keep her story to herself. Only she doesn’t seem the type to stop pursuing things she really doesn’t want to be a part of, so I don’t know how she’s going to play into this whole story.
So, if this were a later version of the same when, does the fact that the rose is still humming, presumably beneath the Black Tower, mean Roland’s quest was successful? I suspect time doesn’t work that way, but one never knows.
Song of Susannah, 3rd Stanza, “Trudy and Mia,” Section 4
On the other side of Second Avenue is a little park which contains a fountain, a metal sculpture of a turtle, and a bench. Trudy makes her way to the bench and sits down. Beside the bench, in a trash receptacle, she sees a copy of the New York Times, rolled up just the way she always does when she sticks it in her bag. When she picks it up, she confirms that it was hers. So she knows this is where Susannah came to put on Trudy’s stolen shoes. She kept the bag, however, and Trudy figures it will become the hiding place for her dangerous plates.
Trudy knows the smart thing to do would be to head home and call it a day. But she knows something is wrong, and the word “tipping” comes into her mind. But she doesn’t say it, “as if to say it would cause the tipping to become a topple.”
In case we missed authorial intrusion and the shift into omniscient point of view, we’re told that Trudy will have a lot of dark dreams this summer. Some are of Susannah; others are “of her in the dark and terrible chimes were ringing, and she sensed something tipping further and further toward the point of no return.”
What Constant Reader Learns: And here’s our old friend the Turtle. Is the Black Tower what was built instead of Turtle Bay Condominiums, or is it Turtle Bay Condominiums.
And why do I think Trudy could end up meeting Black Thirteen?
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with our read of Dark Tower Book Six, Song of Susannah.