“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.
Last week, we followed Roland into the swampy woods as he followed, in turn, Odetta/Detta/Susannah’s newest alter, the pregnant “Mia.” A gross time was had by all.
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 4, “Palaver,” Section 1
The next morning, Eddie and Jake (who’ve only been todash, not mucking through the swamp) are awake and up before Roland and Susannah. When Roland awakens, they’re already eating gunslinger burritos.
As soon as they see he’s awake, Eddie and Jake want to share their evening adventures, and Roland says, “I know. I saw. You went todash.” He wants Susannah awake before they palaver, though. So he tells Eddie to wake her so they have a chance to talk before the people following them interrupt. Roland’s apprehensive when Suze is awakened, and is relieved that it’s Susannah who opens her eyes and not Mia. He asks how she slept, and can tell she’s being honest when she says she slept like a rock.
Roland explains todash as best he can, saying the Manni had done it through fasting and meditation and some form of divining rod to find the right spot. When Eddie asks if todash is like the doors and the glass balls, Roland says he thinks they might all be variations of the same thing—only the glass balls make going todash easier.
Eddie says that when todash ended and they heard the chimes, he wasn’t sure they were going to get back, and Jake agrees. Roland decides not to share where Susannah went, at least not yet.
“There’s trouble, isn’t there?” Roland asks Eddie and Jake—and Roland can tell Eddie is frightened.
What Constant Reader Learns: Didn’t they eat the last gunslinger burrito toward the end of Wizard and Glass and a big point was made of them being hungry? Maybe these burritos are todashed from another when or where.
Eddie asks what the “toadish” thing is, so I guess it is pronounced “toe-dash” instead of “to-dash.” Does this mean there’s another wizard’s glass around and not just the after-effects of muffin-balls?
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 2
Eddie and Jake share their trip to 1977 New York, and Roland is very interested in the fact that the todash version of Charlie the Choo-Choo had a different author. Jake pulls the book out of his pack and the name below the picture on the cover is still Beryl Evans. Yet Todash Jake had bought the book by Claudia y Inez Bachman.
Roland wants to get to the core of their experience before the strangers show up, and he realizes the important thing is the paper Eddie saw—even Eddie realized it had to do with the Beam and the path to the Tower.
What Constant Reader Learns: Jake kind of wants Roland to hypnotize him so that he can remember how the sign in the window was different, but Roland says not now—time is short. “Back to that again,” Eddie thinks. “Yesterday it hardly existed, and now it’s short. But it’s all about time, somehow, isn’t it? Roland’s old days, our old days, and these new days.”
Eddie writes Claudia’s name out in the dirt as they talk about Tower/Toren being Dutch, which ties in to the Dutch owning Manhattan, which ties in to the mansion on Dutch Hill where Jake came through to Mid-World. And Jake realizes there are nineteen letters in the Bachman name.
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 3
Roland’s getting tired of all the nineteen business, so he pushes Eddie to remember what he can about the contract. It was a memorandum of agreement signed by Calvin Tower and Richard Patrick Sayre (nineteen letters). It basically said that Tower owned the vacant lot on July 15, 1976, and Sombra Corporation gave him a hundred grand in exchange for not selling the lot to anyone but Sombra for the next year. Susannah sums it up nicely: “I, Calvin Tower, agree to think about selling you my vacant lot. You pay me a hundred thousand dollars and I’ll think about it for a whole year. And when the year’s up, maybe I’ll sell it to you and maybe I’ll keep it…”
Jake recalls that the agreement also allowed Sombra to “advertise forthcoming projects” there, and he recalls from his visit to the vacant lot the sign about Turtle Bay Condominiums coming soon. But Jake, who’s growing into a savvier-than-ever young man, says the agreement is not about condos but about the rose—that Sombra can’t get at the rose until they own the ground it grows on. He speculates that somewhere in Manhattan, there’s a door marked SOMBRA CORP., and inside that door is another door that leads to where they are.
“For a minute they sat thinking about it—about worlds spinning on a single axle in dying harmony.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah, Eddie and Roland share a “first kill the lawyers” moment, since lawyers were apparently a much-maligned profession in Gilead as well.
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 4
Eddie shares his own theory: that Calvin Tower is a “custodian” for the rose, even if he doesn’t know it on a conscious level. He might even have inherited that role. Maybe, at some time, there were a lot of Dutch Torens (Towers) who owned lots of property, but now Calvin Tower is the last of his line, and all he has left is that one vacant lot: Lot 298 (which adds up to nineteen) on Block Nineteen in Turtle Bay. Part of Tower wants to sell the lot but another part of him—the voice of the Turtle, Susannah says—knows he has to hold onto it. And as Tower’s agreement with Sombra winds down, Roland adds, Sombra sends “your world’s version of the Big Coffin Hunters” in to scare him into selling.
They wonder what they should do about it until Susannah suggests they should offer to buy the vacant lot themselves.
What Constant Reader Learns: They all agree that Eddie’s “theory” about Calvin Tower is very likely more than theory—Roland thinks Eddie might have been able to use the “touch” as Alain used to.
Sounds like some more todashing is in order!
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 5
If our ka-tet is going to buy real estate, they need money. Fortunately, Susannah says, she’s loaded. She doesn’t know how much she might have but it’s substantial. Maybe from eight to ten million.
That’s probably enough money to get Calvin Tower to sell, they agree—if he’ll sell. Roland thinks he will. “I believe a deep part of Mr. Tower’s mind and spirit—the ka that made him hold onto the lot for so long in the first place—has been waiting for us….Waiting for the White.”
They need at least two “doors” to make it work. They need to go back to Susannah’s When in 1964 in order to get the money, and then they need to go back to 1977 New York to deal with Calvin Tower.
What Constant Reader Learns: An odd little exchange. They’re pondering the honesty of Pop Mose, the man handling the Holmes money, and Eddie says, “Big money can do weird things to people.” Susannah gives him a “cold and considering” look that Roland, who’s seen it before, thinks of as “a frog-squeezing look,” and asks, “How would you know?” Suze apologizes, but Eddie was kind of offended.
And then Suze says the money became hers at age twenty five, which she reached in 1959, making her thirty at the time Roland brought her to his world. She makes a comment about Eddie knowing her age now, and he replies, “Time is a face on the water.”
To this, “Roland felt gooseflesh run up his arm. Somewhere—perhaps in a glaring, blood-colored field of roses still far from here—a rustie had just walked over his grave.” And a rustie might be….
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 6
Jake points out that they’re going to have to get the money in cash because no one would honor a check in his When that had been written in Susannah’s When. Susannah asks how he’d know something like that, and Jake reflects that, like it or not, he was Elmer Chambers’ son, and Elmer knew how to “make the kill” and “play the angles.”
They all agree that when they go back to Calvin Tower it needs to be close to the time Jake was there, but must be earlier than July 15, when the memorandum expired.
Finally, Roland points out one little problem: “You make it sound very easy…To you three, the concept of doorways between this world and your world of tack-sees and astin and fottergrafs seems almost as mundane as riding a mule would to me…And there’s good reason for you to feel that way. Each of you has been through one of these doors.”
Yet doors between worlds aren’t common things. “I have wandered long,” Roland tells them. “I’ve quested after the Dark Tower for over a thousand years, sometimes skipping over whole generations…Never in all this time did I come across one of these doors between the worlds until I came to the ones on the beach at the edge of the Western Sea…You speak as though my world were as filled with magical doorways as yours is with airplanes or stagebuses. That’s not so.”
In other words, finding two doors going to specific places might not be a cakewalk.
A voice comes from behind them: “I might be able to help with that.”
The newcomer is described as wearing a priest’s robes, having long white hair that stuck up in the front and sides, with a T-shaped scar on his forehead. “I now call Calla Bryn Sturgis my home,” he says. “Before that, Detroit, Michigan…Before that—for a short while—Topeka, Kansas. Before that, New York City. And before that, a little town called Jerusalem’s Lot, in the state of Maine.”
What Constant Reader Learns: When Roland reminds Jake of what he said when he was dying back on the bridge—“there are other worlds than these”—Jake has a very human moment: You let me drop! You let me die! He might have forgiven Roland but he hasn’t forgotten.
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 7
Eddie is beyond excitement to have someone from “their side” to talk to. Donald Callahan says he was once a priest, and might one day be again, but isn’t now. “Now I’m just a man of God.” He says he came to this world in 1983, “counting as we did then,” and wants an update on the Red Sox.
Callahan surprises them when he turns to Roland, drops to one knee and greets him in the old way: “Hile, gunslinger, may we be well-met on the path.” And Roland invites him to join the palaver.
What Constant Reader Learns: Callahan came to Mid-World in 1983, but we don’t know how long ago that was. Then again, time is wonky, so it wouldn’t mean anything.
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 8
Eddie wants to ask a question. Is it something about how Callahan arrived there, or what he wants? No, he asks the man’s middle name—Frank. Which of course brings his name to nineteen letters. They all introduce themselves, and Callahan’s a bit dismayed at how long the group knew he and his friends were following.
Roland asks what the others recognize as loaded questions: “Do you come for aid and succor?...Do you know you come to the line of Eld?...You know what we are.” There’s clearly a ritual here that only Roland, and maybe Callahan himself, know.
Apparently, it’s not Roland’s place to offer help, but their place to ask. And once they’ve asked, Roland “deals in lead.” There’s no calling them back.
Callahan says there are only six of them following, and the whole of Calla must decide whether or not to ask for help. (Darn that democracy.) But if the six of them agree, the others will follow. The one of them called Overholser is the one that needs to be convinced.
Finally, after a lot of chitchat, Callahan explains that the borderlands are terrified of “creatures called the Wolves, who come out of Thunderclap once a generation and steal the children.” Some, like Tian Jafords, want to stand and fight this time. Overholser isn’t sure.
Next, Callahan says there’s another matter he needs to discuss: something he has, that they need—something that might have already reached out to them via todash.
What Constant Reader Learns: I’m sort of with Roland on this. Show us the significance of nineteen or move along.
At first Eddie mentally disagrees with Roland portraying the New Yorkers as gunslingers, but then he realizes they have become such—and it’s a real mixed bag. “That Roland should finish them so, complete them so, was horrible. He was filled with poison and had kissed them with his poisoned lips. He had made them gunslingers, and had Eddie really thought there was no work left for the line of Arthur Eld in this mostly empty and husked-out world? That they would simply be allowed to toddle along the Path of the Beam until they got to Roland’s Dark Tower and fixed whatever was wrong there?”
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 9
Callahan asks if none of them has gone todash yet, but Roland isn’t commenting. Clearly, Callahan didn’t expect Roland and Co. to be quite as “trig” as they are. Roland realizes: Callahan had known they were coming. He knew how many they were, and that they were walking instead of writing. And he knew some had gone todash.
He says he has an item of great power that, among its properties, induces the todash state. If Roland and Co. will help the Calla, he says, he will give them the object. Roland’s getting short-tempered. If the Calla is “of the white” and asks for his help, he is bound to help them without bribes or payment, which is not allowed. “As for what you have, you’d be rid of it, would you not? It terrifies you, does it not? Even if we decide to ride on past your town, you’d beg us to take it with us, would you not?”
Callahan admits it’s true, and Jake figures it out. “Which one is it?” he asks.
Callahan begins to cry. “I’ve never dared handle it, but I’ve seen it. Felt its power. Christ the Man Jesus help me, I have Black Thirteen under the floorboards of my church. And it’s come alive. Do you understand me? It’s come alive.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Callahan has a wizard’s glass! Hoo-boy. Lots of todashing in the future.
Wolves of the Calla, Part I, Todash; Chapter 3, “Palaver,” Section 10
Callahan heads back to get his people, and the ka-tet gathers to talk. Roland wants to know if the others think Callahan is honest, and they all say yes. Roland says as dangerous as it would be for them to have Black Thirteen, it would be worse if the Wolves of Thunderclap get it.
Roland also quizzes Jake on his reaction to the name “Oberholser.” When Jake went into the Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind the first time, Calvin Tower had said Jake Chambers sounded like the name of a hero in a Western novel, like one of those written by Wayne D. Olverholser.”
Susannah’s complaining of “gas” when she notices that Jake is staring at his copy of Charlie the Choo-Choo. Now the book isn’t by Beryl Evans or Claudia Inez Bachman; there is no author’s name given. Nor is there one on the title page—only a copyright for 1936 (which ads up to nineteen).
What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting. Eddie points out: Calla….Callahan. Suze thinks it’s coincidence since “calla” means street or square in Spanish, and Spanish—or a version of it—was spoken in Mejis. They think it’s sort of like the nineteen thing, to which Roland and I reply: “Piss on nineteen.”
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with the next chapter of Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla.