“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 as “Gran-Pere” Jamie Jaffords finished telling the story of how a woman threw an oriza to kill one of the Wolves back in the old days.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 7, “Nocturne, Hunger,” Section 1
Mia is back in her castle, desperately hungry, “as if some wild animal had been caged up inside her belly.”
“His time is coming,” she thinks. “He needs to eat more, in order to get his strength. And so do I.” And she was afraid he needed to eating something “forspecial”... “to finish the becoming.” So she’s looking for something that will both make the chap strong and to bring on her labor.
Mia is unaware that she’s being followed, and this time it’s not Roland but Jake, “a wide-eyed, tousle-haired boy in a cotton shirt and a pair of cotton shorts.” She pauses to look at herself in a mirror, and in the mirror she’s wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a pig on the front.
As she goes into the banquet room, everything’s deteriorated now. The forspecial plates have been replaced with blue ones decorated with rice plants. The plates are empty and covered in dust. She finds a wine bottle with liquid in it, but it has turned to vinegar. The one piece of bread has turned to stone; the remains of a single fish are putrified and “lay in a greenish-white simmer of maggots.”
She pushes through to the kitchen and finally, in one of the ovens, smells freshly roasted meat. When she opens the oven door, there’s a rat “the size of a tomcat,” already chowing down. She looks around and finds a meat fork with two six-inch steel tines, which she proceeds to spear it with, making a sqealing rat-kebab. After disposing of the rat and washing the blood off her hands, she returns to the roast. “It wasn’t enough, and not precisely what her chap needed, but it would do.”
When she reaches in for the roast, it’s hot so she has to find oven mitts. When she returns, she realizes it wasn’t a roast at all, but the body of a child, then realizes it’s a baby pig with “charred ears and the baked apple in the open mouth.”
She cuts away the part the rat had gnawed on, picks up the “roast” and sticks her face in it, eating.
The “roast” takes the edge off her hunger, but it really isn’t what the chap needed and she wonders how she’ll find it. Pulling her t-shirt off, she looks at the front. Below the cartoon pig, it says “The Dixie Pig, Lex and 61st, Best Ribs in New York”—Gourmet Magazine. So she knows where to go. Jake, still watching, nods when she accurately pinpoints the address.
What Constant Reader Learns: When I saw the title of this chapter, I just knew we were in for a feeding frenzy—I’d been wondering what Suze was doing for the “chap” since she couldn’t go wading out into the swamp to chomp on frogs.
I really dread what “the becoming” might entail. It’s going to be gross. I just know it’s going to be gross. And bad timing.
Pig...is she going to chomp on a live pig? OMG. Didn’t she read all those memos about fully cooking pork?
Re: the degradation of the banquet hall...anything more symbolic than the fact that the chap is very hungry for what she hasn’t been able to give him for a while?
I’m surprised she didn’t eat the rat, but I guess even demon-impregnated alters have some standards.
I see a dining adventure for Mia on the next trip todash.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 7, “Nocturne, Hunger,” Section 2
When they first arrived, Tian and Zalia had offered Eddie and Susannah their bedroom, but Susannah told them something bad had happened to them in Lud so they couldn’t sleep in a closed-up house anymore. The barn would work better. Eddie feels a bit guilty for lying to them.
This scene begins with Eddie sitting alone in the barn, on the blanket he and Susannah had been sleeping on, listening and trying to figure out where she is—where Mia is. He can hear her moving around underneath the floor of the barn. Earlier, Eddie had awakened to find Susannah gone. He’d seen her in the moonlight, in her wheelchair, doing the wheeled version of pacing.
Eddie feels guilty that Susannah/Mia is in this situation—if he’d been able to move faster when they were holding off the demon to pull Jake into their When, this wouldn’t have happened.
Out in the yard, Susannah wheels back and forth, and Eddie can’t help but liken her to the old robots in Shardik’s forest, the ones he’d had to shoot to put them out of their misery.
When Susannah turns and wheels back toward the barn, Eddie feigns sleep but hears her below, moving around, and then a squeal that sounded like the cry of a baby. He freaks out a bit, but then realizes it was a baby pig, a shoat.
A while later, she reappears up in the barn loft with blood at the corners of her mouth. Eddie worries that she’s hurt one of the Jaffords children, but doesn’t think she’s gone near the house.
What Constant Reader Learns: I know I should see this, but what’s the rationale for not wanting to sleep in the house? It isn’t clear that this is just Susannah’s desire, which would make sense since she needed to make an evening gustatory foray.
Eddie keeps reminding himself that the woman downstairs is not Susannah, but Mia. And he remembers what confusing Detta with Odetta got him—almost chewed up by lobstrosities. Although he thinks Mia might be nicer than Odetta....In what universe are you figuring this, Eddie?
Uh oh. She might not have eaten one of the Jaffords kids yet, but I bet the chap would think that was a really great idea.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 7, “Nocturne, Hunger,” Section 3
Jake awakes from a nightmare, and at first doesn’t know where he is—then remembers he’s with Benny the Younger, in a tent on a bluff overlooking the river. Andy is supposedly keeping an eye out for their safety.
He wants to think the thing with Susannah impaling the rat and eating the piglet was a dream, but he knows it isn’t. He knows he has to tell Roland...and then, just as assuredly, he knows that Roland already knows, as does Eddie. He’s sad, because by lying, they’ve destroyed the ka-tet: one from many. But he can’t quite be angry at them, because they’re lying to protect both Susannah and Jake (although a cynical part of him also realizes they want Susannah not preoccupied so she can help fight the Wolves). Still, he wonders if Roland understands that their unity has been broken; if he and Eddie are so close to the situation that they can’t see the big picture. He knows there’s another secret, too, that Roland is keeping from all of them.
“We can beat the Wolves if we’re together,” he thinks. “If we’re ka-tet. But not the way we are now. Not over here, not in New York, either.”
Jake considers telling Susannah himself, and he thinks it’s the kind of decision Roland made when he stood against Cort. Jake doesn’t think he’s ready. “He’d best me, and I’d be sent east into Thunderclap alone.”
He decides, instead, to talk to Roland alone.
Jake’s thoughts are interrupted by a visit from Oy, who clearly wants Jake to follow him. So he does, leading him to a slope above the river. Below, on the rocky strand next to the water, he sees two figures. One is clearly Andy. Eventually, the other man turns enough for Jake to see him clearly, and it’s Benny the Elder.
Jake wants to think Benny’s father is just out making sure the kids are okay, but that wouldn’t explain why he was having a palaver with Andy by the river. He continues to watch them, and after their talk, Ben doesn’t head back to the ranch or up toward the tent—he heads dead east. And “over there was nothing but waste ground and desert, a buffer between the borderlands and the kingdom of the dead that was Thunderclap.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I knew it! That Benny the Elder has been shifty-eyed from the outset.
Interesting that, this time, Jake isn’t sure he wants to tell Roland. He doesn’t want to get Benny’s father in trouble unless he has to. Big burden for a kid that’s having to grow up too fast.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla.