“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 bedding down at Callahan’s rectory at Calla Bryn Sturgis, all but for Jake, who’d gone home with his new friend Benny Slightman.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 1
Roland wakes up after another dream of Jericho Hill. There’s something about Arthur Eld’s horn, which was lost in the battle. But it is pain that wakes him, not the dream itself, so he lies next to the sleeping Callahan (a visual I don’t want to ponder too long) and thinks.
He hurts from hip to ankle, partly his punishment for the previous night’s dancing. But he knows it isn’t just “rheumatiz,” as he’s been telling himself the past few weeks as his hip gave him pain. He’d noticed his ankles and knees thickening, and knew it was arthritis—“the bad kind, the dry kind.” He worries about losing the use of his hands. He figures he has less than a year before he’s crippled with it.
He knows he’ll still pursue his goal: “Not that he would cry off the Tower if Old Bone-Twist Man took his ability to shoot, saddle a horse, cut a strip of rawhide, even to chop wood for a campfire…But he didn’t relish the picture of riding along behind the others, dependent upon them, perhaps tied to his saddle with the reins because he could no longer hold the pommel.”
He briefly thinks he’ll kill himself before letting that happen, but knows he is kidding himself, as Eddie would say.
He knows he needs to tell Eddie about Susannah ASAP. She’ll find it harder to slip away during the nights now without Eddie knowing.
As the sun rises, Roland is “dismayed to see that brightness no longer bloomed dead east; it was a little off to the south, now. Sunrise was also in drift.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I guess Jericho Hill is weighing so heavily on Roland because he knows whatever they’re going to face with the wolves is going to be bad.
Rheumatoid arthritis runs rampant in my family; nasty stuff, Roland. I shall now call it “dry twist” and be grateful it has thus far passed me by. At least I assume that’s what he refers to.
Reading about Roland’s worries over his health made me wonder where Stephen King was in his accident recovery when he wrote this book. It came out late in 2003; his accident was in 1999. Roland’s aching hip has been mentioned several times in this book but was it mentioned in earlier books? I don’t recall it, and don’t want to dig around reading too much about this fifth book lest I encounter spoilers. Can’t help but project some autobiographical pain and fear of helplessness here, though.
Drifting sunrise can’t be good.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 2
Callahan has a 40ish housekeeper named Rosalita Munoz whom Ro finds attractive. All he has to do is walk across the room and she realizes something’s wrong with him. Roland claims it’s rheumatism. She has a “cat-oil” that will ease his pain.
First, he wants a map of the Calla, and Callahan says he can’t draw worth crap but he knows who can.
What Constant Reader Learns: Callahan says he knows “two that could help” with the map. Twins, perhaps?
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 3
Rosalita leads Roland into the pantry and tells him to drop trou. She can tell right away it’s “the kind of arthritis that spreads fast.” Roland says his people call it the “dry twist,” but tells her not to tell Callahan or the others. He will keep the secret as long as he can.
Then, of course, because Roland hasn’t had any since Tull, he and Rosalita share a little bawdy conversation—but in the end what she asks him is to save the “babbies,” no matter what the “big bugs” like Eisenhart and Telford say.
What Constant Reader Learns: The secret ingredient in Rosalita’s tonic is “rock cat” bile—probably puma or cougar. Which begs the question of how said bile is collected.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 4
By the time Roland emerges from the pantry, he can hear Eddie and Susannah stirring in their room. Before they come out, he asks Callahan to send Eddie out alone to join him in picking pokeberries.
What Constant Reader Learns: Uh oh. Sounds like “the conversation” is about to happen.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 5
Eddie joins Roland in picking berries. Roland’s pain has faded, and he cuts the idle chat short. “Listen closely and keep a rein on your emotions,” Roland tells him. “For your father’s sake.”
Eddie listens quietly, and Roland is struck by how much he has grown up. Even when he realizes how long Roland has known without telling him, Eddie stays calm. Roland is his dinh, he says, and he accepts that.
Eddie admits he’s surprised, but that he’s seen some signs. She’s had pain she blames on gas. Her breasts are bigger. But she’s still having her periods—proof, Roland points out, that whatever she’s carrying, it isn’t Eddie’s baby. “Would it even look like a human baby?” Eddie asks, kind of pale-looking. “Almost surely not,” Roland answers, but doesn’t speculate on what it might look like.
What Constant Reader Learns: I like that Roland spares Eddie the gory details of exactly what Susannah is munching on during her evening feasts.
Poor dead Andy Gibb. The world has moved on since Eddie promised not to “faint like a girl at an Andy Gibb concert.” Shadow dancing.
Eddie gives a great summary of their situation: “Over here, the Wolves come in twenty-four days…Over there in New York, who knows what day it is? The sixth of June? The tenth? Closer to July fifteenth than it was yesterday, that’s for sure….If what she’s got inside her isn’t human, we can’t be sure her pregnancy will go nine months. Hell, she might pop it tomorrow.” Indeed.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 6
On the way back to the rectory, Eddie asks Roland why he doesn’t tell Susannah the truth. Roland says he’s afraid Mia, who’s protecting her child, could take over Susannah the way Detta Walker sometimes did Odetta. Eddie spells it out: “You don’t want to tell Suze she might be growing a monster in her belly because it might impair her efficiency.”
Basically, Roland agrees. He awaits an angry outburst from Eddie, but again Eddie is sad but steady. “It’s the rose I care about,” he says. “That’s the only thing worth risking her for. But even so, you’ve got to promise me that if things go wrong, we’ll try to save her.”
Roland agrees, but he can’t shake the mental image of Jake dangling off the side of the mountain trestle just before he lets the boy fall.
What Constant Reader Learns: Is this foreshadowing on Roland’s part, or just his ongoing guilt over letting Jake die in the mountains?
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 7
Eddie and Roland walk back into the rectory as Callahan is saying goodbye to a set of twins, a boy and girl who are beautiful. The Tavery twins, Frank and Francine, will be drawing Roland’s map of the Calla.
Roland ushers the twins outside and down the walk of the rectory, talking to them, struck not just by their beauty but the intelligence in their eyes—he realizes Callahan has called them not only for a map but as a reminder that in less than a month, one of them would be roont if nothing was done. “Fear me not,” Roland tells them. “But hear me well.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Hm….wonder what role Roland has found for the children?
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 8
Eddie watches Roland conversing with the twins and thinks he looks like a benevolent grandpere.
Susannah comes in to flirt with Eddie, and he finds himself looking for signs of Mia in her. He wonders how much of their relationship will change. She can tell something is bothering him and asks, but he said nothing—except that “were’re probably all going to die here.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie’s really bothered that he’s having to lie to Susannah so blatantly. I have to admit, I’m really, really curious as to how this whole invisible-demon-baby-spawn thing is going to play out.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 2, “Dry Twist,” Section 9
After more coffee and pokeberries, the three ka-tet members and Callahan go into the backyard. Roland also wants to see the church.
“I want you to take it,” Callahan says. He doesn’t say what “it” is, but everyone knows he means Black Thirteen. The church was never consecrated, but he used to be able to feel God inside it. No more.
Before Roland can answer, Susannah asks if he’s okay—she’s noticed him rubbing his hip. The cat-oil is already wearing off. He lies and says it’s the rheumatiz, but inside realizes they can’t keep lying and keeping secrets from each other for too long.
Callahan rubs the crucifix-shaped scar on his forehead and starts his story.
What Constant Reader Learns: Oh boy. Can’t wait for this next chapter!
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla.