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datatime: 2022-09-29 02:56:22 Author:dSDDxtUj

"Roland-Will, I mean-what are they for? "

There was a kind of rough path behind the tankers. Roland walked slowly along it, pacing like a preacher with his hands clasped at the small of his back, reading the incomprehensible words writ upon the tankers' rear decks: citgo. sunoco. exxon. conoco. He paused once and read aloud, haltingly: "Cleaner fuel for a better tomorrow." He snorted softly. "Rot This is tomorrow."

Behind the camouflaging boughs, the tankers had been as neatly lined up as toy soldiers at the end of the day, and Susan at once saw one reason why they had been hidden: they had been re-equipped with wheels, well-made ones of solid oak which came as high as her chest. Each had been rimmed with a thin iron strip. The wheels were new, so were the strips, and the hubs had been custom-made. Susan knew only one blacksmith in Barony capable of such fine work: Brian Hookey, to whom she had gone for Felicia's new shoes. Brian Hookey, who had smiled and clapped her on the shoulder like a compadre when she had come in with her da's shoebag hanging on her hip. Brian Hookey, who had been one of Pat Delgado's best friends.

"Then it's best you kiss and touch me no more-not tonight. I can't stand it if ye do."

Roland inspected along the line of tangled pine branches, then stopped and plucked several aside. This created an opening like a door-way, and he gestured her to go through. "Be sharp in your looks," he said. "I doubt if they've bothered to set traps or tripwires, but 'tis always best to be careful."

It seemed to the lovers (for so they now were, in all but the most physical sense) that hours had passed, but it had been no more than forty-live minutes. Summer's last moon, diminished but still bright, continued to shine above them.

"But . . ." She paused, biting her lip, shaking her head. "Surely even Farson must know . .. understand ..." She looked up at him with wide eyes. "The ways of the Old People are the ways of death. Everyone knows that, so they do."

"Roland-Will, I mean-what are they for? "

"Death," he said, "is what John Parson's all about."

Who can remember the pangs and sweetness of those early years? We remember our first real love no more clearly than the illusions that caused us to rave during a high fever. On that night and beneath that fading moon, Roland Deschain and Susan Delgado were nearly torn apart by their desire for each other; they floundered for what was right and ached with feelings that were both desperate and deep.

He nodded without speaking and held out his hand. She took it, and they walked on in the direction they had been going when they had been so sweetly distracted.

Behind the camouflaging boughs, the tankers had been as neatly lined up as toy soldiers at the end of the day, and Susan at once saw one reason why they had been hidden: they had been re-equipped with wheels, well-made ones of solid oak which came as high as her chest. Each had been rimmed with a thin iron strip. The wheels were new, so were the strips, and the hubs had been custom-made. Susan knew only one blacksmith in Barony capable of such fine work: Brian Hookey, to whom she had gone for Felicia's new shoes. Brian Hookey, who had smiled and clapped her on the shoulder like a compadre when she had come in with her da's shoebag hanging on her hip. Brian Hookey, who had been one of Pat Delgado's best friends.

"Then it's best you kiss and touch me no more-not tonight. I can't stand it if ye do."

Who can remember the pangs and sweetness of those early years? We remember our first real love no more clearly than the illusions that caused us to rave during a high fever. On that night and beneath that fading moon, Roland Deschain and Susan Delgado were nearly torn apart by their desire for each other; they floundered for what was right and ached with feelings that were both desperate and deep.

While they were still ten yards from the hem of the forest, both saw the glimmer of metal despite the dense foliage-too dense, she thought. Too dense by far.

"But surely yer fathers know this .. . ?"

"For Parson," Roland said with a calm he didn't feel. "For the Good Man. The Affiliation knows he's found a number of war-machines; they come either from the Old People or from some other where. Yet the Affilia-tion fears them not, because they don't work. They're silent. Some feel Farson has gone mad to put his trust in such broken things, but..."

"They were trigged quite some time ago, I imagine," he said. "I doubt if the Big Coffin Hunters did it all themselves, but they no doubt oversaw it ... first the fitting of the new wheels to replace the old rotten rubber ones, then the filling. They used the oxen to line them up here, at the base of the hill, because it was convenient. As it's convenient to let the extra horses run free out on the Drop. Then, when we came, it seemed prudent to take the precaution of covering these up. Stupid babies we might be, but perhaps smart enough to wonder about twenty-eight loaded oil-carts with new wheels. So they came out here and covered them."

"Then it's best you kiss and touch me no more-not tonight. I can't stand it if ye do."

There was a kind of rough path behind the tankers. Roland walked slowly along it, pacing like a preacher with his hands clasped at the small of his back, reading the incomprehensible words writ upon the tankers' rear decks: citgo. sunoco. exxon. conoco. He paused once and read aloud, haltingly: "Cleaner fuel for a better tomorrow." He snorted softly. "Rot This is tomorrow."

She recalled looking around and thinking that times had been good for sai Hookey, and of course she had been right. Work in the blacksmithing line had been plentiful. Hookey had been making lots of wheels and rims, for one thing, and someone must have been paying him to do it. Eldred Jonas was one possibility; Kimba Rimer an even better one. Hart? She simply couldn't believe that. Hart had his mind-what little there was of it-fixed on other matters this summer.

"For Parson," Roland said with a calm he didn't feel. "For the Good Man. The Affiliation knows he's found a number of war-machines; they come either from the Old People or from some other where. Yet the Affilia-tion fears them not, because they don't work. They're silent. Some feel Farson has gone mad to put his trust in such broken things, but..."

"Roland-Will, I mean-what are they for? "

She recalled looking around and thinking that times had been good for sai Hookey, and of course she had been right. Work in the blacksmithing line had been plentiful. Hookey had been making lots of wheels and rims, for one thing, and someone must have been paying him to do it. Eldred Jonas was one possibility; Kimba Rimer an even better one. Hart? She simply couldn't believe that. Hart had his mind-what little there was of it-fixed on other matters this summer.

"Death," he said, "is what John Parson's all about."

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