“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 trying to get some shut-eye after a Todash adventure in New York City…except Susannah, who’d sneaked off to munch on some live frogs.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter I, “The Pavilion,” Section 1
Eddie, who’s never so much as touched a horse, is surprised at how easily he takes to riding. He’d been afraid not of the horse but of making a fool of himself as the first gunslinger to ever not be able to ride.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland, Eddie and Jake have a brief conversation prior to the saddling-up about the previous night’s Todash. Both Eddie and Jake say it didn’t feel like “Nineteen,” but felt “real as roses.” Which makes sense since they were acting independently rather than watching a past scene unfold.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter I, “The Pavilion,” Section 2
Still obsessing over the horse, Eddie is relieved to see they aren’t big manly steeds but are “stubby, sturdy-legged creatures,” bigger than Shetland ponies but not by a lot. Eddie knew which horse to go to (the roan), and the only question he had to ask of Ben the Younger was how to adjust the stirrups.
Jake asks for a poncho, and uses its pouch as a riding place for Oy, who also seems to accept riding on horseback a natural thing.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie likens his innate knowledge of horse-riding to the way he’d felt when he first strapped on one of Roland’s guns. Ka.
Eddie has a feeling, one he can’t quite shake, of having been reincarnated, and he wonders if he could actually be from the line of Arthur Eld himself, even though he can’t quite figure out how that could have happened. Yet he can’t quite shake the feeling. Hm…I wonder if he might be right, somehow. Except different worlds....
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter I, “The Pavilion,” Section 3
They ate lunch in the saddle (popkins and cold coffee), and while they were stopped, Jake rides up alongside Roland and hesitantly tells him that Benny the Younger asked him to stay with his family at the Rocking B ranch. Roland asks if he wants to, and feels sad when Jake is embarrassed to admit that he does. “Here was a boy who was ashamed of being a boy,” he thinks. “He had made a friend and the friend had invited him to stay over, as friends sometimes do…But a large part of Jake Chambers was now ashamed to want to do such things.” Roland is careful in how he words his response, because he doesn’t want Jake to be ashamed or to think it’s any big deal. So he tells him to go, and he can provide another set of eyes in a different place.
The rest of them, Roland says, will stay with Callahan one night, then look around the town.
What Constant Reader Learns: That’s just heart-breaking. This was a nice touch, though, to remind us that as much as he seems like one of the gang, Jake is also still a little boy. And it’s great to see Roland being so sensitive to that.
And some nice foreshadowing: “The boy. The gunslinger realized how much he wanted to be able to go on calling Jake that, and how short the time to do so was apt to be. He had a bad felling about Calla Bryn Sturgis.” Me too, Roland.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter I, “The Pavilion,” Section 4
After riding in the woods for so long, the ka-tet is rendered speechless by the sight that greets them when they finally ride to the end of the forest. It’s not the town itself, but what lies beyond it. Beyond the village is a wide river known as Devar-Tete Whye. There are stands of palm trees, “improbably tropical,” cultivated fields, then the desert, and then…blackness that “rose into the sky like a vapory wall, seeming to cut into the low-hanging clouds.” Thunderclap.
What Constant Reader Learns: Ha. Eddie brings in a bit of trivia about Elvis Presley’s dead twin. I’ll send a copy of my first book to the first one who pops in with a comment on Elvis’s twin’s full name. You know you want one—LOL.
The village, forest, desert, rice fields, palm trees, and Thunderclap...talk about biodiversity.
Another fun exchange between Eddie and Andy. Eddie’s muttering to himself about Elvis, and admits he was talking to himself. “Those who hold conversation with themselves keep sorry company,” Andy tells him. “And, as I’ve said before and will undoubtedly say again, you can’t get snot off a suede jacket,” Eddie replies. An old saying from “Calla Bryn Brooklyn.”
Then Andy tries to tell Susannah’s horoscope. She’ll meet a handsome man. She will have two ideas—one bad and one good. You will have a dark-haired…” and Overholser interrupts, which is too bad, because I think that would have been an interesting sentence, baby.
Roland’s studying the crops—he spots rice and potatoes—and says “Come-come-commala,” which the Sturgians..Sturgisians...whatever…are excited to hear. They want to know where Roland learned “The Rice Song.” There’s also a discussion about cattle and sheep farms.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter I, “The Pavilion,” Section 5
We’re told that everything that’s about to happen this evening was forever memorable to Eddie because so many things came as a surprise. Like when Oy salutes the crowd and Roland dances.
What Constant Reader Learns: Well, THAT is certainly a teaser!
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter I, “The Pavilion,” Section 6
The group rides into town like the gang of outlaws riding into an old Western outpost, the streets cleared and the silent people lining the streets near the end of town. Eddie can’t help but think of the tale of Susan, with a noose around her neck, standing in the back of a cart and being taken to her death. The town feels bad to Eddie—not evil, just bad. Callahan explains that the people don’t know what to expect. Eddie thinks there are seven or eight hundred people there.
They ride up to a pavilion, and Roland does his throat-tapping greeting. People seem pleased, but still they’re quiet. Overholser and Callahan take the stage, followed by Roland and the others. Eddie is nervous when he turns around and sees the sea of upturned faces. Wayne Overholser makes a typically pompous speech. He says Callahan vouched that the ka-tet were gunslingers, but he can’t quite bring himself to say so himself. He does finally say they do seem to be “of the Eld line,” which does get a positive response from the crowd. He moves aside so the others can speak one by one.
Roland steps forward and does his Mid-World Bow, introducing himself as “Roland of Gilead, son of Steven, the Line of Eld.” When Eddie introduces himself he also says “The Line of Eld” but adds “The ka-tet of Nineteen,” and Susannah does the same. Jake, however, after Roland whispers something to him, says he’s of the “ka-tet of the Ninety and Nine.”
Then Jake puts Oy down on the stage, and the bumbler stands on his rear legs, does an impressive impression of the Mid-World Bow, and says, “Oy! Eld! Thankee!” And, of course, Oy brings down the house.
The next surprise came from Roland, who announced that he wasn’t a very good speaker, so he was going to turn everything over to Eddie. Eddie is totally freaked, not to mention furious. After a fumbling start, he gives a pretty darn good speech. He warns them this business will be bloody and dangerous. He says they’re going to look around and if the best answer seems to be to do nothing, that’s what they’ll do. And if they think they can help, they will—although they won’t do it alone. “Hear me very well,” he says. “You better be ready to stand up for what you want. You better be ready to fight for the things you’d keep.” There’s a thunderous silence at first, but then people begin to applaud…eventually, with Callahan’s urging.
Eddie’s still annoyed at Roland, and thinks “now you know what you are—Roland of Gilead’s mouthpiece.” Yet, he realizes, that’s not such a bad thing, and that Cuthbert had the job long before him.
And the crowd readies itself for the celebration to begin, but Eddie can’t shake the bad feeling.
What Constant Reader Learns: There’s a livery stable in Calla Bryn Sturgis called the Travelers’ Rest. Which is not only interesting because of the place of the same name in Hambry but because the Travellers’ Rest in Hambry was spelled with the British spelling and the one in Sturgis is American spelling. Because grammar geeks like myself notice these things. No one seems to react to the name Travelers’ Rest, so I guess it’s a common name in this world?
I don’t get the “Ninety and Nine.” Did I miss something? Is it like the 47 percent?
I really want a bumbler of my very own.
The town’s reticence doesn’t bode well.
Love this observation of Eddie’s: “It occurred to him, just in passing, that not so long ago the armed gunslinger standing in front of these seven hundred frightened, hopeful people had been sitting in front of the TV in nothing but a pair of yellowing underpants, eating Chee-tos, done up on heroin, and watching Yogi Bear.” What a long, strange trip it’s been, eh, Eddie?
Eddie notices a guy in the back that looks like Ben Cartwright from Bonanza, just to keep our 1960s/70s theme going.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter I, “The Pavilion,” Section 7
There’s quite a feast, with two hundred dishes from which to choose. There were toasts, and the torches along the edge of the pavilion change color as the night progresses. They start out yellow, then turn crimson. Eddie’s not too impressed. Except for the old people, everyone eats standing up and milling around, and Susannah, with her privileged upbringing, is more comfortable mingling with strangers than Eddie.
Jake continues to bond with Benny the Younger. Roland is doing his duty as a diplomat. Eddie feels like a duck out of water, especially as the Sturgisians keep asking him questions about what their strategy might be and how many men they might need to help. He trots out cliché after cliché, but the people seem satisfied. The crowd gets louder as the drinking goes on.
Finally, Eddie gets cornered by George Telford (aka Ben Cartwright), who annoys him by questioning how four gunslingers can take on sixty wolves. He even asks Eddie if he’s ever even fired the gun he carries. Eddie looks around but he can’t escape: “Susannah gets the farmer’s wife, Roland gets the Lord of the fuckin Rings, Jake gets to make a friend, and what do I get? A guy who looks like Pa Cartwright and cross-examines like Perry Mason.” (Yay—another Sixties TV reference!)
Eddie realizes that Telford thinks the ka-tet is auditioning for a job and that he and his compadres have a say in the matter. “This man would never come over to their side,” he thinks. “Not until and unless every Wolf out of Thunderclap lay dead for the town’s inspection in this very Pavilion. And if that happened, he would claim to have been with them from the first.”
What Constant Reader Learns: There are children at the party, but none of the roont ones. Later, Eddie learns that they had a separate ice cream party just for the roont ones behind Callahan’s church. Which gives a good showing of the town’s character in a way. They separate them, but they don’t lock them up or mistreat them. Then again, many aren’t willing to fight to prevent more from being roont.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll complete this (very long) chapter of Wolves of the Calla.