“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, we said our final, sad goodbyes to Eddie Dean, and Roland and Jake (and Oy) prepared to leave Susannah behind to bury him while they tried to save Stephen King.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 12
The chapter begins thirty minutes after Eddie’s death. Roland and Jake are sitting outside with Ted and Sheemie, while Dani Rostov and another Breaker wait nearby. They can hear Susannah inside as she prepares Eddie’s body for burial, singing songs they’d all heard Eddie sing before.
Ted has figured out how to combine the four Breakers’ talents to determine the time in current Keystone New York—each of the four had been to New York, so they were able to combine their mental images of Times Square long enough to open a window in time and see that Al Gore had spent the day campaigning for president, Roger Clemens had struck out thirteen Texas Rangers but the Yankees still lost, and that the date and time was June 18, 1999, 9:19 p.m. Stephen King had less than a day to live.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake sees Roland dry-swallow three “astin” from a bottle “gotten God knew where.” I’m trying to remember the last time he was in the modern world and nabbed some aspirin…maybe when he and Eddie were in New England before? Or maybe we don’t know.
Sheemie is limping from the cut on his foot, but no one has paid much attention to it. Sai King has been very explicit in telling us this is what’s going to kill Sheemie, which I guess is good news for Roland because if it’s blood poisoning or infection, it probably wouldn’t work fast enough to prevent Sheemie from sending them to and fro on their mission. Then again, time has gotten hinky.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 13
It has been at least five hours since the Breakers opened the window on Keystone World, so Jake figures it’s at least 2:30 a.m. there now, maybe more since time is running fast. Jake knows that time is running out, “and time was not their friend.”
Roland tells Ted that Susannah will stay there with them, and that Ted and Sheemie need to help her bury Eddie. If Roland and Jake don’t return, he asks Ted to put Susannah on a train to Fedic, and Ted agrees—the automatic “D-Line” trains are still running.
Jake doesn’t like the idea of leaving Susannah behind but knows she wouldn’t leave Eddie unburied, and they can’t wait. Ted says several of the Breakers, especially Dani and Dinky and Ted himself, are being spat on by the other Breakers, who might move against them once the gunslingers are gone.
“I don’t get that,” Jake says. “They’re free.” But Dinky says most of them didn’t want freedom. Here, they were well-cared for VIPs; on the America side, they were disillusioned misfits. Now, they’re not even that.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland tells Ted that if he and Jake are not back at the town in two days, to assume they’ve gone back to End-World, at Fedik. Jake thinks, and rightly so, that this is a really optimistic viewpoint. Then again, “what good would it do to make the other, even more logical assumption, that we’re either dead or lost between the worlds, todash forever?”
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” was the ear worm provided by this section.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 14
Roland and Jake go back to where Susannah has cleaned Eddie up and dressed him in a white shirt. Jake is overwhelmed with grief as Roland talks to Susannah. She doesn’t speak for a long time. She repeats Roland’s instructions back to him, finally—she’s to bury Eddie to keep the Breakers from defiling his body.
Roland asks her if she will come with them to finish the final job—the Tower. She said she will but only because Eddie would want her to, because she’s lost her taste for it. Jake realizes that she actually hasn’t lost her taste for it at all: “Their tet might be broken, but ka remained. And she felt it just as they did.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I’ve never been a big Susannah fan, as those of you who’ve been with me along this long journey know. I never felt she was emotionally developed well, but I have very much liked her in this book. Her anger that spills out toward “the lazybones writer” is well done. And Detta has quite a funny foul-mouthed message for sai King to “never mind worryin about the Pulitzer Price—just go on and be done with his m-f story.” Roland promises to pass the message on. Wonder if he will?
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 15
They bid their farewells to Susannah, and Jake breaks down again.
What Constant Reader Learns: Again, Susannah’s emotional response—telling Jake to be safe and hugging him, but holding her own emotions deep inside—was really well played.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 16
As he rejoins the others, Jake recalls what Ted had told them about the D-Line trains, and asks if the D stands for “Dandelo,” the word Eddie had told him when he last spoke. Dinky doesn’t recognize the word, and said he’d always assumed the D was for Discoria since that’s where all the trains supposedly end up.
What Constant Reader Learns: When Dinky asks Jake what a Dandelo is, Jake tells him it’s just a word he saw written on the wall in Thunderclap Station. In true gunslinger fashion, Jake doesn’t trust anyone. But he’s keeping his eyes and ears open, which is good. I have no idea what or who Dandelo is, but I doubt it’s anything/anyone they really want to meet.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 17
Outside the dorm where Eddie lays, a group of Breakers waits to talk to the gunslingers. Roland asks for them to speak up because they’re out of time.
An older guy steps up, and tells Roland, “You’ve taken our lives from us. What will you give us back in return, Mr. Gilead?”
Jake is furious and his hand, acting of its own accord in a very gunslingerly way, steals to the handle of the machine gun he’s carrying. Roland’s probably stifling the same instinct, because without seeing, he reaches back and stays Jake’s hand.
Roland tells them that he’ll give them something: instead of burning this place to the ground, and them with it, he’ll let them go and point them toward the Callas—along with a cruse that they live long but not in good health. Some of them will likely die along the way, and the Calla folken will “know who you are and what you’ve been about, even if you like…You may find forgiveness there rather than death.” Even if they’re forgiven for their role in all the “roont” lives, the Breakers will spend their lives doing hard manual work.
When a woman shouts that they didn’t know what they were doing, Jake almost loses it again.
Roland continues with his pronouncement, telling them they might find redemption in the Callas, but if they choose to stay where they are, with robots to “cook and wash your clothes and even wipe your asses, if that’s what you think you need,” then more power to them.
Finally, Roland draws his own gun: “The next who speaks back to me may remain silent ever after, for one of my friends is preparing another, her husband, to lie in the ground and I am full of grief and rage.”
The grumbling Breakers flee into the darkness. Ted tries to explain that what the Breakers did wasn’t entirely they fault so he must not have done a good job at explaining it. “You did an excellent job,” Roland says. “That’s why they’re still alive.”
Now, it’s time to go. Sheemie needs an image to use to teleport them, so Roland grabs his hand and tells Sheemie to see what he sees.
What Constant Reader Learns: I’m thinking these guys really don’t want to mess with Roland right now—one of them called him “chary man.” He might be a kinder, gentler Roland than the one we met way back in the first book, but not so much with this bag of whiners. I found myself halfway hoping he’d go all Tull on them.
Hm. Wonder what image Roland is using to get them to sai King the fastest?
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 18
While Roland projects his image to Sheemie. Dani surprises the hell out of Jake by kissing him on the mouth. Twice. Ted tells Jake he’ll “judge the rest of them by the first”
What Constant Reader Learns: LOL. After all he’s been through, this is what dazes Jake and makes him feel as if someone has punched him in the head. He’ll be roont now.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 12: The Tet Breaks, Section 18
Fifteen minutes later, the four Breakers join hands with Roland and Jake and Oy in the middle. When the door opens, Jake is dismayed to see it’s daylight in Keystone World, which means time has slipped and it’s already June 19, 1999.
Ted shouts for them to hurry—Sheemie’s passing out—and Jake finds himself with Roland at the East Stoneham General Store, where the clock says it’s 3:41 p.m.
What Constant Reader Learns: I looked up the accident and it took place at 4:30 p.m., so they are, indeed, running out of time!
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.