“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 time, the ka-tet listened to the last of Ted’s tapes and realized that not only must they free (or kill) the breakers, but they must rush back to the “real” when to save Stephen King and Sheemie will have to help them decide which ones needs doing first.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 9: Tracks on the Path, Section 1
A night has passed in the cave, and Jake awakens to a “thin and listless light.” Susannah and Eddie are still asleep, but Oy is awake and Roland’s sleeping bag is empty, so Jake and Oy go to find him.
What Constant Reader Learns: First, sorry about missing last week; I had a book deadline, which had to trump blog deadline. And today’s post is kinda short; blame sai King for writing a short chapter!
I assume the “thin and listless light” is what would be unenhanced daylight or dawn in the Algul? Is Roland in physical pain or just worried? I suspect both.
Jake also is having nightmares about the Dixie Pig. Interesting to me that he is so haunted by Callahan’s death where he seems to have recovered from his friend Bennie’s death relatively quickly. Cumulative effect, maybe?
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 9: Tracks on the Path, Section 2
Roland looks tired, but since he’s able to squat and look out on the Algul, Jake figures his pain must be manageable. He joins Roland, but doesn’t say anything until the silence starts to feel uncomfortable so he asks how Roland is. “Old and full of aches,” Roland says, offering to roll him a cigarette.
They smoke together, and Roland observes that Jake has pimples on his face. He tells Jake “it’s the air of this place,” but really, he thinks, it’s the emotional upset of losing Callahan.
Below them, they can see the human guards patrolling the outer fence of the village.
Jake finally gets to the question he really wants to ask: why Roland is angry? And who he is angry at? He’s learned this through the Touch, but tells Roland he refuses to dig into his mind to find the reason; it would be rude. So Roland challenge him to a game. Jake can try to get in Roland’s mind, and Roland can try to keep him out. Jake doesn’t really want to, but Roland insists. They struggle for a moment but Jake’s not going all-out until he realizes he’s making Roland’s headache worse, so he imagines a door into Roland’s mind and jerks it open.
During this, there’s a loud click and the faux sun turns on and a muzak version of “Hey Jude” pumps through the Algul.
It’s Stephen King who’s the target of Roland’s anger. The fact that they have to take time from their quest to go back and save the author is King’s fault. “He knew what he was supposed to do, and I think that on some level he knew that doing it would keep him safe. But he was afraid. He was tired. Now his irons are in the fire and we have to pull them out.”
When Jake observes that it wasn’t fair to be angry at someone for being afraid—after all, King’s a writer, not a gunslinger. But it wasn’t just fear that stopped him, Roland says. “He’s lazy, as well.”
Roland has something to show Jake, and leads him to the edge of the path and points out something. Jake finds some disturbed rocks and tracks and follows them to a spot where there are a couple of stiff black hairs. He picks one up, and immediately drops it in disgust. “What was watching us?” he asks Roland.
That would be our favorite spider, Mordred. A little farther along, they find the corpse of the desert dog that made up Mordred’s dinner. As irrational as it is, Jake feels a little jealousy that Mordred should share Roland’s blood and not him, especially when Ro unconsciously refers to the spider as “him” instead of “it.” Roland asks him not to tell Eddie and Susannah about Mordred—he mostly afraid that Susannah will be distracted by him. She’s still connected to him in some way.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake points out that Roland is lucky he doesn’t have any pimples. “No pimples, but my hip hurts like a son of a bitch,” Roland says, which strikes me as an awfully modern phrase for him. Maybe he picked it up from Eddie. His head hurts even worse—“feels cracked”—and he knows his pain he feels is from Stephen King’s injuries.
So if sai King has already been hurt and Roland is feeling it in “real time,” whatever that might mean, is there time for them to handle the breakers in order to get there in time to save sai King? Or is their saving the beam what also might save sai King?
Or is he feeling the injuries that sai King has not yet sustained? That might be the case, since Roland tells Jake, “What I’m feeling suggests that King won’t be killed instantly. And that means he might be easier to save.” Jake isn’t too convinced though—it might mean King’s going to lie beside the road in misery a while before he dies.
Poor little Jake. He’s so pathetically pleased at the few absentminded compliments and sentiments of affection that Roland casts his way. He hasn’t felt a lot of love in his life.
I couldn’t help but laugh that Roland views his creator with such disdain. “I didn’t like him. Not a bit. Nor trusted him. I’ve met tale-spinners before, Jake, and they’re all cut more or less from the same cloth. They tell tales because they’re afraid of life.” When Jake points out that there isn’t a whole lot they can do about it, Roland says, “Aye. That wouldn’t stop me from kicking his yellow, lazy ass if I got the chance, though.” Ha!
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 9: Tracks on the Path, Section 3
Susannah, like the good little wife, has made breakfast with Eddie’s help on the portable hibachi grill.
Just as they’re eating, Ted, Dinky and Sheemie teleport into the cave. With them is a frightened “Rod.” Before Roland can properly offer them breakfast, Sheemie begins having a seizure of some sort
What Constant Reader Learns: Funny touch—the grill talks, asking Eddie if it can help him with recipes or cooking times. “You could help me by shutting up,” Eddie grouses…and it does.
Well, Sheemie’s seizure doesn’t bode well for his long-term transporting abilities.
Sheesh. Short chapter this week, but long one next week!
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.