“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, Sheemie, Ted and Dinky, along with one of the “Rods,” had joined the ka-tet in their cave above Algul Siento, but the stress of it caused Sheemie to have seizures.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 10: The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) Section 1
Chaos ensues as Sheemie has his seizure. The Road is on his knees, worshipping Roland and bellowing as he salaams hard enough to thump his head on the ground. Ted’s trying to tend to Sheemie, who’s begun to bleed as he bites his tongue. Oy’s barking madly. Roland tries talking to Sheemie and eventually, it helps. Then he tells the Rod to shut up, and that works as well.
What Constant Reader Learns: When Sheemie’s seizure ends, he’s confused and disoriented until he sees Roland, who holds out his arms and hugs him. Roland’s very gentle with him. I’m liking the new and improved Roland.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 10: The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) Section 2
Things settle down and Susannah, since she’s the woman, cooks a meal. Eddie’s thinking that even though Ted pronounces Sheemie just fine, he’s not looking so good. So he asks Dinky to step outside for a talk.
What Constant Reader Learns: So Sheemie pays a physical price for his teleporting, which means if he’s going to be the vehicle for them to go back to save Stephen King, and then bring them back to continue their Dark Tower quest, I’m not liking his survival chances.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 10: The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) Section 3
Eddie notes that the spots of blood in the whites of Sheemie’s eyes can’t be a good thing, and he asks Dinky if there have been seizures before. Dinky says four times, beginning with the time he sent Ted to Connecticut. Sheemie teleports; the others facilitate and then cover the records so the can-toi and the Algul powers-that-be don’t see it on their telemetry tests.
Dinky says Ted thinks that Sheemie’s having “brain hemorrhages” when he does his teleporting, and admits he hates using Sheemie. The fact that Sheemie wants to be used makes it worse. “The way he looks at Ted…It’s the way a dog’d look at the best master in the universe. He looks at your dinh the same way.”
Then Eddie gets to his real question: how long can Sheemie last? How many teleports does he have left in him? Three or four times, maybe, Dinky says, but there are no guarantees.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie thinks the air outside smells like a slightly weaker version of the stench of an oil refinery he’d once visited in New Jersey while in high school. Dinky doesn’t know what the smell is from, but says Finli once said there used to be Positronics factories in the area.
We learn a little more about the balance of power in the village. The can-toi have very strict rules, the breaking of which could lead to exile or lobotomy—negligence, teasing the Breakers, being cruel to a Breaker. But for the Breakers, teleportation is considered the only mortal sin.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 10: The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) Section 4
As the others eat, Roland has a conversation with the Rod in his own language, the joins the others. The Rod’s name is Haylis of Chayven, Roland asks, and asks if anyone will miss him? Ted says no, they’re the Algul version of day workers; they show up at the gate when they need work. Early in the morning, about eight, Ted tells them, is the most disorganized time because it’s shift change.
What Constant Reader Learns: When Eddie asks the Rod’s name, Dinky says he calls him Chucky after the killer doll, and Eddie laughs. Finally, Eddie has someone with whom he can exchange cultural jokes!
The days in the Algul run about twenty-five hours, or maybe a little longer. “As the Beams weaken, there seems to be a growing disparity in the time-flow between the worlds,” Ted says. “It’s probably one of the major stress points.” So whatever fancy footwork of teleporting between their two jobs, a matter of minutes could be crucial.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 10: The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) Section 5
Roland calls Sheemie over, along with Jake, who’d been the one to say Sheemie should tell them which task—sai King or the Algul—needed to be done first. He doesn’t even get the question out before Sheemie interrupts: “You have to save the Tower,” he says. “And my old friend is to go in, and mount to the top, and see what’s to see. There may be renewal, they may be death, or there may be both.”
But that didn’t answer Jake’s specific question so he asks: free the Breakers first, or save the writer who is telling their story? It takes Sheemie so long to answer that Jake wonders if he was being stupid by asking, but then he begins to talk. “I had a dream last night, so I did,” Sheemie tells them. A boy who looked like Jake came in, his face covered in blood and one of his eyes missing. The words he spoke are words the ka-tet know—they’d all had the same dreams. It tells Roland what he needs to know.
What Constant Reader Learns: The speech of the boy in the dream, or the rose mayhap, is a beautiful piece of writing from sai King:
“Why must you hurt me, when I love you so? When I can do nothing else nor want to, for love made me and fed me and kept me in better days? Why will you cut me, and disfigure my face, and fill me with woe? I have only loved you for your beauty as you once loved me for mine in the days before the world moved on. Now you scar me with nails and put burning drops of quicksilver in my nose; you have set the animals on me, so you have, and they have eaten of my softest parts. Around me the can-toi gather and there’s no peace from their laughter. Yet still I love you and would serve you and even bring the magic again, if you would allow me, for that is how my heart was cast when I rose from the Prim. And once I was strong as well as beautiful, but now my strength is almost gone…If the torture were to stop now, I might still recover—if never my looks, then at least my strength and my kes. But another week…or maybe five days…or even three…and it will be too late. Even if the torture stops, I’ll die. And you’ll die too, for when love leaves the world, all hearts are still. Tell them of my love and tell them of my pain and tell them of my hope, which still lives. For this is all I have and all I am and all I ask.”
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 10: The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) Section 6
The boy in the dream was the Beam, Susannah notes, and they all agree. So Roland tells Sheemie they’re going to help the boy in the dream. He tells Ted that when Sheemie takes them back to the Algul, put him to bed, or at least make sure he takes it easy—he has no part in what’s to come.
Roland asks Ted if he and Dinky will stand with them, and they both agree. Susannah asks if there’s anyone else who might join them. Ted says no, but not to hate them for it because they were driven there out of despair by a world that didn’t accept them. Not wanting Sheemie to hear the details, Roland tells him to talk to Oy (who obligingly talks back) and turns to Dinky and Ted.
What Constant Reader Learns: A sad and funny moment: Sheemie picks up one of the machine guns and waves it around, pretending to shoot. Eddie and Suze duck; Jake jumps in front of Oy to protect him; Ted and Dinky cover their faces. Roland calmly reaches over and takes the gun from Sheemie’s hands.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 10: The Last Palaver (Sheemie’s Dream) Section 7
“He’s to be kept out of it, once the shooting starts,” Roland tells the others concerning Sheemie. “If we lose, what happens to him later won’t matter. If we win, we’ll need him at least one more time. Probably twice.”
He tells Dinky they’ll need to go to Keystone World America, to Lovell, Maine, as early in June of 1999 as possible. Ted and Dinky are upset at hearing this, because they don’t think Sheemie can survive it. They could even get trapped in 1999. Roland knows this all too well but can’t worry about it yet.
He pulls out the map of the Algul, and they discuss possible points of a surprise invasion. “You mean to spill an almighty lot of blood,” Ted observes. “Indeed I do,” Roland responds. “As much as I can.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah considers asking Ted if he knows the date in Keystone America but figures Stephen King had to be alive or they’d know it. “For now the writer was fine, happily frittering away his time and valuable imagination on some meaningless project while the world he’d been born to imagine continued to gather dust in his head.”
Whatever Roland has planned, sounds like it’s especially risky for Susannah.
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.