“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 Jake has witnessed some disturbing things—Susannah as Mia, eating a live baby pig, and Benny the Elder having a clandestine meeting with Andy by the river.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 1
Roland and Jake ride away from the Rocking B Ranch, and Roland can tell the boy is troubled. When Jake asks to speak to him “dandinh,” Roland asks where he heard that ancient term, and Jake says he thinks he pulled it from Roland’s mind—something he does occasionally without meaning to. Roland, wisely, thinks he needs to guard his deep thoughts carefully in the future.
Roland tests him a little by thinking the name of the Manni chief he met with, and Jake not only knows the name but when they met. Roland’s a little troubled by how strong Jake is in “the touch”—moreso than Alain, and his abilities are growing because of the rose.
Roland gives Jake the go-ahead to speak to him dandinh, but it takes Jake a while to work up to it.
Roland tries to get in Jake’s head as Jake got in his, but after much effort, he only sees a rat impaled on something. “Where is the castle she goes to?” Jake asks, and Roland is shocked…and a bit guilty. He doesn’t pretend to not know, but tells Jake it’s a place Susannah has created in her mind so she won’t see what she’s really eating. Jake tells Roland that he saw her eating a roast pig (and stabbing the rat) in Susannah’s “dream.”
Roland realizes Jake is troubled because of his decision not to tell Susannah what’s going on.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland is “astounded” when Jake curls his fist, places it against his chest, and asks to speak to him “dandinh” (May I open my heart to your command?). It is a term “predating Arthur Eld by centuries,” meaning to turn some difficult problem over to one’s dinh, and agreeing to abide by the dinh’s decision. Usually, we’re told, it’s a romantic problem and maybe that’s why Roland’s shocked—Jake doesn’t have woman problems (unless Susannah counts)—but it seems to me an incredibly wise way for Jake to approach Roland.
Sweet moment when Roland asks Jake to tell him everything, and Jake says, “Roland, you won’t scold me?” It shows what a risk Jake felt he was taking in talking to Roland and that while he trusts him...maybe he also doesn’t quite considering what happened on the bridge.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 2
Jake decides at the last minute to not tell Roland about seeing Benny Slightman the Elder with Andy, and focuses on the episode with Susannah. He goes through it, then finally gets to his concern—that the three of them, by keeping the truth from Susannah, have broken their ka-tet just when they most need it.
When Jake asks Roland if he’s been intentionally keeping the information from him, Roland says no. “I simply let things be as they were.” He’d told Eddie in case he discovered it on his own and tried to wake her up—“I was afraid of what might happen to both of them if he did.”
When Jake asks why Roland doesn’t tell Susannah, and Roland starts a long story about responsibility, and growing up in Gilead, and ka, Jake thinks, “You’re avoiding a very simple question.” When Roland sees Jake’s disappointment at him blaming everything on ka, Roland finally says, “I don’t know what to do. Would you like to tell me?”
Jake thinks he’s being sarcastic. Which lets Roland know that “we are broken. God help us.” Roland is able to smooth things out by explaining his dilemma. The Wolves are coming to the calla. Balazar and his men are coming to New York. And Susannah’s baby is coming. How and when these things happen, he doesn’t know, but he’s hoping the baby waits until the other two matters are resolved. “For, on top of the Wolves and the business of the rose in your world, there’s the question of Black Thirteen and how to deal with it.”
Jake calls the ka card what it might well be: “what folks in the Kingdom of New York call a copout…An answer that isn’t an answer, just a way to get people to go along with what you want.”
Finally, Roland gives his decision as dandinh: They will tell Susannah before the Wolves come, and will discuss it no more before then. He tells Jake that he’s agreeing not because he thinks it’s right but because Jake does, and when Jake protests that Roland’s putting all the responsibility on him, Roland has a harsh reply: “You ask part of a man’s decision. I allow it—must allow it—because ka has decreed to take a man’s part in great matters. You opened this door when you questioned my judgment.”
Finally, Roland asks Jake to use the touch in a way Jake isn’t comfortable with—to keep track of what’s going on in Susannah’s mind, to see if she’s planning to run away.
What Constant Reader Learns: Ah, interesting… “Jake sensed Roland was to some degree ashamed, and Jake found this frightening. He had an idea shame was pretty much reserved for people who didn’t know what they were doing.” So is Jake wrong about shame, or is Roland faking it a lot of the time? He seems much less certain about things in this book than in the previous ones, for sure. Perhaps it’s part of his own journey back to humanity.
Later, Roland thinks “He supposed it was good none of them knew how lost he was just now, how absent the intuition that had carried him through so many difficult situations.”
Roland and Jake almost get in another tiff when Roland tells the boy that if he tells Susannah against Ro’s wishes, it would break their fellowship for good. Jake shouts that he knows it very well, and Roland gets angry back at him: “Do you not see how much easier all this was before…” and Jake finishes it for him: “Before we came. Well guess what? We didn’t ask to come, none of us.” And he thinks, “And I didn’t ask you to drop me into the dark, either. To kill me.”
Yes, the ka-tet is broken. Let’s hope they can get it together in time.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 3
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Eddie’s sitting on the porch listening to Gran-Pere. He’s in a good mood because all of the Jaffords children are alive and a shoat is missing from the barn, so his nighttime fear that Susannah had eaten a baby is gone.
Roland asks Zalia if she stands with her husband on the Wolf issue, and she says she does. And finally, for the first time, Roland asks the third question: “Do you ask aid and succor?” Eddie thinks it ironic that the question was asked not of the big rancher or businessman, but of the farmer’s wife. She says she does.
Roland brings up the matter of the oriza: “Will’ee come out on the line with your dish when the time comes?” Her husband is surprised but doesn’t object—maybe even looks at her with a little more respect, “like a man who has suddenly been visited by a great revelation.” Again, she says yes. Roland also asks if she’ll teach Susannah to throw the plate since there are only three guns between the four of them.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is a great rationalizer: “Okay, so Susannah had done a little wandering in the night. Had a little midnight snack. Buried her leavings. And yes, this business of her being pregnant had to be addressed. But it would come out all right, Eddie felt sure of it.” Uh-huh. You know what they say about denial and the river in Egypt, Eddie.
I still find it hard to believe it hasn’t occurred to Susannah that she’s pregnant. Or maybe it has and she’s in her own state of denial.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 4
The four of them ride toward town until they reach a crossroads, where Roland takes his leave to visit the Manni and perhaps the cave called the Doorway Cave, which they’ll hear about when Callahan finishes his story. Roland thinks that with Black Thirteen, the cave could be the way “to everywhere and everywhen.”
Meanwhile, Roland tells them, they should go to Took’s general store and do some shopping. He pulls a leather drawstring bag out of his man-purse. “My father gave me this,” he says. “It’s the only thing I have now, other than the ruins of my younger face, that I had when I rode into Mejis with my ka-mates all those years ago.” So the others realize this is a really old bag.
From it, he dumps ten pieces of silver, emptying the bag. But then, he pours out a dozen gold pieces, again emptying the bag. And finally, half a dozen gemstones—garnets. “Most of the magic I once knew or had access to is gone, but you see a little lingers,” Roland explains, calling it a “grow bag”—as in it grows what you need.
Roland tells them to go in the store, buy some stuff, then go on the porch and relax. He makes arrangements to meet them back at Callahan’s at dusk.
What Constant Reader Learns: Oh, this Doorway Cave sounds interesting: “the way to everywhere and everywhen” is kind of mind-boggling.
Roland’s bag brings to mind Hermione Granger’s bottomless purse in the Harry Potter series or, maybe more, the “Room of Requirement.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 5
When Eddie, Jake, and Susannah arrive at Took’s, the proprietor yells that they can’t bring Oy inside. Jake mildly says no problem and leaves Oy on the porch. Next, Took yells that he won’t extend credit to them. Eddie responds calmly with an old saying, “Never in life,” and the onlookers are watching more closely. By the time they finish shopping, the people are greeting them. Took’s next assault is to refuse to sell Jake tobacco and rolling papers for Roland, but Eddie tells him that was a good move, but that he’ll buy them since “our dinh enjoys a smoke in the evening.” By now, there are fifty people in the store, all laughing at Took, who takes the hint and stops grousing.
What Constant Reader Learns: Funny to see the reactions of the locals in the store, initially backing away “as if expecting the two outworlders carrying guns to immediately slap leather and blow sai Took all the way to Calla Boot Hill.” Ha!
Go, Suze! When Took calls her “brownie,” She almost breaks his thumb by bending it backward: “I’ll take that word from an old man who’s lost most of his sense but I won’t take it from you. Call me brownie again, fatso, and I’ll pull your tongue out of your head and wipe your ass with it.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 6
Eddie, Susannah and Jake head out to the porch of Took’s Store, and sit in three of several rockers. “Folks coming,” Jake says. “I think they want to talk to us.”
What Constant Reader Learns: So, this is the town’s chance to meet the gunslingers and get used to them, consider them good guys, I guess.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 7
Back in the hills to the east, Roland is meeting with Henchick of the Manni, having lunch. After a silent meal, they begin climbing. Roland’s sweating and breathing hard, but the 80-year-old Manni is “breathing with the ease of a man strolling in a park.”
Roland is anxious to get to where they’re going but he has to deliver Margaret Eisenhart’s message that she was doing fine with her heathen man. “She’s damned,” her father says. “She’ll have time to repent her heathen man at leisure in the depths of Na’ar.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Henchick asks an interesting question: “Do’ee say the world will end in fire or in ice, gunslinger?” To which Roland responds: “Neither. I think in darkness.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 8, “Took’s Store; The Unfound Door,” Section 8
They continue to climb and finally come to the cave, from which Roland hears human voices crying out. When he asks Henchick if they are hearing the cries of people in Na’ar, Henchick says, “Speak not in jest. Not here. For you are in the presence of the infinite.”
Inside the noxious-smelling cave, Roland finds a door, exactly like the ones on the beach. “Like those, it stood freely in the shadows, with hinges that seemed fastened to nothing.” There’s no keyhole, only a crystal knob with a rose etched on it. Instead of a sign, it has the same set of symbols Roland had seen on the box in Callahan’s church in which Black Thirteen is hidden—it means “unfound.”
Several feet behind the door, the cave floor slopes sharply downward into a chasm, and from it come the voices. Roland hears the voice of his mother, telling him not to shoot. Then the voice of his father, calling him an idiot. Then the voice of Walter, saying, “Give it over, Roland. Better to give it over and die than to discover the room at the top of the Dark Tower is empty.” And finally, the blare of the Eld’s Horn, Cuthbert’s final battle cry before dying.
Roland manages to hold it together, and walks around the door, testing it for width and thickness, looking at the angles from which it isn’t visible. He presses his palms against the wood, and feels a vibration, like powerful machinery. While Rhea of the Coos screams at him from the chasm, he tries to open the door, but the knob won’t turn.
The door was open when the Manni found Callahan, Roland notes. Henchick says the night Callahan arrived, he and some others had gone to a cave near the garnet mines and found a machine set in the cave’s mouth. When they pushed a button, a voice told them to go to this Cave of Voices, as it was then known. It said they’d find a door, a man, and a wonder.
Henchick is reluctant to answer more questions, but Roland keeps pressing. They found Callahan unconscious but muttering, and the door was open a bit. The box also was open, and coming from it was the sound of the kammen, or chimes. A “terrible light” was coming through the door. “I’ve traveled much, gunslinger, to many wheres and many whens,” Henchick tells him. “I’ve seen other doors and I’ve seen todash tahken, the holes in reality, but never any light like that. It were black, like all the emptiness that ever was, but there were something red in it.”
“The eye,” Roland says. The eye of the Crimson King, who Roland thinks “bides far east of here, in Thunderclap or beyond it. I believe he may be a Guardian of the Dark Tower. He may even think he owns it.”
When they found Callahan, Henchick says he fell to his knees and closed the box. When the lid closed, the door swung shut. He dragged Callahan out of the cave.
On the way back down the mountain, Roland asks Henchick what happened to the speaking machine, and he says the “bayderies” died. “We took them out. They were Duracell. Does thee ken Duracell, gunslinger?” Roland does not. They also opened it up and pulled out shiny ribbon. Callahan called it a “cassette tape.”
What Constant Reader Learns: They’re very high up in the mountains, and Roland thinks first how undramatic their quest would end if he fell off the cliff (or Henchick pushed him). But then he realizes that’s not true. “Eddie would carry on in my place,” he thinks. “And the other two would follow until they fell.”
Roland thinks of Walter when he hear that someone left them instructions. “The man in black, who had also left them the cookies Eddie called Keeblers. Walter was Flagg and Flagg was Marten and Marten…was he Maerlyn, the old rogue wizard of legend? On that subject Roland remained unsure.”
Henchick estimates that they found Callahan more than five years ago. Don’t know why, but I’d imagined him there much longer. Then again, time is slipping, so who knows?
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla.