“First comes smiles, then lies. Last is gunfire.”
—Roland Deschain, of Gilead
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 first sections, join me by commenting here.
We last left our ka-tet finishing their own todash-related palaver before Callahan and his companions arrived.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter V, “Overholser,” Section 1
Before Callahan and Co. arrive, Roland pulls Susannah aside and wants her to hang back like a good little woman and keep her eyes and ears open. “Stay close to me, and not a word from you unless I prompt it. If they take you for my sh’veen, let it be so.” Part of Susannah doesn’t much like taking the subservient role, but she’d always liked pretending to be other people. Still, “there was a part of her—a spiteful Detta Walker part—that would always resent Roland’s ascendancy in her heart and mind.” But mostly, the Susannah part of her thinks Roland is a hero.
What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah probably has good powers of observation, although not as good as Roland’s own, so I’m not sure at this point why he wants her hanging back and keeping her mouth shut unless it’s because he knows that’s a woman’s role in this society. Is he in need of her observations, unsure of how the strangers will react to her, or distrustful of her with her new pal Mia.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter V, “Overholser,” Section 2
As Susannah watches Roland make introductions, almost introducing her as an afterthought, she’s relieved that her nagging gas pains have gone, as has her lingering headache. She’s not stupid enough to not consider a pregnancy, but she’s had her period and so knows that’s not possible. So she’s fearful she’s having a false or “hysterical” pregnancy because she wants to be pregnant with Eddie’s child.
What Constant Reader Learns: Apropos of nothing, my friend’s Rottweiler had a hysterical pregnancy. It was very bizarre.
The fact that Susannah’s still having periods would clue us in, just in case we’ve missed the other signs, that this is probably not your ordinary pregnancy.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter V, “Overholser,” Section 3
Susannah observes the newcomers with Callahan, a young thirty-something man in a battered sombrero and a man probably in his sixties wearing a clean white Stetson. And she realizes he’s probably Wayne Overholser, the “big farmer” who isn’t convinced Calla Bryn Sturgis needs help. She decides he looks like a pain in the ass.
There is also a tall, handsome, dark-skinned woman, an “earnest-looking” man, and a boy near Jake’s age who looks to be the man’s son. Slightman the Elder and Younger. While everyone else does the deep bow to Roland, Overholser kind of skims over it, then butts in a couple of times when his fellow townsmen try to talk. So far, Roland has not reacted to his rudeness—Susannah speculates that Overholser is so used to being in charge and getting his way, he might not even be aware of how he’s coming across.
“Charyou Tree,” Roland says, and finally, at that, Overholser responds. He’s been treating the ka-tet as if they were a band of ragtag ordinary travelers. By saying “Charyou Tree,” Roland lets him know this isn’t the case. So now he thinks Roland is of his class and understands his plight as a wealthy farmer who has crops to consider.
The boys bond over Oy, who plays the part of a dog and lets himself be petted—which seems to break down some of the awkwardness of the whole group.
What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah observes of Benny, a.k.a. Slightman the Younger, that even though he’s probably two or three years older than Jake, he has a “soft look about him,” and she observes that Jake has had to grow up too fast.
I think this is the first time we’ve seen Jake armed—he’s wearing his father’s Ruger in what sounds like a makeshift shoulder-holster, while Eddie and Roland carry the big revolvers.
Clever Roland knows exactly how to play “Sai Overholser” to get his cooperation, and without him ever knowing he’s being played.
Interesting how similar the “current”-era Calla Bryn Sturgis is to Mejis, with the Mexican/Old West influences.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter V, “Overholser,” Section 4
Overholser asks to speak with Roland alone, and Tian Jaffords objects. Approaching the travelers and standing up against the Wolves was all his idea, after all, and he knows Overholser doesn’t want to let the Wolves come as they always do. But Roland says he doesn’t mind, and asks Eddie to join him while Susannah makes tea for the others.
What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah is enjoying playing hostess to the newcomers and having such a normal and civilized thing as tea, even though she knows bad times are coming. “It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter V, “Overholser,” Section 5
Eddie’s offended at Overholser, who shouts and talks to Roland as if he were “no more than some gunbunny hobo who happened to come drifting down the road with a few no-account friends.” Overholser says Jaffords is a fool who needs to be restrained. That going against the Wolves is madness. And the Old Fella was mad as well.
When he’s finally done, he asks Roland if he’s what he says he is—if he’s really of the line of Eld. “But Gilead’s long gone,” Overholser says, to which Roland replies, “I am not.”
Overholser, somewhat mesmerized by Roland’s eyes, finally says he’ll listen, and Eddie is awed by Roland’s skill at manipulation.
What Constant Reader Learns: Later, Eddie tells Suze that Overholser “explained all the reasons why it was a fool’s errand, and then did exactly what Roland wanted him to do. It was like magic.” Susannah replies: “Sometimes Roland is magic.”
It’s interesting to see Roland, for the first time since the town with the old people, showing the social skills and psychological savvy that were clearly as much of his training and intuition as his gun skills.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter V, “Overholser,” Section 6
The group heads back to the Calla folks’ camp, and Overholser offers to spell Eddie in pushing Susannah’s chair since it’s mostly uphill. Suze can smell food and wonders who is doing the cooking—maybe the person named Andy she’d heard mentioned.
Overholser asks about the wheelchair and Susannah has to decide what to tell him. Finally, she says she comes from the other side of a thinny, where things are much different. He says he’s heard of such things although he never wanders far from the Calla since their people are not “woodsy people, as a rule” (something Susannah has deduced from their messy campsites). He says he doesn’t imagine she and Jake and Eddie could actually be gunslingers. He’s clearly fishing, but Susannah says he’ll have to wait and see.
Overholser admits that Roland scares him.
Eddie yells in shock and Jake reaches for his gun as Andy heads toward them—a seven-foot robot with flashing blue eyes. Andy does a robotic bow to Roland with a “Hile, Gunslinger.”
Andy says he’s made a meal, and would they like to hear their horoscope?
What Constant Reader Learns: I’m guessing “Sai Andy” will prove quite dangerous in the long term, but for now, his interactions with our ka-tet are really funny. Definitely feeling a “Star Wars” vibe here.
That’s it for a shortish chapter this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll read the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla. I’m working ahead of schedule to get posts ready to go up during the holidays, so unless I hear otherwise from the Tor Gods, we’ll keep it going without a break.