“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 and Roland returning from the door in the cave after Eddie’s trip to New York, both aware that Jake is among traitors.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 1
While Roland and Eddie were dealing with New York and the vacant lot and Black Thirteen, Jake and Benny Slightman are working on the ranch and playing in the river. Jake keeps his friend on a busy pace because he wants him to sleep well that evening—he just hopes he doesn’t do the same. Before they go to sleep, Jake instructs Oy to wake him up when the moon rises. Then, he wants to go back to where he saw Benny the Elder and Andy in their nighttime meeting. “Because it was what Roland would do. For that reason if no other.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake’s thinking like a gunslinger, but his relationship with Oy is great: “He had great faith in Oy. Or maybe it was love. Or maybe those things were the same.” It’s a simple trust he doesn’t have with anyone else.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 2
The boys have been taking turns with one sleeping on Benny’s bed and one sleeping on the floor, and Jake is glad it’s his night for the floor. Before they go to sleep, Benny tells him how great it’s been having him there and not being the only kid. Jake knows all too well how that feels.
Benny asks if he’ll stay after they “beat the Wolves,” but Jake says no, they have business—although Roland doesn’t say much. Benny admits that Roland scares him—and then, “He scares my Pa.” This gets Jake’s attention, and he asks why. “He says it wouldn’t surprise him if, after you got rid of the Wolves, you turned on us. Then he said he was just joking, but that the old cowboy with the hard face scared him.”
Finally, Benny drifts off to sleep.
What Constant Reader Learns: Benny is curious about what Jake’s room looks like where he comes from, and Jake initially finds it hard to picture. Then he’s embarrassed to describe it because he had so much Benny couldn’t imagine—like all his records, his headphones, his posters of Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five…and the world moves on. So he downplays it, saying he only had a desk—and Benny’s very impressed, wanting to know if he also had paper and pens.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 3
Some sleep time passes, and Oy wakes up Jake as ordered.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake doesn’t want to wake up, so Oy finally announces, “Moon.” M-o-o-n, that spells wake up, Jake. Oh, wait, wrong book.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 4
Jake saddles up one of the smaller ponies so he can take Oy with him, and also stashes his Ruger inside his bedroll. He’s very worried as he rides away, because if what he suspects of Benny’s father is true, then his friend is going to be hurt.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake has a fleeting thought about the kids in his school and how they’d sometimes cinch outer shirts around their waists on warm days and has a bit of a revelation. “Like those of his room, this memory seemed far away, part of a circus parade that had marched through town…and then left. That life was richer, a voice deep in his mind whispered. This one is truer, whispered another, even deeper.”
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 5
To make sure he went to the right spot, Jake starts from where he and Benny had been camping the night he saw Ben and Andy’s clandestine meeting. Then they cross the river, which is low and easy for the pony to get through. Things aren’t quite the same on the other side: “It looked the same on this side, but wasn’t. Jake knew it right away. Moonlight or no moonlight, it was darker somehow. Not exactly the way todash-New Ork had been dark, and there were no chimes, but there was a similarity, just the same. A sense of something waiting, and eyes that could turn in his direction if he was foolish enough to alert their owners to his presence. He had come to the edge of End-World.”
Oy is not happy with their new environs, either. But Jake pulls out a neckerchief belonging to the elder Slightman; he’d stolen it from beneath the bunkhouse table. He holds it out for Oy to sniff, and finally, the bumbler finds a spot of interest—perhaps where Slightman had come ashore. And they begin to follow the trail.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake is glad he has the Ruger with him, although he doesn’t always like the person he becomes when he has it. But on the far side of the river, he wants to feel like a gunslinger. Interesting that it’s Roland’s voice he always hears in his head now.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 6
Before long, Jake begins to see “signs of technology: a cast-off, rusty electrical coil, something that looked like an ancient circuit-board poking out of the sank, tiny shards and shatters of glass.” He finds a bottle with the name written on the side: Nozz-A-La.
Jake finds a set of footprints: bootprints probably belonging to Slightman and deeper footprints that are probably Andy’s. Finally, he comes to the top of a hill and, below, can see a concrete driveway that’s in ruin, with a sliding gate frozen half-open. Beyond it is a building with a metal roof that Jake likens to a military building. From inside the windows, he sees what are unmistakably fluorescent lights.
Jake smells a strong scent of gin, and realizes the barrel cacti they have passed are moving toward him, with menace. “The thing had smelled him, and it was hungry,” Jake thinks. So they move it along a little faster.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake is glad to see the lights, although I’m sure I wouldn’t be. Where there are lights, there could be people. And on this side of the river, I’d think people would be a bad thing. But we shall see.
Aw, I wanted more of the killer cacti. Kind of a desert version of lobstrosities. But we’re moving on.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 7
Jake reaches the broken-up driveway, and thinks he feels the tug of the beam, maybe coming from the nearby railroad tracks. “He had a feeling that when they left Calla Bryn Sturgis—if they left Calla Bryn Sturgis—it would be along those tracks.”
He studies the building for a while, realizing the broken pavement would be dangerous for his pony. So he looks around for a place to tether it that is not in sight of the building or the main path they’d been following. Then he picks Oy up to carry him in.
Suddenly, outside lights flash on and they’re illuminated. Jake quickly realizes they’re probably set off with motion-sensors, and worries there are other things—like machine guns—that might be automated. But nothing else happens. Outside, he sees rock-cat corpses that look to have been killed with a bah.
Near the door of the hut is a sign: “North Central Positronics Ltd., Northeast Corridor, Arc Quadrant…Outpost 16…Medium Security; Verbal Entry Code Required.” And on the door itself: “Welcome to the Dogan.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Oy has apparently been eating well at the ranch—after carrying him a while, Jake threatens to send him to Weight Watchers.
Too bad Jake doesn’t know about the Dogan/Hogan book Eddie saw in New York by Benny Slightman Jr. If a “Hogan” was a dwelling for Native Americans in the world of the book, I guess this building is the “Dogan” here.
This whole Quonset hut thing has a very “Lost” vibe to it (or vice versa, actually).
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 8
Jake isn’t surprised to find the door locked. As he’s reaching for the button to try the verbal entry code, the lights go off. Again, he isn’t too freaked out, and figures they were automatically timed to go off after ten minutes or so.
When he pushes the button, a voice that sounds alarmingly like Blaine the Mono asks for the verbal entry code within ten seconds. “Nineteen,” Jake says. When told that is incorrect, he says, “Ninety-nine.” And the door opens.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake isn’t sure the timer for the lights is set that short, or if they aren’t getting tired, “like everything else the Old People left behind.” You know, it does make one thing about all the cast-off crap we leave behind us in our lives, and what might eventually become of it when the world moves on….oh, sorry, was having an Al Gore moment.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 9
They walk into a room that reminds Jake (again, disturbingly) of the control area beneath the cit of Lud. This room is smaller, but the machines look the same. There are empty chairs at the consoles. There is an air-circulation system, although it’s sounding kind of rusty. In one corner is a skeleton in the remains of a khaki uniform.
On one side of the room is a bank of thirty TV monitors. Three are too fuzzy to be seen. Two are having vertical-hold issues. Four are dark. The others are projecting pictures. Desert, the outpost from behind and the driveway side, the interior parts of the Dogan—a kitchen and bunkroom—as well as the room they’re in. Jake can see himself and Oy.
The eight remaining screens contain quite a surprise: Took’s General Store, the Pavilion, the Calla high street, the church, what Jake assumes is the Manni village—and the interior of the rectory, in the living room. Jake is aghast, especially at the cameras in the rectory, and is glad they’ve had most of their conversations outside on the porch or lawn. “But still,” he wonders, “how much must the Wolves—or their masters—know?”
Movement on the screen gets his attention, and he sees Ben Slightman and Andy coming over the hilltop. They, too, are approached by the malevolent cacti, but Andy wallops one of them and it seems to dampen their desire to do harm.
Jake has a moment of panic, but Roland’s voice inside his head calms him. He looks around for a place to hide.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake sees one of the big issues right away. The church and the rectory hadn’t even existed in the Calla until a few years ago. But obviously Benny or Andy are planting cameras inside the buildings. One question that occurs to me: does that fool of a Took know his store is bugged? And another: exactly who is monitoring these monitors? If some have only been hooked up a few years, then someone is, indeed, watching.
Jake also ponders the Ka-Tet of Nineteen, or of the Ninety and Nine—he suspects they are the same. The “coincidences” of the nineteen are “tightening up even as the world around them grew old, grew loose, shut down, shed pieces of itself.”
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 10
Jake goes into the bunkroom, where there’s a skeleton on one bunk and, on another, a jawbone.
Jake resolves that, if they find him, he will kill both of them. He thinks Andy’s weak point might be his bulging glass eyes. “There’ll be water if God wills it, said the gunslinger who now always lived in his head, for good and ill.”
He finds a closet, but it’s stuffed full of electronic junk. As he looks for another spot, he hears the voice asking for the password. He spots another door, and this closet is empty. Jake and Oy hide inside.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake is scared, but has a Rolandish zen about him as he calculates how much time he has before they arrive and what he’ll do if they find his pony and how he’ll have to kill both Ben and Andy if he’s discovered.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 11
Jake can hear Ben and Andy very clearly—apparently, there are mikes and speakers throughout the building. Ben is grousing about the cacti, the “boom-flurry,” and wondering why they’re stirred up. He thinks someone has been by there recently, but Andy condescendingly blows him off and tells him he has a guilty conscience.
When Ben tells Andy to shut up, Jake hears him scream for Andy to let go of him. “I only pressed a small nerve in your elbow, you know,” Andy says, letting Ben know he could do a lot worse if he wanted.
Ben talks about why he’s having to do this, to save his son, not for the glasses or the music box he has in his saddle bag.
Andy says he’ll take the abusive talk from the rest of the people, but not from Ben. “You hope to have a future in the Calla after the Wolves are done with it, don’t you?” he asks, and Ben says he does, and he deserves it. “That can happen,” Andy says, “but it depends on more than the death of the outworlders. It depends on my silence. If you want it, I demand respect.”
There’s a bit of keyboard clacking, followed by a warbling whistle and another verbal password command from “Algul Siento, Finli O’Tego,” to which Ben answers, “Saturday.” And Jake realizes he’s never heard that word in this world before. It appears to be Ben’s code name. Ben gives his report: seeing Roland and Eddie going to the Cave of the Voices, where there was a door now. That they’d left their horses below and walked up carrying a heavy pink sack. He guesses that it might have held a couple of the Pere’s valuable books and, if so, maybe a Wolf should be sent to destroy them after the main mission—as an example.
“Callahan will very soon be beyond examples,” the voice says.
So Ben says his other guess is that the bag contained maps, maybe of the eastern region leading into Thunderclap. Behind Ben, Andy is flashing his eyes and making fun of him—which Jake can tell using the touch.
Suddenly, Jake realizes that Andy is a MESSENGER robot, which would indeed indicate that it relayed messages.
Ben is making guesses as to Roland’s plans. He’s telling people he plans to put the children in the Gloria Mine, but instead Ben thinks he’ll put them in the Redbird and have the Sisters of Oriza standing guard, including the “brownie,” Susannah, who is very good with the plate. Ben says Roland is dangerous but “grown old in his thinking,” so he’s not forming very good strategy. Ben thinks Roland will tell Eisenhart where the gunslingers (minus Susannah) will be, if he doesn’t tell at the town meeting.
His reporting done, Ben’s ready to leave, but Andy says he has his own report to make, which appears to be done electronically.
Their reports finished, Ben asks Andy if anything in the control room seems different, which gives Jake a scare, but Ben finally says he’s just jumpy and wishes it were all done. “You’re doing the right thing, sai,” Andy says. “Tisn’t your fault that you’re father to the only mateless twin in Calla Bryn Sturgis, is it?”
What Constant Reader Learns: Uh huh, NOW we see the true color of Andy’s cold metallic heart. And the more he talks, the more Jake thinks he sounds like Blaine.
Jake doesn’t recognize the sound of a modem connecting, of course, so helpful old Stephen King pops in to remind us that modems hadn’t been invented in Jake’s When of 1977.
Okay, my favorite Andy line so far, and one I must remember: “If I’ve offended, I apologize from the bottom of my admittedly hypothetical heart.” *makes note to use on boss*
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 12
Finally, Ben and Andy leave, and Jake watches their progress on the monitors and finally decides it’s safe to leave. First, he wonders if there’s a record of his and Oy’s visit to the Dogan stored somewhere. But the gunslinger in his head tells him to let it go.
He gets his pony and skedaddles.
What Constant Reader Learns: Strange, this, as Ben and Andy leave: “There was an odd, meaningless jingle of melody from the overhead speakers” (meaningless to Jake, at least). Which means it’s meaningful to the others?
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 2,” Section 13
Back at the ranch, Jake is troubled. He likes Benny and, until tonight, also liked Ben Sr. He realizes this isn’t just going to make his friend angry, or hurt him—it’s going to destroy his world. He thinks back to when Roland promised to take care of him but then let him drop. “Jake had thought there could be no worse betrayal than that. Now he wasn’t so sure. No, not so sure at all.”
And he wonders what it is that the Calla’s twins have that the Wolves need. Jake figures it’s an enzyme in their brains, maybe that thing that creates “twin telepathy.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Poor Jake. He’s going to come up against some hard, hard choices.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla.