“Go, then. There are other worlds than these.”
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 or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.
Last week, Roland and Eddie had their much-anticipated palaver with author Stephen King.
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 1
Don Callahan has spent a lot of time in the Calla thinking about what it might be like to return to America, but he never quite envisioned it turning in midair through a magical door, with Henchick of the Manni preaching at him on one side of the door, and a NYC street-preacher delivering the gospel on the other.
What Constant Reader Learns: Finally! Hundreds of pages since they went through the door, Callahan (and I assume, Jake and Oy) have landed in New York. I understand that Susannah-Mio went through the door quite a ways ahead of them, but the timing of it has felt bizarre with us following Eddie and Roland but not Jake and Callahan. Were J&C that far behind E&R? Or, more likely, I’m trying to be too literal and logical.
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 2
Callahan clips his ankle on the door as he goes through, and then scrapes up his hands and knees when he lands in NYC. A man sees him appear out of nowhere and asks where he came from. “Oz,” says Callahan. He hears the preacher preaching. He hears the rose, singing. And when he call for Jake, he hears the boy yelling, “Oy, look out!” And then a horn, screeching tires, and a thud.
What Constant Reader Learns: Oh, Sai-King, you minister of cheap thrills. I refuse to fall for this one. I refuse to accept that Oy would come through all this long journey only to be mown down by a car in NYC. So there. Prove me wrong.
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 3
Callahan runs to where a crowd has gathered, and sees a Yellow Cab stopped within a foot of where Jake stands, with Oy (very much alive) between his knees. The thud, as it turns out, wasn’t the cab hitting Oy, but “Ake” hitting the cab hood with his fists while giving a tongue-lashing that would convince anyone he was a native New Yorker (no offense, but it is the rep).
The freaked-out cabbie exits the vehicle, all prepared to give Jake what-for about banging on his cab, but Jake pulls the Ruger on him and demands an apology. Oy distracts Jake for a moment, and the cabbie goes to make his move, forcing Callahan to step in and mediate before this scene gets any more out of hand. He leads the driver back to his cab and offers him $10—most of the money he has—to just drive away and forget it. He assures the cabbie that Jake’s gun is a fake. The Reverend Harrigan also shows a talent for a bit of (literal) strong-arming.
What Constant Reader Learns: Mayhap the stress is getting to young Jake.
Love this observation from Callahan:
“Some of the spectators were applauding like spectators at a Madison Square Garden fight, and Callahan thought: Why, this place is a madhouse. Did I know that before and forgot, or is it something I just learned?”
Having grown up in the Bible Belt and having to listen to those of similar opinion, I was greatly amused at the preacher’s thoughts about Catholicism and those who “bow to the Cult of Mary.” But Harrigan’s a practical man who figures his attempts at conversion will not cure Callahan of his idolatry, and therefore he assures his “mackerel-snapping friend” that he’ll attempt to “pray you through the flames” of hell itself. *Snorts*
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 4
Harrigan has gifts for both Callahan and Jake. To Callahan, he gives a pair of size 12 shoes, since the padre lost one of his Calla sandals in his trip through the cave door. For Jake, he has a message: The woman they are looking for got in a cab about a half hour earlier, but she left a message that they should first go to the hotel.
Jake responds: “So speaks Gan, and in the voice of the can calah, which some call angels. Gan denies the can toi, with the merry heart of the guiltless he denies the Crimson King and Discordia itself.” This rather freaks Callahan out.
The preacher has one more story to share—about the voices of the angels. That when the big skyscraper went up on what was formerly the vacant lot, he thought it would destroy the vibe of the place. But inside the building, he tells them, is a garden. And in the garden is a single wild rose, with a sign that says “Given by the Tet Corporation, in honor of the Beame family and in memory of Gilead.”
What Constant Reader Learns: LOL. When a suspicious Jake tells Harrigan that yes, Oy is a mixed-breed dog that absolutely hates strangers, Oy responds by being the world’s friendliest bumbler ever. Callahan’s holding his breath and praying that Oy doesn’t start talking.
Yeah, Jake, that Ganspeak is kinda freaking me out too. Stop that.
So I guess this is a way of telling us Eddie’s idea of preserving the rose via the Tet Corporation is going to work, at least at some level. The rose lives on. Should “in the memory of Gilead” tell us anything about Roland’s fate?
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 5
Jake is glum at the idea that “a kid and a priest with one gun between them” will have to take on all kinds of vampires and low men at the Dixie Pig, but after seeing Jake-as-Gunslinger take on the taxi driver, Callahan’s actually feeling a little better about their chances.
With regards to his speech about Discordia and Gan, Jake says he thinks it’s part of the Touch, and that maybe it came from Mia. He also has been seeing visions of a black man in a jail cell—maybe the cell that Odetta Holmes was put into in Oxford, Mississippi. Callahan wonders if the black man is Gan, and Jake doesn’t know—but he does know he needs to find out more about who the man is, because he things these images are coming from the Dark Tower itself.
What Constant Reader Learns: So Gan is locked in the Dark Tower, perhaps? The first thing I thought of with the black man in the jail cell was The Green Mile.
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 6
Once Jake and Callahan reach the hotel, Jake takes over. He starts first with the woman behind the registration desk, asking in his best “kid to grownup” voice if a woman left something for them. She said no, but there was an envelope left for them that had been received from Stephen King.
Even with Jake on his best little-boy behavior, he makes the clerk nervous. After seeing Jake the Gunslinger go after the taxi driver, Callahan thinks that she probably has every right to be nervous.
What Constant Reader Learns: The desk clerk wonders if the envelope is from the “famous writer” named Stephen King, but then figures it isn’t. After all, it’s a pretty common name, and she imagines all the other Stephen Kings in the world wish the author one would just “give it a rest.”
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 7
On the front of the envelope from Stephen King is written: Jake Chambers. This is the truth. On the inside, on a sheet of paper, is written: Dad-a-chum, dad-a-chee, not to worry, you’ve got the key. Dad-a-chud, dad-a-ched. See it, Jake. The key is red. Inside the envelope with the card is a magnetic hotel key card that, once Jake has read the message, turns red.
They figure, of course, that the room is on the hotel’s nineteenth floor, and Callahan is filled with dread as they get in the elevator. He asks Jake what he thinks they’re looking for, but Jake points out that Callahan knows as well as he does. Black Thirteen.
What Constant Reader Learns: This was a short but creepy section. After all, sai-King wrote that note back in his kitchen in an earlier after talking to Roland and Eddie. AND he ate it. Yet here it is, complete with some lobstrosity-speak and the “this is the truth” line from Jake’s class paper.
And I should add that I’m writing this from the Sheraton New Orleans late on an evening, from my room on the nineteenth floor. Which is just creepy.
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 8
Jake knows the room has to be 1919, and neither of them are very surprised when the key works. There’s a “hideous drone” coming from inside.
What Constant Reader Learns: Callahan seems more nervous than Jake, but he points out that Jake hasn’t actually seen Black Thirteen while Callahan has. “There’s an eye in it,” he says—the eye of the Crimson King, maybe a part of him that got trapped in there and is insane.
I’m in room 1912. Whew. Thought I was going to have to check out the room’s safe and make sure there wasn’t a pink bowling bag in there.
Song of Susannah, 12th Stanza, “Jake and Callahan,” Section 9
The lights are on in the hotel room, and yet there is a “queer darkness” in the room. Jake’s starting to get scared now. “It’s awake,” he thinks. “It was asleep before—dozing, at least—but all this moving around woke it up.”
Seeing Jake’s fear helps calm Callahan down—he’s the adult, after all. He also gets some cold comfort by singing “Pop Goes the Weasel.”
What Constant Reader Learns: “Pop Goes the Weasel?” Also creepy. And if Black Thirteen were sleeping before, what power will it hold over them now? As Jake tells Callahan, “Guard your mind.”
And…that’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with our read of Dark Tower Book Six, Song of Susannah.