Mon
Feb 4 2013 12:00pm

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles Wolves of the Calla, Telling Tales, Chapters 3 and 4: “The Priest’s Tale” and “The Priest’s Tale Continued,” Sections 1-4

A Read of the Dark Tower on Tor.com: Constant Reader Tackles Wolves of the Calla, Part 2, Ch. 3, The Priest’s Tale & Ch. 4, The Priest’s Tale Continued, Sections 1-4

“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 (minus Jake and Oy) listening to Callahan giving a play-by-play of his encounters with vampires, up to the point where his friend Lupe was bitten, driving him to kill.

 

Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 3, “The Priest’s Tale (New York),” Section 10

One night in April, Callahan is on kitchen duty at Home and takes a pot out back to empty. He sees two men at the other end of the alley. One is Lupe, who seems to be in a trance, and the other is a Type Three vampire, a well-dressed businessman. They’re ablaze with that dark blue light he always sees vampires surrounded by. Without thinking, Callahan steps back into the kitchen, grabs a meat cleaver, and buries it in the vampire’s head. The vampire walks away…until he collapses. Lupe remains in some kind of trance, but the vampire disintegrates, leaving his clothes behind, along with hair and teeth.

Callahan adds the vampire’s clothes to the shelter’s supplies. He gathers the hair, teeth, briefcase, watch, and wallet and throws them over the fence behind the shelter. He’s pondering the expensive Bally shoes when Lupe comes around, remembering nothing. Callahan hears the chimes and things grow fuzzy, but then they go away. He knows the vampires tend to feed from the same folks repeatedly so he tries to get Lupe to leave town with him and go fishing. But Lupe says he has to work.

Callahan knows something now, though, which might help Lupe—that the Threes are easy to kill. He decides to become a vampire killer. “It will be one small act of atonement for Jerusalem’s Lot.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is playing from a radio somewhere nearby. Nice, ironic soundtrack to this scene.

Callahan doesn’t realize it at the time, in his shock, but the vamp doesn’t spill much blood. When he thinks about it later, he realizes they’re propelled more by magic than by the blood they drink.

 

Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 3, “The Priest’s Tale (New York),” Section 11

Roland picks up on it before anyone else, that Lupe isn’t out of the woods, even with Callahan the Vampire Hunter on watch. He ends up with what later becomes known as AIDS, and it progresses quickly. Within six weeks he is in the hospital, dying.

Callahan doesn’t drink that night after Lupe dies, not for a while, but he knows he will eventually. It is just a matter of when. He is congratulating himself for a sober night when the chimes return, louder than ever, and he realized as he looks at the world shimmering around him that nothing is real. “New York is nothing but a backdrop painted on that canvas, and what’s behind it? Why, nothing. Just blackness.”

Finally, the world stops shimmering and the chimes go away. Callahan proceeds through town until he sees something else, as horrible as a vampire: a dead person. Actually, Susannah guesses it before he tells them. Roland explains about the vagrant dead.

Callahan responds to seeing dead people by going into a bar and ordering a whiskey, double. He then proceeds to get very drunk before heading to the park and sleeping it off.

Callahan awakens still able to see the vagrant dead and Type Threes, but he’s been robbed overnight and the need for money outweighs the need to deal with weirdness. He finds the Manpower office and starts a pattern of working three days as a day-laborer, drinking three days, and taking Sundays off. He hears Elton John a lot. And he kills vampires.

Eventually, Callahan realizes even as he hunts vampires, someone—or something—has started hunting him. First, he finds some graffiti on a bench: “He comes here. He has a burned hand.” Callahan starts moving around to different areas, varying the places he finds vampires to kill. But he sees other signs: “His hair is mostly white now” and “His name might be Collingwood.” He begins seeing lost-pet posters around the places he frequents.

The ones putting up the posters, Callahan says, were the “low men” or “regulators.” Some wear long yellow coats and have blue coffins tattooed on their hands. What they really are, however, are soldiers of the Crimson King.

What Constant Reader Learns: Lupe’s is a sad story—in the end, he wanted his friends to know he’d stayed clean and hadn’t gone back to drugs.

Ah, the Crimson King…interesting….

 

Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 3, “The Priest’s Tale (New York),” Section 12

At the mention of the Crimson King, Eddie is startled, Susannah rubs her belly, and Roland remembers finding the signs they’d seen in the park after escaping Blaine: Watch for the Walkin’ Dude and All Hail the Crimson King.

At first, Callahan thinks he’s attracted another Type One vampire, like Barlow. And he realizes whoever’s after him will eventually find Home and the people who know him there—so thus find him.

Then he tells the ka-tet about a footbridge over the Hudson River alongside the George Washington Bridge going to New Jersey—a plank footbridge that still has wooden drinking troughs for cows and horses on the side. Eddie laughs and says no way, but Callahan insists. It has a sign that says “Bicentennial Repairs Completed 1975 by LaMerk Industries”—the same company that made Andy. (Eddie points out that in Lud it was the LaMerk Foundry.)

Callahan decides he needs to see Rowan Magruder, his other friend at the Home, just to say goodbye. And then he needs to get out of Dodge.

Before Callahan can continue telling his story, Rosalita comes up with a message from Eisenhart, saying he, the Slightmans and Jake will meet them at the church at noon. When Roland says he’d like his map first, Callahan sends Rosalita off to see about it.

Before he finishes his story, Callahan says he needs to show them Black Thirteen. On the way to the church, Roland asks if he’d ever seen the ones who sought him, and Callahan says yes, and they had red eyes. Then Roland asks if they are the Wolves—if the Wolves are the soldiers of the Crimson King. Callahan says he can’t be sure, but he doesn’t think so.

What Constant Reader Learns: Callahan tells them if they end up going to Thunderclap they’ll see a lot more signs of the Crimson King.

The bridge is what Eddie dubs a “todash turnpike”—or a door. Which has interesting possibilities. And reminds me of the long bridge going into Lud.

I’m with Roland: “Roland said nothing, only made that impatient twirling gesture with the remaining two fingers of his right hand: hurry up, hurry up.” It’s as if Stephen King knows this section is dragging on and on and on and on...and it’s his book, so deal with it.

 

Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 3, “The Priest’s Tale Continued (Highways in Hiding),” Section 1

There was a bit of a time slip on the five-minute walk back to the church, during which time Callahan told them a lot more of his story—more than he should have been able to share in five minutes. Roland interprets this as khef, and believes Callahan has become ka-tet. When they leave Calla Bryn Sturgis—if they are able to leave—the priest will go with them.

Back in his story, Callahan decides to leave NYC and walks across the secret wooden foot bridge over the Hudson…and knows he’s “not in Kansas anymore.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Well, it never occurred to me that Callahan might be joining us on any long-term basis. Of course, that’s assuming he survives whatever’s to come.

 

Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 3, “The Priest’s Tale Continued (Highways in Hiding),” Section 2

There’s a newspaper crumpled on the bridge, and Callahan picks it up. It’s the front page of the “Leabrook Register,” a place Callahan had never heard of. He’d thought the town on the other side of the George Washington Bridge was Fort Lee, New Jersey. Other headlines catch his eye: Racial Tensions in Miami, then War of Kites Continues in Teaneck, and, finally, President Agnew Supports NASA Terraform Dream.

The business about President Agnew makes Callahan realize something’s not right. When he looks at the traffic, there seems to be a strange vehicle traveling on a crimson cylinder—a vehicle like he’s never seen before. Yet he’s buoyed by the idea of all the Americas waiting in front of him—not just one America but a dozen, or a thousand, or a million. “And he understands instinctively that this is almost certainly true. He has stumbled upon a great, possibly endless, confluence of worlds. They are all America, but they are all different.”

He walks into Leabrook and finds himself a job as a short-order cook, staying there for three weeks and living at the Sunset Motel. Only the name of the diner changes sometimes, and the name of the hotel. It turns back into Fort Lee at some point, and Gerald Ford is president again. Then it changes back. The faces on the paper money changes. But he can tell which version of New Jersey he’s in when he wakes by the décor of his hotel room.

After a while, Callahan gets restless and decides to move on.

What Constant Reader Learns: I like the observation of Callahan about the endless versions of America piled in “vertical geographies of chance.”

Callahan pauses as he reaches the end of the bridge, wondering if he can find his way back. And realizes he doesn’t really care. He feels lighthearted. “There are no chimes. Later there will be chimes and vampires; later there will be more messages chalked on sidewalks and sprayed on brick walls..but not today.”

 

Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 3, “The Priest’s Tale Continued (Highways in Hiding),” Section 3

Callahan stayed on the road for five years and he doesn’t tell them more, but they heard more—and there is much that Jake knows, even though he hasn’t arrived there yet—he is “strongest in the touch.”

What Constant Reader Learns: Yep, sounds like khef to me.

 

Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 3, “The Priest’s Tale Continued (Highways in Hiding),” Section 4

Callahan stays on the road for five years, traveling the country through different versions of America, and eventually begins killing Type Three vampires again. He travels with a carnival for a while, playing Menso the ESP Wonder—and it’s as Menso that he finally sees the Regulators: “not vampires and not bewildered dead people but tall men with pale, watchful faces that are usually hidden under old-fashioned hats with brims or new-fashioned baseball hats with extra-long bills.” These men have red eyes.

Callahan doesn’t know if they can see him and spot him as marked, so he decides to ditch the carnival in Mississippi, and there he sees another lost pet poster tacked to a telephone pole. This one seems to be aimed at another target besides him, however.

That afternoon, he hears the chimes again and though he doesn’t see them yet, he knows the low men are coming. He runs off the road and hides out in a field of kudzu, watching as a white-over-red Cadillac drives down the highway. He can see three men inside in yellow dusters. He thinks at first they’ve spotted him, but the Caddy rolls on. Callahan wonders how they missed him, but only for a moment—he knows he’d been able to slip into a different version of America as they passed.

What Constant Reader Learns: And so the tale goes on. And on. And on.


That’s it for this week! Tune in next Monday for the rest of “The Priest’s Tale Continues (Highways in Hiding).”

17 comments
Jenny Thrash
1. Sihaya
You've got the full length article visible on the front page, and all the HTML tags are visible. Somebody's got a case of the Mondays. :)
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
That was an adventure in reading!

And yes it seems our pal Callahan has run afoul of the Low Men that antagonized Bobby's friend Ted, in Hearts in Atlantis.
Suzanne Johnson
3. SuzanneJohnson
It's all fixed now--that was an adventure in reading!

Ah...thanks for the "Hearts in Atlantis" reminder...Not one of my favorite SK books so I haven't read it in ages.
Thomas Thatcher
4. StrongDreams
@SJ,
If you have some free time, re-reading "Low men in yellow coats" from Hearts in Atlantis, and "Everything's eventual" from the book of the same name, would not be a waste of time. :) There's a bonus cookie in "Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling", too.

There's something not quite realistic about the way the low men close in on Callahan. If you were a private investigator looking for a serial killer, would one of your intermediate steps really be, "I don't know his name, but it sounds like Collins or Collingswood, and he has a scar on his foreheand and a burned hand"? That's a decent amount of specific info to have without having an actual name. But maybe the low men don't use ordinary human methods of searching. It's good drama though. If I was a vampire killer and I went to my favorite park bench and saw "He comes here" written on it, I'd be totally freaked out.
Kristoff Bergenholm
5. Magentawolf
Don't we see the Low Men in Insomnia, too? I seem to remember them and the Crimson King being mentioned.
Thomas Thatcher
6. StrongDreams
The Crimson King is in Insomnia but I don't remember the low men. I remember 3 little bald doctors, two of whom were on the side of order/light and one was on the side of the CK/chaos.
Chris Nelly
7. Aeryl
The characters in Insomnia are not Low Men, but are something else. They are a play on the Three Sisters of Fate, one who spins the thread, one who measures the thread, and one who cuts it, IIRC. The Crimson King is mentioned. Another place I've seen the Low Men is The Library Policeman from Four Past Midnight, which is tangentially related to Needful Things. The closing chapter, that parallels the opening chapter where all of the fault lines in Castle Rock are exposed, takes place in the same city. The new store actually moves into the insurance agency building that the main charater from LP runs.

The Regulators is a Bachman book, juxtaposed with King's Desperation, and the regulators in that story are a bunch of fictional characters given life by special kid. So characters from one story show up in another. Parallels? Maybe.

These endless King cross references are a big clue about this story, IMO, but can't say more.

Now that we are past the midway point, maybe now is a good time to make a related reading list to the DT series.

The Low Men in Yellow Coats from Hearts in Atlantis
Everything's Eventual from Everything's Eventual
The Little Sisters of Eluria from Everything's Eventual(it doesn't have any bearing on the current story, just a nice little look back at Roland)
The Talisman
The Black House
Insomnia

One of the most important ones, IMO, is Low Men in Yellow Coats, because it lays out where King is coming from with the DT series, with the emphasis on the books Bobby is reading, like Simak's Ring Around the Sun.

Plus I just love how the idea of degenerate humanity in re Lord of the Flies(and our redemption from it) runs through all the stories, it really is beautiful.
olethros
8. olethros
The Eyes of the Dragon is another DT related King novel.
Jack Flynn
9. JackofMidworld
I was going to mention Talisman. For some reason, the phrase "todash turnpike" made me think of it and Callahan working as a short order cook did it even more.

Another one for the DT tie-ins - Gage's shoe in a certain bald doctor's collection, thank you, Pet Sematary.
Thomas Thatcher
10. StrongDreams
Talisman and Black House are both alternate looks at the King omniverse but they are quite different from each other as well. There are some Tier 1 stories that directly tie in ("Little Sisters", "Low Men", "Everything's Eventual"). But there are a lot of Tier 2 stories that tell us interesting things about how King's multiverse is arranged but do not necessarily all agree or even make sense trying to mash together. It's almost like the old fable of 4 blind men examining an elephant. All these books are part of King's multiverse but not always from the same point of view and the connections and details are not always in sync.
Risha Jorgensen
11. RishaBree
This may be because of later knowledge, as I can't really remember what we know about them at this point. But I can never decide if I fear the low men or pity them. Maybe both.
Suzanne Johnson
12. SuzanneJohnson
I think I see a massive King reread on my own once the Dark Tower is reached. I've forgotten so much.
olethros
13. Oldwizard
I always thought Callahan's story was interresting, and though I never liked Salem's Lot that much I re-read it the first time I finished Wolves. I read (or listen to) the Dark Tower series at least once a year, and Callahan's "filler" stories never grates me as much as the Roland prequel in "Wizard and Glass". That is usually the one i skip, just read the Blain intro and the last chapters when they try to find the beam again. Not that the story in Mejis was not interresting in it's way, but it sort of delayed the continued quest for the Tower. While Callahan's also does that to a point, his story does NOT span 3/4 of the book. :-)
Chris Nelly
14. Aeryl
I'm the same way. I like the Mejis story up to the incidence in the Travellers Rest, but I skip the whole EPIC LOVE STORY, I'm just over it. I pick it up as soon as it ends with the him in the grapefruit.
olethros
15. Oldwizard
By the incident at the TR bar, I assume you are talking about the epic saving of Sheemie part, right? Fabulous first meeting with the famous Coffin Hunters which starts with 'Bert interrupting shaming Sheemie and then it sort of snowballed from there? Epic King goodness! But as Roland says in same book, "love is boring" or something to that extent. Suffice to say I read it 1 out of six times and even then I sort of skim some chapters. But King is not the one for happy endings, poor Susan.
olethros
16. Angela D. Mitchell
Oldwizard, I could never skip whole books or sections like that -- for me that honestly means the writer has failed. Yet I don't think King did (or at least not here). I find 'Wizard and Glass' incredibly relevant and love the way it echoes onward into our current ka-tet. I also loved Cuthbert and Alain and loved how they are referenced later on (we do see a lot of 'bert in Eddie). I missed them after we met them and they were absent.

For me, the story's not just about getting there, it's about how they get there. Which is why Wolves is probably my favorite, and why I'm looking forward to "Keyhole" at long last (I'm saving it to the end of my re-read).
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
@16, It's not that I feel that King failed, I just really don't like love stories. And I've read these books 10+ times.

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