“There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.”
—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
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, we bid a fond farewell to Pere Don Callahan, only this time from Eddie and Roland’s vantage point.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 3: “Eddie Makes a Call,” Section 1
Eddie comes back to himself, still afloat in John Cullum’s car, tangled up with Roland, and has a moment to realize how bizarre it is before gravity takes hold and drops Eddie on the steering wheel and dumps Roland on his bad hip.
Eddie asks if what happened was another Beamquake or if they went todash? Roland thinks it was a little of both—a thing called aven kal, which is like a tidal wave that runs along the Beam. They were lifted up and saw what the Beam wanted them to see, and where it wanted them to go.
Roland urges Eddie to get them to Turtleback Lane ASAP to see if they can get to Susannah. And it’s Eddie who stops and says, no, they can’t go yet.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is still channeling Callahan when he first comes off the wave, even feeling the teeth of the cannibal vampires (is that redundant?). When Roland breaks the connection, Eddie sees that Roland is crying. It really does seem as the closer they get to their goal, the more emotionally fragile Roland is getting…and the more heavy gunslinger lifting Jake and Eddie are doing. It’s as if Roland is regaining more of his humanity as he spends time around people he’s come to care about beyond what they can do for him in his quest. Or at least it seems that way right now.
Roland also thinks about some of Cort’s lessons—about how a man can’t pull himself up by his own bootstraps—and how maybe Cort was wrong. How maybe he could. Maybe a man could give birth to the universe from his navel, or from his place as a writer of stories. This is pretty deep thinking for Roland, who isn’t prone to it, as we’ve been told for seven books now.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 3: “Eddie Makes a Call,” Section 2
Eddie halfway hopes Roland will argue with him but he knows his head is clearer than Roland’s. Roland picks up the paper proving ownership of the vacant lot and holds it up in disgust. Eddie feels the need to defend himself, reminding Roland how much he loves Susannah and wants to get to her, but they have to do this. “We have to finish our business in this world,” he tells him. “Because this world is one-way.”
Roland won’t look at him at first but when he finally does, Eddie suggests maybe they can get their business done and then, by focusing on where Susannah and Mia were when they last saw them, couldn’t then travel to that specific point in time and place? “It’s possible we can cut into their history at that point,” Eddie says.
Roland thinks maybe if the door in Turtleback Lane is one of the “old-one doors” that’s tied to a specific when, it won’t work, but if it’s a magic door—one left behind when the Prim receded—it might work.
“What else must we do?” Roland asks, and Eddie thinks he sounds tired and uncertain.
Eddie thinks they need to find Moses Carver of Holmes Dental Industries, and he has no idea where to start. Maybe, he says, they should go back to Stephen King’s house and have him write them a private eye.
What Constant Reader Learns: As a reader, I really hate head-hopping points of view. Sorry, sai-King, you were whipping back and forth between Eddie’s and Roland’s thoughts in this section so fast I was getting dizzy.
This section also seems like some fast back-peddling on sai-King’s part to create a quick system to explain the difference in doors and how they operate, so as there are now todash and not-really-todash, there are magic doors and not-quite-magic old-one doors.
Had to laugh at this from Eddie: “My wife is in bad trouble somewhere up the line, for all I know she’s being eaten alive by vampires or vampire bugs, and here I sit beside a country road with a guy whose most basic skill is shooting people, trying to work out how I’m going to start a fucking corporation.” Yeah, which is why Roland’s letting you take the lead, Eddie my man.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 3: “Eddie Makes a Call,” Section 3
As Eddie explains what they need to do to protect the vacant lot, Roland finally realizes how hard it’s going to be. They need to get the sales document to Moses Carver and convince her that Odetta was alive and wanted him to assume guardianship of not just the lot, but the rose, and then fold the Tet Corporation into Holmes Industries and create a company whose main purpose would be to thwart whatever Sombra and North Central Positronics tries to do.
Roland wonders if they wouldn’t have done better to leave the document with Deepenau, but Eddie knows that would have been disastrous—as soon as they were out of sight, Calvin Tower would have burned it.
Eddie wonders, in turn, if maybe Susannah could come to 1977 and see Moses Carver since she hasn’t been there yet.
Roland comes up with an idea: What about John Cullum? It wasn’t as if either of them thought Cullum had actually followed Roland’s advice and left town.
What Constant Reader Learns: I hope we meet Moses Carver; I want to see how they convince him that insane story is true.
Ha! Brilliant: “In a story, Roland, a minor character like John Cullum would never come in off the bench to save the day. It wouldn’t be considered realistic.”
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 3: “Eddie Makes a Call,” Section 4
Eddie asks Roland to root around in the glove compartment to look for change to use in a pay phone. Inside are credit card receipts, toothpaste (Holmes Dental), a “fottergraff” of a girl on a pony, a road flare, a “Yankme” magazine and a cigar box that says “Trolls.”
“Tolls,” Eddie says, and when Roland opens it, it’s full of silver coins. Ka.
What Constant Reader Learns: Nice touch with Roland having to figure out what the glove compartment is, how to open it, and then root through it—a reminder of how very much out of his element Roland is. So maybe it’s not that Roland’s getting weaker and more tired but that he’s just so very much out of his comfort zone. Then again, it’s probably both.
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 3: “Eddie Makes a Call,” Section 5
They reach Bridgton and Eddie first picks out a handful of quarters and hands them to Roland, pointing to a drugstore. He needs aspirin. “Will you know it when you see it?” he asks Roland. “Astin. I’ll know it,” Roland assures him. Eddie also wants him to buy a hoagie if there’s enough money left. Roland can’t for the life of him say “hoagie”—it comes out “hoggie” or “hoogie.” So Eddie instructs him to ask for a “poor boy.”
Not at all comfortable with Roland’s assimilation potential, he instructs him to ask for a salami sandwich (which in Rolandspeak comes out “salommy sanditch”) if he doesn’t have money for the “poor boy.” “And don’t say anything else unless you absolutely have to.” Fortunately, Roland sees the wisdom of this.
What Constant Reader Learns: A sign the world might have moved on: when’s the last time you actually saw a pay phone? I guess they’re still around.
Uh oh, last time Roland went in a drugstore he got into some deep trouble.
Eddie, don’t be ordering a “poor boy” around these parts unless you’re seeking out a young man of doubtful means. It’s po-boy. Who knows about Maine, however…
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 3: “Eddie Makes a Call,” Section 6
Eddie gets John Cullum’s number from Directory Assistance, and just before he calls Cullum, he hears explosions behind him. He whirls, expecting to see “Wolves, or harriers, or maybe that son of a bitch Flagg,” but it’s a bunch of high school boys throwing firecrackers.
He calls Cullum and gets an answering machine message, and Eddie knows without a doubt the man is sitting there listening to see who it is. He begins leaving a message, and Cullum picks up almost immediately. “This place ain’t seen a day this excitin’ prob’ly since South Stoneham Shoe burnt down in 1923,” he tells Eddie, who asks Cullum to come over to Lovell, to Turtleback Lane. A lot of homes are for sale there, he notes, because there have been a lot of walk-ins lately.
Perhaps with a bit of the Touch himself, or just because he is dan-tet, Cullum asks where it is Eddie needs him to go.
What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting that Eddie thinks he’s losing some of the day-to-day skills he’d always taken for granted—things like being able to remember phone numbers easily. “Something seemed to have happened either to his thinking processes in general or to his ability to remember certain artifacts of this world…Eddie found himself wondering if he’d still be able to read a novel, or follow the plot of a movie from the succession of images on a screen. He rather doubted it.”
Bwah-hah, Roland, you card. “It’s a poorboy sanditch,” Roland says, handing Eddie the bag. “With lots of mayo, whatever that is. I’d want a sauce that didn’t look quite so much like come, myself, but may it do ya fine.” As Eddie notes, “Gosh, that’s a real appetite-builder.”
The Dark Tower, Part One: The Little Red King—Dan-Tete; Chapter 3: “Eddie Makes a Call,” Section 7
Eddie and Roland decided to tell Cullum as much of their story as they thought he could handle, and then send him to Aaron Deepneau to track down Moses Carver. Roland thinks maybe he also can give Cullum a sigil that will convince Carver to help them. Before he can tell Eddie what it is, they come upon a man staggering along the roadside carrying a lyre. He looks out of place from the back, and really out of place when he turns. His eyes bled together, a fang hung from one nostril, and his skin was green.
In a bizarre use of slang, Roland orders Eddie to “open the backhold and get my widowmaker.” Roland uses his Big Boy Gunslinger voice to call the thing out of the woods, then says, “So come forth, ye Child of Roderick, ye spoiled, ye lost, and make your bow before me, Roland, son of Steven, of the Line of Eld.”
In about thirty seconds, the thing staggered back out, dropped to one knee, and greets Roland with respect. Roland asks if he’d have the peace of the clearing, and when it says yes, Roland asks how many of them—slow muties dying of radiation sickness, Eddie thinks—there are in these parts. “Delah, gunslinger, for here the worlds are thin.”
He speaks more that Eddie can’t understand, and Roland asks again, how many? Fifty. “And Discordia? Do you truly say so?”
The mutie, Chevin of Chayven, son of Hamil, minstrel of the South Plains, dies at the flare of Roland’s revolver. “God give you peace,” Roland says.
The Rodericks, Roland tells Eddie, is sort of a slow mutant, but from beyond any lands he ever knew although they originally were loyal to Arthur Eld. And as they get ready to move on, Eddie wonders if—should it come down to it—Roland would be able to level the revolver and kill one of them as dispassionately as he had done to the mutie. And he realizes the answer doesn’t matter, because Roland has become his father.
What Constant Reader Learns: Here we get at least Roland’s interpretation of what their plan will be, although so far their plans haven’t always worked out as, well, planned. They will take care of the business here, try to save Susannah and Jake in Fedic, and then backtrack toward the Callas. And then…”Then there’s no stopping until we reach the Tower. I have never been so close. I hear all my lost friends and their lost fathers whispering to me. They whisper on the Tower’s very breath.”
And…that’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of the final book of the Dark Tower saga.