Last week, we got to see the two sides of (O)Detta as Roland's infection got worse. This week, we meet THE PUSHER—the evil man responsible for killing Jake and hurting Odetta on separate occasions.
Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three (1987), the 2nd book in The Dark Tower series. Several of us have just finished a trek through The Gunslinger (1982), which originally was a collection of short stories, later bound together, effectively capturing a world certainly familiar to us—Wild West background set to modern pop tunes—but stirring nightmarish images where time is out of mind and people displaced in various purgatories. The main protagonist, Roland Deschain of Gilead, is obsessed with locating the Dark Tower, so he shadows the man in black, who seems to have answers when confronted, though they are obtusely revealed with a turning over of Tarot cards. The man in black explained that Roland has caught the attention of his superior, who remains unknown, taking an interest in Roland’s endeavors.
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
With Stephen King's chapters getting a little strange, the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages), and each Tuesday we will meet to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, we meet the man who pushed Jake in front of that car and discover he's behind a lot of Odetta's hardships as well. Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of Part V of The Drawing of the Three: The Pusher, Chapter 1: “Bitter Medicine” – The Pusher, Chapter 3: “Roland Takes His Medicine”!
The Pusher, Chapter 1: “Bitter Medicine” – The Pusher, Chapter 3: “Roland Takes His Medicine”
I knew it! Jake Chambers returns! Even if it’s just a cameo of sorts. Ever since the gunslinger allowed Jake to fall to his death, I suspected there was something else to this youth. Perhaps, he’s more of a pivotal piece than Roland realizes.
Roland has stepped through the third door marked THE PUSHER and is observing the exact stomach-lurching moment before Jack Mort pushes Jake Chambers into oncoming traffic. Jack is described as the man in black, which I admit threw me for a moment, but more about that in a bit. For just a few seconds, Roland wonders if this is some sick joke (specifically of Walter) to make him witness and be culpable for, in a way, Jake’s murder. But Roland’s appearance in Mort’s body has just enough of a cosmic shift that the opportunity is missed and Jake has peacefully crossed the road.
The knowing didn’t come when he went forward but when he was sure the boy was safe and slipped back again. He saw the connection between this man and Odetta, too fantastic and yet too hideously apt to be coincidental, and understood what the real drawing of the three might be, and who they might be.
Although Roland realizes that the Tarot death card dealt by Walter wasn't meant for him, he now soberly considers he could be death itself. As in, maybe he is being angled into sacrificing his fellow travelers to further his Dark Tower goals—they are sacrificial lambs rather than equal partners.
While pleased to see Jake alive, he realizes that Jake may yet die if Mort tries again. And if Jake doesn’t die to wake up in that way station, then what kind of time paradox does that create for Roland? Who will be there to save him? Furthermore, maybe the death of Roland’s pawns will be a little less traumatic if he knows they are still safe in some other time line. Ah, hell, as The Doctor would say, “A big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.”
But there are more pressing matters: find some medicine, stock up on shells, and return before Detta gets the drop on Eddie, which Roland is fairly certain will happen. And take care of Jack Mort. Inside the sociopath’s thoughts, Roland learns that not only did Mort push Jake to his death, but he also attacked Odetta Holmes twice. Once by dropping a brick on her head from a high-rise building and again by pushing her from a train platform where her legs were severed. Yes, Mort must die—but first, Roland is going to use him like a marionette to rob a gun store and then a pharmacy.
It’s a crazy scheme. He convinces two cops that he has been cheated by the gun store proprietor, Fat Johnny, and when they go to investigate, he knocks their heads together Moe Howard style, rendering them unconsciousness. He handcuffs Fat Johnny so it won’t look like he was in on it and proceeds to take extra ammo for the voyage ahead.
He took another quick glance at the clerk, then unbuckled the gunslingers’ gunbelts and stripped them off. Then he took off Mort’s blue suitcoat and buckled the belts on himself. They were the wrong guns, but it still felt good to be packing iron again. Damned good. Better than he would have believed.
Meanwhile, Detta (who, I have to admit, grows on me) has waited for Eddie Dean to fall asleep, then crawls to him with the intention of murder. However, she has second thoughts when she realizes she may need him as a hostage after Roland reappears. Again, the King imagery is highly potent imagining this woman without legs dragging herself inch by inch across the beach, gun in hand, determined to exact revenge. While he sleeps, Detta fastens Eddie to within an inch of his life and waits.
From Fat Johnny’s, Roland proceeds to Katz’s Drug Store where he easily disables the security guard. He demands Keflex, leaving Jack Mort’s Rolex as compensation, which the pharmacist snatches up with no apparent intention of relating it to the police.
Entering Katz’s, Roland was reminded of the “magicians, enchanters, and alchemists” of Gilead. He remembers a man who called himself Flagg, two young men named Dennis and Thomas, and how Flagg had turned a human into a dog. King enthusiasts know he’s referencing his 1987 epic fantasy, The Eyes of the Dragon, and Randall Flagg, who has appeared in other King books like The Stand (1978). Nice little crossover, but there may be more to it because in the same few lines he also mentions the man in black and Marten in a kind of three-headed hydra manner.
Is it possible one demon is posing as many different characters? If so, what about Eddie, Odetta, and Jake? Is it reasonable to assume the man in black or Flagg is also inhabiting one or more of them? What do you think?
What do YOU think about the introduction of Detta and Odetta? Head to the comments and start/join the conversation!
*Remember: Be careful with your comments—NO SPOILERS! We will be moderating the comments and deleting anything we feel is a spoiler, so pause before you post and make sure you're not ruining it for someone else.
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.