“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 story with Eddie determined to use Black Thirteen and go todash to New York alone, in order to procure the vacant lot from Calvin Tower.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 1
Roland and Eddie arrive at the church before dawn to retrieve Black Thirteen. It reacts with a “sleepy humming” sound. When they get to the front of the sanctuary, Roland opens his bottomless “swag-bag” and takes out the bowling bag Jake had found on their last trip todash: “Nothing But Strikes at Mid-World Lanes.”
Roland warns Eddie to stay quiet until he says otherwise, then opens the hole where the box with the glass is hidden. When he uncovers it, the hum grows louder, and Eddie senses that “somewhere close, a monster of nearly unimaginable malevolence had half-opened one sleeping eye.”
While Eddie holds the bowling bag open, Roland lifts the box out and slips it inside, pulling the drawstring tight. Once the bag is closed, the hum becomes very distant.
What Constant Reader Learns: Clever way of slipping in the way things are shifting: “Daylight was only a distant rumor on the northeast horizon.”
Ah…Eddie asks a very good question: “If we were todash when we found that bag, how could we have picked it up?” Even Roland has to think about it a bit before answering, “Perhaps the bag is todash too.” And still is…which creeps Eddie out.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter 2, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 2
It’s about 10 a.m. CDT (Calla Daylight Time) before Roland and Eddie have even climbed halfway to the Doorway Cave. The garnet mines are visible to the north, and Roland points out the one he’s picked out to be the decoy hiding place for the children. Eddie comments that it reminds him of Roland’s story about Eyebolt Canyon, and Roland agrees.
Eddie gets Roland to admit he has no real intention of hiding the kids there, and asks why he wants the folken to think so. “Because I don’t believe there’s anything supernatural about the way the Wolves find the children,” Roland says. “After hearing Gran-pere Jaffords’s story, I don’t think there’s anything supernatural about the Wolves, for that matter. There’s a rat in this particular corn-crib. Someone who goes squealing to the powers that be in Thunderclap.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland admits he has an idea of who their rat might be in the current generation, but despite Eddie’s guesses, he won’t say. (“Chatty as ever, good for you,” Eddie grumbles.) But he raises an interesting point. There would have to be a new “rat” for each generation, so how does the “rat-hood” pass on? If there were more willing rats, would the Wolves come more often? Or do the Wolves recruit a rat in advance of each trip, perhaps through our buddy Andy? Or does Took pass along the names of potential rats who might be vulnerable and in need of eyeglasses, perhaps? Too many questions!
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter 2, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 3
Roland and Eddie reach the cave and its voice-filled chasm, and of course it’s the taunting voice of Henry Dean that Eddie first hears. Then his mother, then a guy from the old gang. Eddie “tore his attention away from this frightening but fascinating gabble with an effort.”
Eddie tries the door and, to no one’s surprise, it is locked. Roland tells him to think of New York—of Second Avenue in particular—and of the year 1977—when he’s ready to go through. Roland puts his big revolver in his swag-bag and gives it to Eddie. He has a “hunch” that Eddie might need it.
As Eddie gets ready to focus and go through the door, he thinks about a Robert Heinlein novel he’d once read called The Door into Summer—the kind of book Henry always made fun of him for reading. It eventually helps Eddie go back to 1977, where a black man wearing earphones is walking past Chew Chew Mama’s and Elton John is singing “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” When it all feels real to him, he raises his hand to signal Roland that he’s ready. Behind him, Roland opens the box.
Immediately, Eddie hears the deafening, painful chimes, and the door clicks open. On the other side of the door is New York. He steps through, into “the summer of a world from which he was now fan-gon, the exiled one.”
What Constant Reader Learns: There would have been a time, a few books ago, when the voices would have sent Eddie screaming into the abyss. But he’s able to shove them to the back of his mind and focus on the task. I suspect we’re going to see a new Eddie Dean this time, especially since he’s on his own.
Roland gives Eddie a chance to back out, and Eddie asks if Roland’s worried that once he’s in New York alone, he’ll score some drugs. “There are plenty of things I am worried about, but you returning to your old habits isn’t one of them,” Roland tells him. Nice show of confidence that Eddie is no longer the kid he inhabited on the plane.
Eddie’s curious as to how much attention he’s going to attract. We haven’t gotten much in the way of physical description of our ka-tet as the story has progressed, but Eddie’s hair is long enough to tie back with a strip of rawhide, and he’s wearing button-fly jeans and a flannel shirt with horn buttons.
As they’re saying their goodbyes, Eddie tells Roland to take care of Susannah if he doesn’t return. “Your job is to make sure I don’t have to,” Roland says, but Eddie thinks, “No, my job is to protect the rose.”
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter 2, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 4
Eddie steps onto Second Avenue, and when he looks behind him, he can see the door and Roland sitting on the other side, in the cave, with the box open on his lap. What he can’t see, or sense, is that lurking darkness behind everything as he’d seen it before, and he thinks it’s “because he was really here, and not just todash.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I bet Roland’s going to have one big headache from listening to those chimes for however long Eddie’s gone, even if Eddie did see him stick some bullets in his ears.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter 2, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 5
Eddie wants to prove his theory that he’s really in 1977 New York this time and not just todash, so he intentionally runs into a guy carrying two briefcases—“a Big Coffin Hunter of the business world.” He tries to ask the guy what day it is, but the guy only tells him to watch where he’s going and moves on. Next, he finds someone less Type A and asks: the guys says it’s June 23, 1977.
He’s almost made it to the bookstore when he sees Balazar’s dark-gray Lincoln Town Car on the curb.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie’s brought some Mid-Worldspeak back with him. He interrupts the guy with “Cry your pardon,” and thanks him with ‘Thankee-sai.”
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter 2, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 6
The bookstore is closed at 3:14 p.m., and Eddie’s not surprised—he figures there are “special customers” inside. When he looks through the window, the store appears empty, and he initially thinks maybe Calvin Tower is on vacation. But Eddie hears Roland’s voice in his head: “Look again at the counter, Eddie. Only this time why don’t you actually use your eyes instead of just letting the light pour through them?”
When he looks again, he sees chess pieces strewn about, an overturned coffee cup, eyeglasses lying on the floor with a cracked lens.
It makes him angry—a gunslinger kind of angry. He figures Balazar’s bullies are in the back room, reminding Calvin Tower that his deadline’s approaching. The door is locked, but flimsy enough that Eddie can break in without attracting attention. As soon as he’s inside, he hears a muffled cry from the back, and his anger ratchets up again.
Eddie takes the big revolver from the swag bag, sets the bag aside, and eases the storage-room door open. Tower is sitting in the office chair and his two “visitors” have their backs to Eddie. It’s our old friends Jack Andolini and George Biondi. The air smells of gasoline, and a glass-fronted bookcase is next to them. Jack has one of the books, holding it up and threatening to burn it. Tower begs them not to burn it; it’s very valuable.
Andolini demands a verbal commitment that Tower will sell the vacant lot to the Sombra Corp. at “high noon” on July 15. Otherwise, he’s going to keep burning valuable books.
Finally, they notice Eddie, and see a young man “holding what looked like the world’s oldest, biggest prop revolver.” Eddie feigns delight and greets “George” as if they’re long-lost pals. George is smiling, trying to figure out where the hell he knows this guy from, when Eddie beans him with the revolver’s butt. Several times. Before Andolini can react, Eddie turns on him.
What Constant Reader Learns: The chalkboard in the window this time says the day’s special is “New England Boiled Dinner consisting of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Robert Frost—for dessert, your choice of Mary McCarthy or Grace Metalious.”
Eddie often hears people talking to him in his mind, but he has a feeling this is “like old long, tall, and ugly actually talking to him inside his head.”
We’re told Calvin Tower also has a signed copy of Ulysses that’s worth $26k, but it’s in a safe-deposit box and not for sale. Andolini understands that Tower sells few of his special books because he can’t stand to part with them. There’s probably some deep and meaningful conclusion to be drawn about art that’s meant to be enjoyed as opposed to locked away by private collectors. Or not.
Ooh, I’m liking tough gunslinger Eddie.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter 2, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 7
Calvin Tower’s first thought about Eddie was that he was worse than Balazar’s guys. In the shadowy room, Eddie and his shadow seem to merge into one gigantic crazy dude. Eddie tosses Andolini around, knocks him down, drops down with a knee on the guy’s chest, and presses the revolver’s muzzle under his chin. Jack tells Eddie “that ain’t no real gun,” so Eddie lifts the gun, fires it with “a deafening crash, the sound of a mortar shell going off five feet from some hapless GI’s foxhole,” and promptly returns it to Andolini’s chin.
What Constant Reader Learns: Yep, Eddie be a badass gunslinger.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter 2, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 8
Andolini’s scared but not panicked, and Eddie knows he’s smarter than he looks. He’s fidgeting, though, because the gun barrel is now hot and burning him. He wants to know how Eddie knows them. “Suppose I told you that it’s your ka to meet me again, ten years from now?” Eddie thinks. “And to be eaten by lobstrosities? That they’ll start with the feet inside your Gucci loafers and work their way up?”
Eddie tells Jack that if he doesn’t listen, he’ll start shooting off body parts (“I can shoot off a good many parts of you and still leave you able to talk”). When Jack makes a wisecrack, Eddie bashes him in the face with the gun and cracks his cheekbone. He tells Jack that he needs a message taken to Balazar and Jack has to do it because George is too stupid (Jack tends to agree). The message is this: Tower is off-limits. And ol’ Calvin isn’t going to sell Sombra his vacant lot; he’s selling it to the Tet Corporation instead. Therefore, there’s no need for Balazar to bother him anymore. “Mr. Calvin Tower has come under the protection of people more powerful and more ruthless than you could ever imagine,” he tells Jack. “People who make Il Roche look like a hippie flower-child at Woodstock…The mark of Gilead is on this man.” He promises if any harm comes to Tower he’ll kill all their families first, and then each of them.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie figures that on this level of the Tower, Andolini might not be eaten by lobstrosities. “This was Level Nineteen of the Dark Tower.” So if this whole freaking story is different levels of a video game or RPG or fictional work within a fictional work…nah. I’d have to kill something. Eddie’s fury would pale beside mine.
The “Tet Corporation” is a good spur-of-the-moment name.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the remainder of this chapter of Wolves of the Calla.