“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 after they made arrangements with the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis to come into their town and have a look-see—and to get Black Thirteen from Callahan.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 1
Roland and Eddie go back to their own camp and compare notes while Jake and Susannah are off in search of more muffin-balls. They agree it’s odd that the Calla folks see nothing bizarre about sixty dudes in wolf costumes riding identical gray horses. Roland thinks it’s because they try not to think of the Wolves at all.
Eddie comments that if both of the Jaffords are the ones that end up helping them and are killed, they have an old man and five children that would be alone. When Roland just shrugs, Eddie no longer passes judgment. He realizes “Roland was as much a prisoner of his rules and traditions as Eddie had ever been of heroin.”
To his surprise, Eddie realizes he feels a kind of “bloodthirsty eagerness” to fight again.
After a while, Roland wants to know what’s been troubling Eddie, and the younger man has difficulty putting it into words. Everything is troubling him, and not because things are wrong but that they’re too right. “Say the first thing that comes into your mind,” Roland urges him, and Eddie says, “Nineteen. This whole deal has gone nineteen.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I like Eddie and Roland doing some bonding. At one point after making the comments about the gray horses, they look at each other and laugh. Roland doesn’t laugh much, so it’s nice to see that. Eddie is whittling and Ro is cleaning guns. When he notices that Eddie’s whittling a wooden top, a baby toy, Roland wonders how much Eddie might know, or at least suspect, about Susannah.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 2
Roland lets Eddie blow off steam for a minute and then asks him again. “I’ve come to respect your feelings,” he says, and realizes it’s true. Roland had begun to respect Eddie when he fought naked in Balazar’s office, and the respect has grown as he realized how much like Cuthbert Eddie is: “Eddie Dean was possessed of Cuthbert Allgood’s always puzzling and sometimes annoying sense of the ridiculous; he was also possessed of Alain Johns’s deep flashes of intuition…He was sometimes weak and self-centered, but possessed of deep reservoirs of courage and courage’s good sister, what Eddie himself sometimes called ‘heart.’”
Things seem too “perfect” to be real, and it’s bothering Eddie: the clouds forming “nineteen” in the sky, the names add up to nineteen letters. Going todash is like getting stoned—all of it is—because it’s real…but yet it’s not. The people are real, but the way things from Eddie’s world shows up in Roland’s is not real: singing “Hey Jude,” the Wizard of Oz, Shardik from Watership Down. They leave the Green Palace and end up in the woods with packed lunches. The people of the Calla are like the people they’ve met before.
Roland understands what Eddie means. He hasn’t been to Calla Bryn Sturgis yet, but already it reminds him of Mejis, and the coincidences, if they are such, are disturbing to him. As Susannah and Jake return, Roland asks Eddie if there aren’t periods where that sense of unreality goes away.
“Yes,” Eddie says. “When I’m with her.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I’m glad Roland’s opinion of Eddie has changed. The contempt with which he regarded Eddie was always bothersome, but Eddie needed to prove himself and it’s good to see that he has.
Eddie only feels real when he’s with Susannah? Roland finds this disturbing. I have a feeling that’s going to be short-lived.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 3
After a light dinner of muffin-balls, Roland wants to talk about going todash; he believes some or all of them might end up in New York that night. He wants to make sure they all stay together. He thinks if only one makes the journey, it will probably be Eddie, and that he should stay where he is until the bells start again.
Just to prove the others have decided things have “gone nineteen” as well, Susannah sings what she calls a “field-chant” that she first heard in a Greenwich Village coffee-house in 1962. Jake says Aaron Deepneau was probably there, sitting at the next table. And, Eddie adds, Jack Andolini was probably tending the bar—“because that’s how things work in the Land of Nineteen.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland realizes as he’s telling the others what to do when they go todash that they’re agreeing with him but reserving the right to do what they want, and that’s as it should be—they’re either gunslingers, or they aren’t.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 4
Roland’s dreaming of Jericho Hill. He and his companions, outnumbered, are fighting “Grissom’s men,” fighters for Farson. It’s a bloody fight, and Jamie DeCurry has already been killed. Alain had come back late to camp with news and had been killed accidentally by Roland and Cuthbert. Bert himself has been shot multiple times, his eye “bulging sightlessly on his cheek.” Even at the end, he’s laughing and joking about hanging on to Roland’s horn—the one supposedly blown by Arthur Eld himself—because he blows it sweeter than Roland could.
“Roland!” Cuthbert cries. “We’ve been betrayed! We’re outnumbered! Our backs are to the sea! We’ve got ‘em right where we want em! Shall we charge?” And they do, after Bert blows the horn one final time. In the blood and bloodlust that follows, Roland doesn’t think any more of the horn. As the battle approaches its end, Roland reaches for Bert’s hand, expecting them both to die…and then Roland falls into the sounds of the chimes and leaves the dream behind.
What Constant Reader Learns: That whole little chapter just made me want to cry. Do we see more of this battle? Or is the last we’ll see of Cuthbert and Alain?
And now we must go todash.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 5
Roland’s in New York next to a “Don’t Walk” sign which pedestrians are, of course, ignoring. A “tack-see” almost hits one and gets a middle finger in response, which Roland figures does not mean “long days and pleasant nights.” Roland’s kind of freaked because it had never occurred to him that if one of the ka-tet went todash alone, it might be him. He’s pondering whether or not to follow his own advice and stay put when Susannah calls to him from down the street. She runs toward him….on legs and feet.
What Constant Reader Learns: Um…..does that mean she’s Mia? Or she was Mia when she went todash and since it’s sort of an enhanced dream state she kept the legs? Didn’t someone on here say Mia was white? Does she look white if she’s Mia? Apparently not. Hm.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 6
Susannah is beside herself at having her legs back, and Roland is happy for her….up to a point. He tells her they need to get her some shoes, but she asks why—it’s a dream, right? “We’ve gone todash,” he tells her. “If you cut your foot, Mia, you’ll have a cut foot tomorrow when you wake up aside the campfire.” As soon as the sentence is out, he waits to see how she’ll respond to being called Mia, but she doesn’t notice. So Roland knows Mia had been out and ready to hunt when the chimes, or kammen, rang.
Roland tells her he’d like to see the bookstore and the vacant lot where Jake found the rose. As before, they cast shadows but no one sees them (even though people move to avoid them). “Almost here,” Roland thinks. “Were the force that brought us any more powerful, we would be here.” And it occurs to him that if they do get their hands on Black Thirteen, that would, indeed, be a more powerful force.
His thoughts are interrupted by Susannah, who’s getting freaky over the “darkness.” As before when Eddie and Jake went todash, there are lights everywhere and yet there’s a darkness that seems to surround it—a “black feel”—and Roland thinks it’s the influence of Black Thirteen. “It’s brought us here, sent us todash, and we feel it all around us,” he says. “It’s not the same as when I flew inside the grapefruit, but it’s like that.”
Despite his earlier misgivings, Roland is happy when he’s hailed from down the street by Eddie and Jake and Oy. There’s suitable fuss over Susannah having lower legs and feet, and then Roland tells them he wants to see the vacant lot and the rose.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland says Black Thirteen is “very likely the most terrible object from the days of Eld still remaining on the face of the earth.” That certainly can’t be good.
LOL when Eddie sees Susannah with legs, she’s an inch taller than him. But Roland catches Eddie giving Suze a “searching, questioning look” after noting that she looks different. Roland hopes Eddie doesn’t pursue how else she might be different, and Eddie doesn’t.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 7
Jake leads the gang down Second Avenue. They stop briefly at the Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, but it’s closed and dark. Roland is disappointed that the changing menu board is gone. Still, Roland feels “despair and loss” coming from the place.
What Constant Reader Learns: The absence of the menu board doesn’t seem particularly significant—Jake explains it as likely something that changed every day.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 8
Roland is amazed at the world he sees on the eight-block walk to the vacant lot, and wonders how Jake feels at being back. For Roland, New York and Lud have a lot in common: “This was Lud, in some twisted, otherwhere-and-when way. He was sure of it.”
Eddie finds a section of The New York Times, and it appears to be a normal day’s news. They’re concerned that the date is June second (instead of June first). “Time goes faster on this side,” Eddie says. “And the game-clock’s running fast.” So each time they come back it’s going to be later and later—they’re not sure, but think todash time is 1.5 to double Mid-World time, which will make their July 15 deadline to obtain the vacant lot more precarious.
Eddie suggests that maybe they should pass on helping the Calla-folk, but Roland says they have to help, not because Callahan has Black Thirteen, but because it’s the Way of the Eld and because “the way of ka is always the way of duty.” When he says this, he sees a glimmer of Mia (or Detta) in Susannah’s face.
What Constant Reader Learns: The Tower of Power record store had been playing the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” when Jake passed it on his original trip to the vacant lot. Now, the store is playing the Stones’ “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown.” Of course.
Apparently Eddie and Suze have been having a joke about Ronald Reagan being president—she doesn’t believe the host of “Death Valley Days” was ever president.
Eddie and Jake don’t have trouble reading the newspaper, but Roland can’t focus on it—the image swims in and out. Maybe because it’s something from Eddie and Jake’s original world so they’re closer to it?
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 9
The closer Jake gets to the vacant lot and the rose, the faster he walks, then runs. The others also feel the pull of the place: “There was a hum rising in the air, faint and sweet. It was everything the ugly black feeling around them was not.”
When they finally arrive, they hear the harmonic voices again. “This is it,” Roland thinks. “Perhaps not just a doorway to the Dark Tower, but the Tower itself. Gods, the strength of it! The pull of it! Cuthbert, Alain, Jamie—if only you were here!”
With tears streaming down his cheeks, Jake asks the others if they hear it. Roland and Eddie nod. Susannah says it’s “almost” the loveliest thing in the world—because for Mia, maybe not so much.
What Constant Reader Learns: Each of the four envisions a happy, safe time in their lives as they approach the rose. Roland thinks of Susan. Susannah remembers sitting on her father’s lap. Eddie remembers a childhood trip to Atlantic City. We aren’t told what Jake and Oy remembered, only that they, too, felt the sense of rightness.
Laughing out loud as Roland and Eddie haul Susannah across the street against traffic, and Roland holds up a hand at the oncoming headlights and shouts “Hile! Stop in the name of Gilead!” There’s a pileup, of course.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 10
The posters on the outside fence are the same ones Jake remembers from the vacant lot, except for one. The sign with the poem about the Turtle has changed to: “Oh Susannah-MIO, divided girl of mine, Done parked her RIG in the DIXIE PIG, in the year of ’99.”
Susannah is frightened by that sign, but Ro isn’t sure if it’s Susannah or Mia who’s scared. She begins making excuses for not going inside, and Roland understands that Mia doesn’t want to go in there, that something “dreadful” might happen to her if she did. Jake offers to stay with her, but she insists he go—she can take care of herself. So they all agree that the second they hear the chimes, they run for Susannah, and that Oy will stay with her. And they go in.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie keeps looking at Suze as if he knows something is off, but he’s keeping his mouth shut. It will be interesting to see how much he realizes and is choosing not to acknowledge.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 11
Strange things happen to Susannah as she waits. First, the bank clock near Tower of Power Records (which is nineteen letters long, I just realized—snort) is, Susannah notices, skipping time…she suddenly has seven unaccounted-for minutes. And she suddenly has lost her new lower legs and feet.
Oy begins a whining bark and Susannah looks around to see a dead woman walking down the street with a worm crawling out of her mouth—pedestrians are avoiding her much as they avoid our ka-tet.
What Constant Reader Learns: Oy’s having a bumbler freakout. No kidding, boy. Zombies! Or something akin to them.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 12
Meanwhile, the guys have gone into the vacant lot. As before, Jake sees a litany of faces in every shadow—from Mejis, from Lud, from his life in New York. Eddie sees people from his old neighborhood, even comforting words from brother Henry. Roland sees “all the phantoms of his life, from his mother and his cradle-amah right up to their visitors from Calla Bryn Sturgis.”
The closer they get to where the rose is located, the more worthwhile it all seems, and they’re all crying.
Roland spots the rose, finally. There’s something lying beside it, but he ignores it. They kneel around it, the rose unfurls, and the hum rises around them “like a song of angels.”
What Constant Reader Learns: The original sign is still standing: Mills Construction and Sombra Real Estate Associates are continuing to remake the face of Manhattan! Coming soon to this location: Turtle Bay Luxury Condominiums! Call 661-6712 for information! You will be so glad you did!” Jake thinks the phone number on the sign is different, but he can’t remember for sure.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 13
Susannah’s hanging onto her sanity with the help of Oy and the sound of the singing. She realizes that some part of her had been frightened of getting to close to the rose, and maybe that part had been in control during the missing seven minutes. Now it was gone, and her fear of the rose has gone with it. “Not again,” she murmurs, horrified at the idea that she had not been integrated once and for all.
She’s hanging on…until she sees the naked dead guy across the street with the autopsy incision across the front of his body—and Oy sees him too. She screams for Eddie.
What Constant Reader Learns: I feel really sorry for Susannah here, as it dawns on her what is happening and not knowing how to stop it.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 14
Each of the guys has his rose experience. Eddie see’s “great things and near misses”—Albert Einstein barely missing death by runaway milk-wagon. Albert Schweitzer barely missing slipping on the cake of soap as he gets out of the tub. A man planning to poison the water supply of Denver dying of a heart attack on I-80. A terrorist whose plans go awry. Planes that don’t crash. Wallets returned. All the random things gone right. “For every brick that landed on the ground instead of some little kid’s head, for every tornado that missed the trailer park, for every missile that didn’t fly, for every hand stayed from violence, there was the Tower.”
But something’s wrong with the rose, Eddie realizes—a “jagged dissonance buried in the hum, like bits of broken glass.”
Nearby, Roland exclaims, “There are two hubs of existence. The Tower and the rose. Yet they are the same…. We must have this patch. Own it and then protect it. Until the Beams are reestablished and the Tower is made safe again. Because while the Tower weakens, this is what holds everything together. And this is weakening, too. It’s sick.”
Susannah screams, and they come out of their rose-induced trances. Eddie runs for the fence. Jake snatches whatever’s lying next to the rose and follows. Roland is last. “I’ll come back,” he thinks. “I swear by the gods of all the worlds, by my mother and father and my friends that were, that I’ll come back.”
What Constant Reader Learns: And here we have it: “Two hubs of existence. The rose and the Tower. The Tower and the rose. All the rest was held between them, spinning in fragile complexity.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 15
Susannah knows she’s not totally nuts when Eddie sees the naked man, too, and he also thinks the real people have the same avoidance reaction to the dead people as to the ka-tet. Something there and not quite there. Jake points down the street where a little dead girl with a squashed head is wandering along.
Susannah’s getting ready to scream again, but Roland has arrived and whispers for her to remain quiet.
These people are the “vagrant dead,” Roland says, explaining he’d been told once that one might see “vags” when going todash. “Such as him yonder have either died so suddenly they don’t yet understand what’s happened to them, or they simply refuse to accept it. Sooner or later they do go on.”
Jake finally notices Suze’s new legs are gone and asks what happened. When she says she doesn’t know, she becomes aware of Roland’s knowing look and asks what’s wrong. “We are ka-tet, Susannah. Tell us what really happened,” he answers.
She tells him she lost seven minutes and her legs. Eddie is concerned that time is slipping—what if, instead of seven minutes, next time they lose three months?” Roland realizes that Mia had been in control, had taken a look around, and then disappeared.
Suze knows they also have to get back to 1964 before coming back to the 1970s, to get her money. “If Callahan’s got Black Thirteen, will it work like a door?” she asks.
“What it will work is mischief,” Roland thinks. “Mischief and worse.”
Then the todash chimes begin again. They all grasp hands and hang on.
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, so here’s a thought Roland has: “Mia had come out for seven minutes, had a look around, and then dived back into her hole like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day.” And exactly how would Roland know about Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil? He wouldn’t. I know it doesn’t matter but stuff like that drives the obsessive-compulsive in me nuts.
Wolves of the Calla—“Todash,” Chapter VII, “Todash,” Section 16
They return to Mid-World about forty feet from their camp. Only now do they look at what Jake had grabbed before leaving the vacant lot. It’s a crumpled pink bowling bag, with writing on the side: “Nothing but strikes at Mid-World Lanes.” Which is what the bags at Jake’s bowling alley read except it was “Mid-Town Lanes.”
Roland has an idea what the bag is for and tells Jake to keep it safe. And he orders them all to sleep while they can. “I think we’re going to be very busy for the next few weeks.” They all dream of the rose, except for Susannah. She—or, rather, Mia—gets up to feast in her “great banquet hall.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Sounds like there’s a nice pink bag to haul Black Thirteen around in!
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll read the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla. Happy holidays!