A Read of The Dark Tower

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Sections 1-7

“Go, then. There are other worlds than these.”

—Jake Chambers

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 or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.

Last week, Eddie and Roland, with the help of the man in the general store, John Cullum, beat a hasty exit from the exploding store and Cullum rows them across the lake to his house while they plan their next move—how to find Calvin Tower.

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 1

First, we get a little reminder that Callahan had visited East Stoneham two weeks earlier, at which time he was horrified to see how stupid Calvin Tower was being about staying hidden. At that time, Callahan had left a note for Tower telling him to find a place to hide, to leave a note about their hiding place under the seat of a car, and “make this trip to the post office your LAST! How stupid can you be???”

Pretty darn stupid, Eddie figures. He hadn’t liked Tower to begin with, after the shenanigans with the books, and now that he’s learned from Cullum that Tower’s whereabouts—and obsessive interest in books—are widely known around town, he’s righteously angry.

As they follow Cullum up the road toward where Tower and Aaron Deepneau are staying, he thinks he has to “put my hands in my pockets and bite my tongue.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Well, even if time has gotten a bit dodgy, it’s helpful to know that two weeks have passed since Callahan made that todash trip to East Stoneham. Also, we’ve been getting hints all along that Eddie would like nothing better than to send old Calvin to meet his final Dark Tower in the sky, so I’m guessing a big test of his self-control is in store.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 2

Cullum, in his Ford pickup, leads Eddie and Roland to what appeared to be no more than a trail marked “Rocket Road.” Eddie (whose loaned car is also a Ford) is happy to be driving again and not sitting astride a horse.

Roland, riding shotgun, is mostly silent. His one comment: “Pretty country. A man could take his long ease here.”

They pass numbered driveways with a sign below each number stating “JAFFORDS RENTALS.” Eddie thinks about pointing out that they had known quite a few people named Jaffords back in the Calla, but what’s the point? Likewise, when they pass house number fifteen, then sixteen, then seventeen. Even when Cullum slows in front of house eighteen, Eddie knows there will be one more.

They turn in at the driveway to Cabin Nineteen, which backs up to a pond. There’s no vehicle in the drive, so Eddie asks Roland if he thinks there’s danger around. “Yar. Beside me,” Roland says. “You, Eddie. You want to kill him, don’t you?” Eddie admits he does, and Roland points out that he felt much the same way about Eddie in their early days together. “If I could manage not to kill you then, Eddie of New York, you can manage not to kill Calvin Tower now.”

What Constant Reader Learns: I wonder if Roland could read the sign that said “Jaffords Rentals.” He might have found it inconsequential and unsurprising, but still interesting. Or not.

I love Roland’s speech to Eddie in the car (and Eddie’s response):

“There came into my life…a whining and self-involved young man whose only ambition was to continue taking a drug which did little but make him sniffle and feel sleepy. This was a posturing, selfish, loudmouthed loutkin with little to recommend him—”

And then gets out of the car. Eddie delivers his comeback, “Well, says you,” to the empty car. Roland is like THE best straight man in history.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 3

Cullum is still sitting in his truck as Roland and then Eddie join him. Before they approach the house, Eddie has one more question: Could Cullum pinpoint the center of the walk-in activity in the area?

As a matter of face, he can. Turns out a friend of his, a history professor at Vanderbilt, had gotten interested in the walk-in phenomenon, and had pinpointed all the sightings on a map. At the enter of the map, and the most active spot, was a place called Turtleback Lane in the town of Lovell.

While Eddie’s talking to Cullum, Roland has been studying the cabin. But he finally interrupts and tells Cullum it’s time to be on his way, and not safe to even return to his cabin. He should go “at least three looks” to the horizon, so Cullum says he’ll go visit an old friend in Vermont. They all shake hands and part ways. Only Eddie isn’t so sure they’ve seen the last of the “dan-tete,” the “little savior.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Cullum balks a little when Roland first tells him it’s time to vamoose for a couple of days, and I thought we were going to have a repeat of Calvin Tower, but he gives in. Guess it’s just a hard-headed New Englander kind of thing.

Lovell, Maine, is, I do believe, where sai King took his ill-fated walk along the side of the road, with dire consequences. Whether his Lovell home is located on Turtleback Lane, I don’t know.

The professor, Cullum tells Eddie, used to quote a line from a Greek poet that seemed to apply to the walk-ins: “The column of truth has a hole in it.” That line, it seems, is also used in ’Salem’s Lot—anyone know the context? I also suspect it might be a Great Greek Poet of the Mind who said it, although I’ll cry pardon if someone can tell me a Greek poet who said it.

Eddie’s radar kicks in, and something tells him Cullum isn’t telling the truth when he says he’ll visit a friend in Vermont. He brushes it off as paranoia, but I have to wonder if perhaps Mr. Cullum might have another role to play here.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 4

There’s no car at the cabin to look for a note, and Eddie’s about to check under the porch step when Roland points him toward a boathouse. Deepneau is there, he says.

Roland then calls out to Deepneau, telling him that they are friends, their time is short and that he should come out so that they can palaver. After a pause, they hear an old man’s voice coming from the boathouse asking their name, then their trade. Deepneau’s being cautious, and Eddie’s getting madder.

Half a minute goes by while they wait for Deepneau to come out, and when he finally does, he’s holding a big automatic pistol by the barrel and says it isn’t loaded.

What Constant Reader Learns: From the little we saw of Aaron Deepneau on Jake’s visits to the bookstore, he seemed like a reasonable, even-tempered guy, or at least more so than his friend Calvin. Mayhap it would be a good thing that they encounter him first.

Okay, so Deepneau is sitting in the boat house with an unloaded gun to protect himself, the only clip inside the cabin because he’s scared of guns? These guys are so over their heads.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 5

Roland, Eddie, and Deepneau sit in the kitchen of Cabin 19, drinking coffee and eating strawberries dipped in cream and sugar, and Deepneau says he’d decided to return to the boathouse after hearing the gunfire and explosions—return being the operative word for Eddie.

Deepneau finally admits that he and Cal had received a note from Callahan “taking Cal to the woodshed” and ordering them to lay low. They’d moved to the boathouse for a couple of days before Cal said it was making his arthritis worse and they moved back to the house. He’d told Aaron that unless the “young guy” (Eddie) told Andolini where they were, no way would he find them. He also explained away Callahan by saying it was obvious Eddie told him the zip code.

Eddie’s quick to disavow him of that notion. There’s some discussion of Calvin’s dedication to books, which Eddie recognizes for what it is—obsession.

Roland’s been sucking down strawberries and keeping quiet until, finally, he asks Deepneau if he’s a “scrip”—Rolandspeak for lawyer. He wants Deepneau to draw up the contract of sale between Tower and the “Tet Corporation.”

When Deepneau tells Eddie that Calvin “has decided to hold onto that particular piece of property,” Eddie fights to hold his temper, but it gets harder as Deepneau tells the lies and excuses Tower is using to excuse backing out on his deal: there was nothing the envelope but a name on the paper, and Eddie’s knowledge of what was on it was a trick any street magician could have used; that he (Tower) was under extreme pressure when he made the promise; that Eddie obviously was planning to stiff him on the cost of the lot.

Finally, Deepneau says, “these are things Calvin says, but they are not necessarily the things Calvin believes.” Cal has problems letting go of things, Deepneau says. He’s good at finding the valuable objects, but then can’t let go of them.

Eddie is beside himself, but Roland asks Deepneau if Tower knows better “in his secret heart.” If he knows the gunslingers are who they say, that they are men of their word, that selling the lot to them will be the only way he can be rid of Andolini and Company. Well yes, Deepneau admits, Tower does believe those things—he just has a hard time letting go of stuff. After hearing this, Roland tells Deepneau to draw up the papers anyway.

Outside, a little car pulls up in the clearing, glancing at Eddie and Roland’s car but showing little concern—this pisses off Eddie even more as he watches Tower open his trunk and pull out his latest haul of books. In his head, he can hear Susannah’s voice, telling him he can’t kill Tower because they need him.

What Constant Reader Learns: I love the image of Roland, Eddie, and Aaron Deepneau sitting around a table dipping strawberries in cream and sugar.

Deepneau might be calm, but he’s not terribly loyal. He halfheartedly defends Cal while all but admitting his friend’s a jerk. And yet he does whatever the jerk wants—I guess because the jerk takes care of him. So he’s able to view Cal with a very clear eye, as one would expect of a lawyer, while also being his friend. They’re like an old married couple. We’ll just call them Oscar and Felix.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 6

Calvin Tower calls out Aaron Deepneau’s name as he climbs the porch stairs and, at Roland’s urging, Deepneau doesn’t answer or give them away. Cal’s still chattering about new book finds when he walks in and sees their guests.

Eddie’s literally biting his tongue—and digging his nails into his palms and looking at the floor—to keep his temper in check. But he loosens his tongue long enough to snap at Tower a few times before clamping down again and waiting for Roland to step in. Roland says nothing.

Tower tells Eddie he is exaggerating the seriousness of the situation, so Eddie reminds him of what happened to the bookstore. All Tower can come back with is to tell Eddie it’s his fault that the bookstore was burned and he was uninsured, so he lost everything.

Deepneau points out that Tower was uninsured because he’d spent his insurance payment on a rare edition, so it’s unfair to blame Eddie—plus, he wants his books back that he shoved into the doorway cave. Eddie finally unloads on him verbally, and Deepneau advises Tower to shut up and take it—he’s earned it.

So Eddie rails about the killing at the general store, describing the death of the two women. He tells him how stupid he’s been, living so openly, without even enough sense to keep himself safe. He tells him that he has never owned the vacant lot; he’s simply been the custodian of it, as have his family members who came before him.

Eddie’s mouth and palms are bleeding and he finally realizes why Roland hasn’t intervened—this is his job. He understands Calvin Tower in a way Roland can’t and, finally, his anger is mostly spent. Tower is “eating a bitter pill,” feeding his obsession, and he’ll end up losing his soul. Tower doesn’t understand what Eddie’s trying to tell him, but Deepneau does—Eddie is offering Tower a chance to redeem himself.

Finally, Tower seems to hear, and he looks to Roland. Is he really Roland of Gilead, son of Steve, grandson of Alaric? Does he know why Alaric went to Garlan? To slay a dragon, Roland says, although he was too late.

Eddie is more than surprised when Tower begins haltingly addressing Roland in a Dutch-ish language, and Roland replies in the same language. Tower begins to cry and asks Roland to step outside with him. Eddie doesn’t think it’s such a hot idea, but Roland goes. While they are outside, Eddie tells Deepneau to draw up the contract because Tower will be selling the vacant lot.

What Constant Reader Learns: I thought the whole progression was really well done of Eddie’s anger, his ability to contain it—or the lengths he’d go to do so, and his realization that he understands, in a horribly personal way, exactly who Calvin Tower is and what drives him. He’s just like Eddie the addict. This was a big growth moment for Eddie.

 

Song of Susannah, 9th Stanza, “Eddie Bites His Tongue,” Section 7

It takes no time at all for Deepneau to draw up the contract. He only pauses a time or two to ask Eddie a question. When he finishes, he looks at Eddie’s sweaty face and tells him that he has some Percocet and wonders if Eddie would like some. Eddie eagerly accepts the offer, and tells him to give him four. When Deepneau looks skeptical, Eddie says, “I know what I’m doing. Unfortunately.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Uh-oh. Another test for Eddie, I think, with the pills. He’s stronger now, though, so I think he’ll pass it.

So…if Tower sells the lot, what does that mean? How do they protect it? Stay tuned.


And…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.

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