“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 Roland began forming a plan for the Wolves after seeing Margaret Eisenhart’s skill with the Oriza.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 1
While Roland (and Jake) hangs out with the Eisenharts, Eddie and Susannah are visiting the Jaffords farm on River Road, a place Eddie quite likes despite being a city boy. He finally decided it was because of the kids—ten-year-old Heddon and Hedda, the toddlers Lyman and Lia, and the “singleton,” Aaron. The kids are all being brought up to have good manners, and the oldest boy, Heddon, is fascinated with Eddie.
Then they see the two “overall-clad giants” following in the family’s wake. Tia (Tian’s twin) is six-six, and Zalman (Zalia’s twin) is seven-two.
What Constant Reader Learns: The scene with the kids in the yard, lining up to welcome the visitors, was sweet, and in great contrast to the two “roont” ones that arrive shortly afterward.
LOL. I think Stephen King was really amusing himself with “taters and gravy.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 2
While Tian and Eddie go out to look at the field Tian calls Son of a Bitch, Eddie asks about Tian’s grandfather. It’s clear there’s bad blood between them, and that Tian’s a bit put out that he has to feed the “two great roont galoots” as well as the “bad-natured old man.” He also doesn’t like the attention Zalia gives the old guy.
Eddie asks what’s wrong between him and his grandfather, and Tian says it goes back to something he did to Tian’s father—a story for another time. Eddie tells him that whatever problems he has with the old man, he might as well get over them—their business is serious and there’s no room for grudges.
Tian says if any of his grandfather’s stories are true, the one about killing the Wolf is most likely to be true. That he’d been telling the story in much the same way for years, and that the old man had been “trum”—not the guy who’d stick his head in a lion’s mouth, but the kind who could convince others to do it. Roland also is trum, he notes.
Eddie likens Tian’s determination to get “madrigal” to grow in Son of a Bitch to the certainty with which Henry used to expect his next high to be the best ever before he quit drugs for good. He’s pretty shocked to learn that Tian plows using his sister as the mule, but Tian’s very practical about it. Eddie wonders why they don’t get Andy to do such work, and apparently they’ve tried. He asks for their password, then says he can’t do it according to Directive Nineteen. And not for the first time, Eddie thinks Andy isn’t to be trusted.
What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting exchange between Tian and Eddie when Tian tells Eddie to “leave it” when he asks about the bad blood between Tian and his grandfather. “No, you leave it,” Eddie says, and it’s gunslinger Eddie talking and not goofy Eddie: “He was twenty-five, already a year older than Cuthbert Allgood on his last day at Jericho Hill, but in this day’s failing light he could have passed for a man of fifty. One of harsh certainty.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 3
When Tian and Eddie return to the yard, they find Susannah doing a sing-song while Zalman and Tia turn a long jump rope—enough for Zalia and the four older children to jump in together. Eddie urges the giants to turn the rope faster and he jumps in with them, going faster and faster. Gran-pere comes out on the porch to watch. They go until, finally, the rope catches on one of the kids’ heels and they all go tumbling.
What Constant Reader Learns: The jump rope is Eddie’s version of Roland’s dancing, in a way—and it got Gran-Pere’s attention.
Interesting little exchange between Eddie and Susannah after the rope-jumping. She tells him she loves him, and he pauses before he responds. “He knew that however much she might love him, he would always love her more. And as always when he thought these things, the premonition came that ka was not their friend, that it would end badly between them.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 4
Dinnertime rolls around, and they all gather at the table. And they say a prayer in the “name of God the Father and His Son, the Man Jesus…Amen.”
What Constant Reader Learns: To which Tia cries, “Taters!”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 5
During dinner, Tian is annoyed when Zalia sits next to Grand-pere and helps him eat, assisted by Susannah. Gran-pere says he “ain’t seen a true brown woman” in forty years. Eddie tells the old man he’d like to hear his story, and Grand-pere agrees.
What Constant Reader Learns: The dinner includes three different kinds of rice, which Eddie thinks is terrific, but the Jaffordses seem to take for granted. Then again, they haven’t been living on gunslinger burritos for God knows how long.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 6
They settle on the porch for Grand-pere to tell his tale, though it takes him a while to get started and Eddie isn’t certain how sound his mind is. He says there were four of them—him and his best friend Pokey Slidell and Eamon Doolin and his wife Molly, who “was the very devil” when it came to throwing the dish. He said, despite his earlier stories to the contrary, that it was Molly who actually killed the wolf.
The Wolves came and split into three units outside town. The biggest group went into town and went to Took’s store, where some people had hidden their babies. The Wolves went straight and took the kids, then set the store on fire using “light-sticks” whose fire only burns hotter when water is thrown on it.
The two other groups of Wolves took different routes by smaller ranches and farms.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie makes a note to tell Roland that Zalia might have a weapon they weren’t aware of. Methinks Roland won’t be surprised.
So…what kind of fire would that be?
Grand-pere is sharper than he’s given credit for (or maybe it’s ka at work)—he warns Eddie not to depend on a Took for help because they don’t want to see the store burned again.
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 7
Pokey and Jamie and Eamon and Molly and waiting on one of the side roads. Eamon suggests hiding in a ditch, but Molly’s determined to stand in the road and face them. They take a stand across the road, understanding “that the Wolves may exact a toll of vengeance on the rest for this stand they’re making, but it doesn’t matter. This is right.”
And then four Wolves are on them, riding gray horses and wearing gray pants, dark-green cloaks, green hoods, and wolf masks. They’re throwing “sneetches.” Pokey’s bah-bolt misses, and Eamon’s strikes a horse. Jamie’s bolt (this is Grand-pere) strikes a wolf in the chest, but it’s wearing armor and it bounces off.
A sneetch hits Eamon in the face and his head explodes just before Molly throws her first plate. It strikes the oncoming Wolf in the neck and knocks it off its horse. A light-stick cuts off her arm as she readies to throw another, and she reaches for her severed arm to take the plate in her other hand before going up in flames. Pokey’s the next to be hit, and he explodes. Jamie’s hit by a horse as it passes, and he ends up on the ground, waiting for a sneetch to find him or a Wolf to come for him, but he manages to lie still enough for them to pass him by.
As the rest ride away, Jamie crawls toward the Wolf that Molly has shot. For most of this time, it’s been lying on its back doing a cockroach arm-and-leg wave, but now it’s still. He kicks at it, and notices a pungent, rotten smell coming from it. So he reaches down and unmasks it.
What Constant Reader Learns: Pokey Slidell and Jamie Jaffords are kind of the Walmart version of Roland and Cuthbert.
“Sneetches” sound like grenades with heat-seeking guidance systems on them. Although I can’t quite shake the image of Quidditch and Harry Potter.
I like this sentence: “Molly pries the dish from her own dead fingers.”
Wolves of the Calla—“Telling Tales,” Chapter 6, “Gran-Pere’s Tale,” Section 8
Eddie’s so caught up in the story that he doesn’t realize at first that Gran-pere has stopped talking. At first, Eddie thinks the old man’s mentally wandered off in a fog, but he manages to come back, and Eddie thinks he looks frightened. He tells Eddie he’s never told anyone except Luke, Tian’s father, who told him never to speak of it again. “The Red King always finds his henchmen,” Luke told him. He was afraid his father would tell someone who’d get word back to the Wolves.
Eddie leans over to hear, and “Gran-pere whispered nineteen words as the last light died out of the day and night came to the Calla.” Eddie is agog. He now thinks he understands about the gray horses and gray pants and green cloaks. “Of course,” he thinks. “It makes perfect sense. We should have known.”
Belatedly, we learn the source of the contention between Tian and Gran-pere. Luke put a well where Tian had pointed with his dowsing stick, against his father’s will, and it collapsed and killed Luke.
What Constant Reader Learns: So, there was a Wolf-snitch even back in the day as well. Right now, my money’s on Benny the Elder or that fool of a Took. Oh, wait. Wrong epic fantasy.
Evil, evil Stephen King. Making us wait to find out what was behind the mask. I have nineteen words for you, my friend.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla.