“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 with Jake and Oy slipping out and crossing the river at night while Benny is sleeping, and overhearing Andy and Ben Sr. at the “Dogan.”
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 1
Roland and the ka-tet, including Callahan, gather for a palaver at the Pavilion. Once Jake reveals that the rectory is bugged, Roland doesn’t even want to meet in the backyard—he figures it also has been bugged as well. He tells them that they’ll hold the town meeting in four days, and it should be the whole town and not just the men (an opinion Susannah agrees with, thank you).
What Constant Reader Learns: The time for sucking up to the folken has passed, so when townspeople spot the gunslingers and want to stop and chat, Roland blows them off. Wonder if any of them isn’t suspicious of the way the priest has fit in with the gunslingers? Or maybe it seems natural since some of them are from his world.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 2
Callahan is shocked to hear Roland’s, Eddie’s and Jake’s stories. He asks Eddie if he was serious about killing the wives and children of the mob guys if they hurt Calvin Tower, and Eddie is uncannily Roland-ish as he observes, “For a guy who doesn’t want to be called Father, you have taken some very Fatherly stands just lately.”
Eddie tells Callahan he can just assume Eddie is bluffing and move on. They have a job to do and “the last thing we need is to get sidetracked by a lot of your old Catholic blather.”
Finally, they move on, and Roland first asks Susannah how she’s feeling. She says fine, and hasn’t had headaches or other signs of Mia lately. In fact, she proposes that maybe her body has reabsorbed the “chap” because of the stress. But Roland bursts that bubble of hope.
The next thing Roland asks is if Callahan is willing to go through the door in the cave, back to New York. Callahan is overjoyed, and Roland says they’ll do it later today, mayhap. He wants Callahan to cross over and find out where Tower and Deepneau have gone in New England.
Roland says they have to assume that only Ben Slightman and Andy are working against them and with the wolves.
As they talk, the sound of children singing is getting closer. Around the corner they come, marching behind Andy, who’s leading them with a bah-bolt wrapped in banners like a baton. “Holy shit,” Eddie says. “It’s the Pied Piper of Hamelin.”
What Constant Reader Learns: When Eddie tells Callahan he’s acting a lot like a priest these days, Callahan asks if he’s talking about the idea of Susannah getting an abortion. So, she knew Roland asked Callahan about that? I mean, she’s sitting there, right? She doesn’t say anything, but I guess I assumed she didn’t know about that conversation. She must’ve been told during their tell-all palaver earlier, but it just seems as if it were something she’d have an opinion about.
Jake, Mr. Has-the-Touch, observes that when Callahan goes to find Tower and Deepneau, he’ll need to do most of his talking to Deepneau because Tower might be stubborn. “That’s the understatement of the year,” Eddie observes. “By the time you get there, he’ll probably have found twelve used bookstores and god knows how many first editions of Indiana Jones’s Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown.”
Aw, poor Jake. He begs Roland not to kill “Benny’s Da,” but Roland can’t make that promise—only that they won’t kill him unless they have to. When Jake argues that Ben Sr. doesn’t think he has a choice, Roland says he could have stood with them but he didn’t. “His voice was dull and dreadful,” we’re told. “Almost dead.” Roland doesn’t have much use for traitors, but he finally promises they’ll spare him if they can, although he doesn’t know that it’s much of “a mercy.” The town will turn on them—if there’s a town left.
Roland also points out there’s never any need for Benny to know about Jake being the one to overhear his father and Andy. He rightly understands that it’s not the elder Slightman Jake cares about; it’s Benny’s good opinion.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 3
They kids are following Andy, who sings one verse of a song, then the kids repeat it back to him. It’s kind of a raunchy song in a patois Detta Walker might use: “Dass-a time ‘at Daddy had d’mos’ fun.” Susannah is furious at seeing it, knowing what Andy is up to, and she feels a Mia episode coming on. She talks herself out of it.
Roland senses their outrage and tells them to wave back when Andy waves his baton at them. Eddie, of course, has an under-his-breath running commentary as he waves, calling Andy a “Radio Shack dickweed” and a “robot psycho.”
Callahan has “a strange, sick expression of disgust on his face.” He points out that the kids adore the robot. “Generations of children have loved Andy.” To which Roland responds, “That is about to change.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I dunno. Having the kids singing in this patois and following along behind Andy, with these racial undertones, is just….WRONG. Which is, I guess, the whole point.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 4
After the parade passes, Roland asks if there are other questions. Callahan wants to know what role Tian Jaffords will play, since he was the one who stepped up to involve the gunslingers. Roland says he has a special job for him, part of which he’ll do with Eddie. Roland also wants to know if they can put a lock on the outside of Roland’s outhouse. “If things go well, no lock will be necessary, but one can never be sure.”
Jake has a final question: “Will we win?”
It takes Roland a while to answer: “We know more than they think we know. Far more. They’ve grown complacent. If Andy and Slightman are the only rats in the woodpile, and if there aren’t too many in the Wolfpack—if we don’t run out of plates and cartridges—then yes.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Hm….so what’s Roland up to with the locked outhouse? Susannah wants to know too, but Ro is typically vague. “The most important thing I can tell you is not to believe anything I say once we get up from here…especially nothing I say when I stand up at the meeting with the feather in my hand. Most of it will be lies. My Da’ and Cuthbert’s Da’ used to have a rule between em: first the smiles, then the lies. Last comes gunfire…In the end it all comes down to the same five minutes’ worth of blood, pain and stupidity.” And Roland admits he always feels sick afterward. Which is a pretty amazing admission from the dude with the cold, dead eyes.
That’s a lot of “ifs,” Roland.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 5
Later that afternoon, Callahan accompanies Roland to the cave. He’s focusing on Chew Chew Mama’s and trying to ignore the shrieking voice of his mother. Callahan wants a drink, but he thinks about the food at Chew Chew’s. Roland cracks open the book to expose Black Thirteen, the chimes start doing their thing, and Callahan steps into the summer of 1977.
What Constant Reader Learns: Callahan had quite a reaction to seeing Calvin Tower’s books in the cave. “His mostly generous heart grew greedy (and a bit smaller) at the sight of them.” He didn’t focus on them for long, just pulled out a copy of The Virginian by Owen Wister. Published in 1902, it is considered the first Western novel.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 6
Callahan arrives on June 24 (thanks to a sign on the easel in front of the restaurant, announcing the specials of beef stroganoff, beef brisket with cabbage, Rancho Grande tacos, chicken soup, and Dutch apple pie).
He walks toward the Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, but (even though Eddie had warned him) he’s shocked to see it a “burnt-out husk,” surrounded with crime-scene tape. He smells, underneath it all, gasoline. An elderly shoe-shiner tells him Tower was “in hock to the bad boys, up to his eyebrows.”
Callahan is moving along toward the vacant lot, when he finally hears the rose. “And everything in his life changed.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Unlike Eddie, who was kind of put off by New York and its smell and its noise after being in Mid World for a while, Callahan “relishes” it all. Instead of “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown,” Tower of Power Records is playing Crispian St. Peters’ 1966 hit, “The Pied Piper.”
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 7
Callahan hears the “angelic” voices of the rose as he approaches the vacant lot, and suddenly thinks he understands what it is Roland and his friends are trying to do—to save this. A longhaired guy in a cowboy hat wanders by, and observes that walking by the lot has cleared up his acne and makes him feel good—does Callahan (who is weeping) know what he means? But on instinct, Callahan shakes his head no.
Finally, he reaches the right spot on the fence and sees the zip code. He knows he has to leave, but thinks to the rose: I’ll be back. And gets an answer in return: Yes, Father, anytime. Come-commala.
But Callahan isn’t ready to leave New York, not yet. So he decides he could go to the library and look up the zip code—thus, delay his trip back through the door and be useful at the same time. He looks into the open door behind him, waves to get Roland’s attention, and signals that he needs thirty minutes more.
What Constant Reader Learns: I kept expecting Callahan to try and climb over the fence, to at least see the rose, but he restrains himself in order to not attract any attention. “He would best serve the great and singing force behind this fence…by protecting it. And that meant protecting Calvin Tower from whoever had burned down his store.”
Callahan…Calla…Calvin… Callahan has a revelation of sorts, but we don’t really know what it is.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 8
Roland figures Callahan has found a way to identify the place Tower has gone, so he’s okay with the delay. The bullets in his ears block the voices, and the chimes are muted.
He gets up to look at Calvin Tower’s books. First he pulls out a Sherlock Holmes mystery and, as before, Roland has trouble reading the words. The book is four “movels” by “Sir-lock Hones.” He can make out the word Scarlet (A Study in Scarlet) and Hound (The Hound of the Baskervilles).
Another book has a soldier on the front and the only word he can make out is dead. Yet another book has a couple kissing on the cover.
Roland glances up and is amazed when he sees Callahan walking into a huge room filled with books and “Magda-seens…although Roland was still unsure what Magda had seen.”
He pulls out another book. On the cover is a church that looked a bit like Callahan’s church. He was about to put it back on the shelf when something catches his eyes. Suddenly, he no longer cares about the chimes. He believes the book is a key—to what door? He can’t read enough of the words to tell, but the book seems to hum in his hands. He thinks the book is like the rose—but also notes that there are black roses too.
What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting that when Roland was looking through the doors at his “drawn three” of Eddie, Odetta and Jack Mort, he saw through their eyes. With Callahan, it was like he was following Callahan, seeing through his own eyes. It didn’t say about when Eddie went todash the last time, but I assume it was the same as with Callahan.
So, does Roland have trouble reading because the words are “foreign” to him or because in his world, the written word is almost lost so reading is a rusty skill?
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Part 3, Chapter 4, “Pied Piper,” Section 9
Callahan’s back, and tells Roland that the place Tower has gone is a town in central Maine called East Stoneham. He can tell something’s bothering Roland, but when he asks, Roland says it’s just the after-effects of the chimes.
He begins to ask Callahan about novels—he wants to make sure novels are made-up stories. Yet Roland also knows Charlie the Choo-Choo was fiction, and yet, it wasn’t. “And the author’s name had changed. There were many different worlds, all held together by the Tower.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland doesn’t want to tell Callahan about the book, even though he’d promised the others not to keep more secrets. “But he felt he was right to do so. He knew at least some of the names in that book. The others would know them, too. Later they would need to know, if the book was as important as he thought it might be.” So what book would have a church on the cover, and feature names that Roland would know, and that would shake him up so much? Maybe it’s a copy of one of the Dark Tower books and he sees their names. Gotta have a tie to Stephen “the Crimson” King.
Hm..in the last scene of this chapter, Roland also goes through the Calla…Callahan…maybe it’s Salem’s Lot. Would explain why he doesn’t want to talk about it to the priest. Probably way off base, but mind-boggling, eh?
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla.