“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, our ka-tet staged a successful siege on Algul Siento but paid a high price as Eddie suffered a mortal gunshot wound to the head.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 1
The chapter begins with Jake sitting outside the Clover Tavern in deserted Pleasantville, crying and holding Oy in his lap. Part of him keeps hoping that ka will intervene and save Eddie, who it seems has been taken to one of the dorms and is dying a slow, agonizing death. After all, it seems right that if he’s to die, Eddie should die when they reach the Dark Tower, and not here.
Through Jake’s thoughts, we learn the immediate aftermath of the shooting, of Susannah and her various personas each making an appearance while Roland comforts her.
Ted and the others come to combine their particular talents to soothe her. Ted had reached and exposed the wound from which there would be no survival. Susannah’s aware of what they’re doing, and she asks them to stop unless she tells them otherwise. “You mustn’t use your good-mind to steal my grief, for I’d open my mouth and drink it to the dregs,” she tells them.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake prays to God, to Gan, and to Jesus for a miracle. He even prays to Stephen King: “Save my friend’s life and we won’t let that van hit you,” he says. I’m guessing had that offer been made, sai King would have taken it and Eddie would’ve lived forever.
Eddie’s muttering incoherently, which makes me wonder if he’ll utter something meaningful to the quest before it’s all said and done.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 2
Still in our flashback—or Jake’s, we have Sheemie telling Roland that the Beam says thankya, but even that doesn’t brighten anyone’s mood. Sheemie wants to know why he is crying, and Roland explains that his friend is hurt.
Meanwhile, the Breakers are gathering.
What Constant Reader Learns: I love how gentle and patient Roland is with Sheemie.
Roland tells Sheemie that Susannah likely will not go with Jake and himself to the other world. And that he’s asked something of Ted and Dinky when Eddie has “been put at his ease.” Hm…wonder if it has to do with Eddie, or if it’s to do with the plans for the Breakers.
The Breakers probably don’t know what to do with themselves. They’ve pretty much been taken care of and catered to for many years. Thinking for themselves might be outside their realm of ability by this point.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 3
STILL in Jake’s flashback… For the next few hours, Roland and Jake flushed out another fourteen guards, and Roland gave them until time for the afternoon shift change to get out of town; otherwise, they’d be shot.
On the mall, Jake spots six breakers, including Ted and Sheemie, standing in a circle. He thinks they look as if they’re having a séance. Jake asks Roland what they’re doing, but Roland says, “later.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake is surprised that Roland doesn’t just kill all the Devar-Toi guards. So was I at first, but then I guess Roland sees them as victims too in many ways. Most of the ones we’ve seen in the Algul seem more clueless than evil.
I’m with Jake…what are they doing? I hate it when Roland is cagey.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 4
Back with Jake at the Clover Tavern, and we learn that he’s there because after forty-five minutes of sitting at Eddie’s bedside, watching him die, Roland finally told Jake he could leave.
They’d taken Eddie to Corbett Hall, and set him up in the proctor’s suite on the first floor. On the way in, a red-haired Breaker named Grace Rumbelow had blocked Roland’s path, demanding to know what was going to happen to the Breakers. “For we have been taken care of,” she says.
Roland, for all the kind patience he’s shown Eddie, has little to spare for this twit. “Get out of my road or I’ll push you down,” he says.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland’s words to the Breaker named Grace are kind of playground-ish, but he apparently delivers them with an appropriate amount of gunslinger glare, because the Breakers all get out of his way.
Dinky’s sitting guard outside the room where Eddie has been taken. He’s of the opinion that once Eddie dies, Susannah might or might not make it. Which makes me wonder how she will deal with all this. Will Detta come back? Or will Susannah show a backbone of steel? Or will she be sent to get the Breakers settled into…whatever they are going to do. I can’t imagine they’ll leave the Breakers to wander alone, although I guess they could cross down to live with the folken.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 5
Jake’s flashback continues, and he reflects that even though he’s seen a lot of death since coming to Mid-World, including his own, this one seems pointless. It also seems endless. Eddie is frail, his face old and stupid because of the way his mouth has been drawn in at the corners. His eyes move behind closed lids and he mutters constantly.
Finally, Roland tells him it’s okay if he leaves; that he’ll give him a mental ping when it’s time.
What Constant Reader Learns: Among Eddie’s ramblings, he asks Henry why he never remembered to box out. He asks Jack Andolini who hit him with an ugly stick. He tells Suze that they need to explain The Wizard of Oz to Roland. And he says: “I do not shoot with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father,” which gives Jake chills. And this: “All is forgotten in the stone halls of the dead. These are the rooms of ruin where the spiders spin and the great circuits fall quiet, one by one.”
Jake wonders if, when Eddie is gone and Susannah has had time to think, she will blame him and Roland for Eddie’s death.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 6
On his way out, Jake stops to talk to Dinky and bums a cigarette off him. He thinks about Mordred, sitting out there somewhere, watching everything.
Dinky picks up on the thought and asks who Mordred is. “You don’t want to know,” Jake tells him. “Believe me.” And Jake gets up and wanders out, with Oy at his heels.
He finishes his reminiscing and walks outside just as the mental message comes from Roland: “To me, Jake, and hurry. He’s going.”
What Constant Reader Learns: They’re smoking Camels, a fine timeless brand.
Jake’s still trying to convince himself that Eddie might come back, but he knows, deep inside, that this death will be permanent. “Jake’s part in the tale had not been finished. Eddie’s was.”
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 7
Jake rushes back to the dormitory, telling himself he won’t cry. “If I’m old enough to smoke and think about drawing myself a beer, I’m old enough to control my stupid eyes. I won’t cry.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Poor little Jake. What will the long-term consequences of this be on him? As hard as he took Callahan’s death, Eddie’s will be worse.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 8
When Jake gets there, Ted and Sheemie have joined Dinky outside the room where Eddie’s lying. Sheemie’s eyes have gone bloodshot again, and his nose had been bleeding.
They’ve been checking on the Real World, as it turns out, and Ted tells Jake to pass along to Roland the news that they can still make it by June 19, 1999, but the margin’s “getting thin.”
What Constant Reader Learns: We learn what the others have been up to—checking on the status of the Real World. Sounds as if it will be a close call. I will be really interesting in seeing how sai King involves them with the accident and his recovery.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 9
Back in the proctor’s suite, Eddie’s breathing has become irregular. Jake passes along Ted’s message, but Roland says “We’ll wait for this to be finished…We owe him that.”
“He fights hard,” Susannah says. “My man fights hard. Mayhap he still has a word to say.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Mayhap he does.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 10
Five minutes after Jake gets back to the room, Eddie opens his eyes and speaks haltingly to Susannah, and he’s lucid. “I will wait for you,” he tells her. “In the clearing, the one at the end of the path.” She tells him she’ll see him there, and she’ll be walking then.
He asks for Jake, who approaches the bedside reluctantly. He asks Eddie to wait for him too, but Eddie says not so fast. “Watch for Mordred, he tells him. “Watch…Dandelo.” He tells Jake to protect Roland.
Then it’s time for Eddie’s words to Roland.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake’s crying before Eddie’s first sentence is out. And it’s a pretty damned sad scene, say thankya.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 11
“We had some times,” Eddie tells Roland, and smiles. But in the end, his words for Roland were simple: “Thank you for my second chance…Father.” And then he’s gone.
“Then Eddie’s eyes closed and he laid his head to one side. His work was finished. He had left the path, stepped into the clearing. They sat around him a-circle, but ka-tet no more.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Even my third time through this I cried along with Jake. Well played, sai King, well played. Farewell, Eddie.
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.