“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 Eddie teaching a little gunslinger etiquette to George Biondi and Jack Andolini before sending a warning to Balazar to leave Calvin Tower alone.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 9
Tower is shaky after his close encounters of the gunslinger kind, and has trouble drinking his coffee as he and Eddie move behind the counter in the main part of the store. He’s still frightened by Eddie, but not as much since the big pistol has been stored back in Roland’s “swag bag.”
Eddie asks where Aaron Deepneau is, and Tower says he’s at the oncologist getting a checkup after being treated for cancer. Tower sums up their relationship: “He’s a hothead and I’m a coward. Perhaps that’s why we’re friends—we fit around each other’s wrong places, make something that’s almost whole.”
When Calvin launches into a critical self-analysis courtesy of the insight of his psychiatrist, Eddie shuts him down. He credits Tower with protecting the vacant lot, but Tower admits he’s just a packrat, as much as anything…although he has had funny dreams about that field. Dreams involving a field of roses.
Finally, Eddie takes a look at the book Andolini was about to torch and almost swallows his coffee cup. It’s a western called The Dogan, by Benjamin Slightman Jr.
What Constant Reader Learns: Never mind the coffee—Eddie’s digging the Half and Half. There’s not any chemically treated creamer in Mid-World, apparently.
And how many letters are in “Benjamin Slightman Jr.”? Of course.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 10
Eddie makes a quick recovery and asks Tower why the book is so valuable to him. Tower points out that the cover says the book is called The Dogan, but on the title page, it’s The Hogan. Hogan is the correct word. Also on the copyright page, the author was listed as Benjamin Slightman, no “Jr.”
Again, Tower points out that rare and valuable books are not to read, or even to handle, but to be treasured. You want to read, go and buy a cheap paperback version. Eddie thinks this is pretty warped.
Finally, Eddie realizes they’ve wandered off-task and he gets back to it. He tells Tower he needs to get out of New York and stay gone until July 15 because Balazar won’t give up that easily. They won’t be able to get to Eddie, since he has business elsewhere, so Tower needs to make sure they can’t get to him, either.
Tower has convinced himself Eddie didn’t mean his threat about killing Andolini and Co.’s family members, but learns differently. “People like Jack and Tricks Postino and Balazar himself, they’re animals,” Eddie tells him. “Wolves on two legs. And do wolves raise human beings? No, they raise more wolves…So if I had to go in there…I’d tell myself I was cleaning out a pack of wolves, right down to the smallest cub.”
Eddie asks if Tower needs money, and he admits that Deepneau has some put back. As he’s talking, Eddie looks toward the store’s door and sees Roland sitting in the cave, “a comic-strip yogi, just a cross-legged silhouette.” Tower says maybe they’ll go to Atlantic City, but Eddie talks him out of that. Finally, he says maybe New Hampshire—or Maine. While he’s there, Eddie says, find a lawyer and have the papers drawn up selling the vacant lot to the Tet Corporation, for a dollar—he’ll make sure they get fair market value for it later. Coveniently enough, Deepneau is a lawyer, but Tower gets stubborn.
Finally, Eddie tells him his wife is the heiress to the Holmes Dental fortune. But Tower says it isn’t greed that’s making him hesitate. It’s what’s in his safe out back. Something that’s always been there. He goes to get it.
What Constant Reader Learns: In the author bio, Benjamin Slightman Jr. is a rancher in Montana, and this was his second novel. It was published in 1943, which only adds up to seventeen, but I’m becoming paranoid about these things. This is the second of his three books that are known for taking the Indians’ (i.e., Wolves?) point of view. Later, from Tower, we learn that Benjamin Jr. was ironically killed by Indians, scalped outside a general store.
As he looks at the book, Eddie thinks about the Slightmans he knows, and wonders why he suddenly has such a bad feeling about them. He’s glad Jake took the Ruger.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 11
While Tower is gone, and sensing he’s going to be trouble, Eddie walks toward the door and asks Roland if he can come through. He says no, because if he does, he thinks the door will close and they won’t be able to get back.
What Constant Reader Learns: Roland’s looking haggard from holding the ball and listening to chimes all this time. He tells Eddie to hurry.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 12
When Eddie turns back around, Tower is watching him. When he asks who Eddie was talking to, Eddie asks if he sees anything. “A shimmer, like hot air over an incinerator,” he says. He wants to know who’s there, but for now, Eddie’s not saying.
Tower holds up an old envelope with “Stefan Toren” and “Dead Letter” written on it, followed by the same symbols that were on the door and the box holding Black Thirteen. Originally, the envelope held the will of Tower’s great-great-great grandfather. Now there’s one sheet of paper and he says if Eddie can tell him the name that’s on it, Tower will do as he asks.
Eddie doesn’t hesitate. The word is Deschain, with either the first name Roland or Steven.
Tower is shocked, and shows Eddie the sheet, which reads: “Roland Deschain, of Gilead, The Line of Eld, Gunslinger.”
What Constant Reader Learns: “‘And so,’ Eddie mused, ‘it all comes down to another riddle.’ Only this time it wasn’t four lives that hung upon the answer, but all of existence.” No pressure or anything.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 13
Eddie and Tower talk another fifteen minutes or so, and Eddie learns some things he doesn’t like. Even though he admires him to some degree for holding out against Balazar, he senses “a kind of willful stupidity about him…self-created and maybe propped up by his analyst.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is uneasy about Tower, whom he finds unlikeable and selfish. “Such a man could never be ka-tet, and it made Eddie uneasy to know that their destinies were so tightly bound together.” In the end, he has to trust ka, right?
I’m not liking Tower either. I have a feeling he’s not going to be as docile and cooperative as they hope.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 14
When Eddie asks Tower if he has a ring with “Ex Liveris” on it, and Tower corrects him, he says no. But Eddie’s not going to spring things about alternative pathways of time and how in another When he will come to the rescue of a certain priest.
Eddie knows he has to get back to Roland, but before he leaves, he wants Tower to promise that as soon as Eddie leaves, Tower also will leave. He gets all cagey again, and Eddie asks him if he likes his balls attached to his body—because they won’t be if he hangs around.
Tower finally gets the point, and says he’ll leave the next morning. Eddie wants him to decide where he’s going before he leaves town, and send Aaron to the vacant lot to write the zip code on the fence. That way, Eddie will be able to find him. When he gets to the town, he’s to go to the general store and tell people he’s in town to write a book or paint a picture of lobster-pots, so someone will be able to tell Eddie where he is.
Before Eddie leaves, though, Tower has a request—actually, a demand.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is drinking Half and Half straight during this scene, which is pretty funny.
Interesting that Tower doesn’t seem to question that there’s a door to another place that he can’t see. Why doesn’t he ask to go through it along with Eddie to keep him safe instead of having him trot off to Maine? Why, because then he might not be able to run into Stephen King. Or maybe in Maine, Calvin Tower IS Stephen King. Okay, I’ve been reading this too long, obviously, because nothing sounds too far-fetched.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 15
Roland can see into the bookshop, but not clearly. The todash chimes are driving him nuts, and now he’s smelling odors—hot metal, rancid bacon, ancient melting cheese, burning onions. And the ball is making his arthritis worse, and he knows the pain will continue to get worse as long as the box is open. And maybe even after it’s closed.
Roland’s massaging his aching hip when he hears Eddie call to him, and through the door he can see Eddie and Tower have dragged a big bookcase over. They push it through while Roland pulls. As he’s pulling it through, the box begins to close, as does the door, but he manages to slip his fingers in and keep it open. He can’t stand it any long and shouts for Eddie to get his ass back. (Well, okay, he says, “To me!”)
So Eddie does.
What Constant Reader Learns: Oh good grief, Tower wants to send his rare books over but not himself? I’d want to come through the door with my books, say thankya.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 16
Fast-forward ten minutes, and Eddie and Roland have left the cave. Roland’s in pain and trying to hide it from Eddie, but isn’t very successful.
Eddie admits he didn’t like Tower, and is pretty annoyed about having to bring the books over, although Roland points out that Balazar’s people will very likely burn the store. Besides, they can hide Black Thirteen behind it.
Eddie thinks Tower and Deepneau won’t be able to get out of New York without leaving a trail that Jack Andolini is smart enough to follow—plus, Balazar will be desperate after making a deal with the King. Tower, Eddie notes, “has mistaken his life for a life in one of his storybooks. He thinks things have got to turn out all right because the writer’s under contract.” So Eddie thinks they need to keep an eye on Tower, and that maybe they should send Callahan to do it.
To Eddie’s surprise, Roland thinks it’s a sound idea. But when he says he’ll bring Callahan to the cave and send him through, Eddie offers to do it—Roland’s hair’s gotten whiter, and he’s walking stiffly.
Before they move on, Eddie tells Roland he thinks Ben Slightman is the rat, and Roland knows—because of the spectacles.
What Constant Reader Learns: As homesick as Eddie was for a while, now he’s glad to be out of New York. He’d forgotten how bad it smelled, and how clean the air was in his new When.
When Eddie says Tower is greeky, Roland replies: “Not all are called to the way of the sword or the gun or the ship, but all serve ka.” Does that apply to the Crimson King, or Callahan’s low men?
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Chapter II, “The Dogan, Part 1,” Section 17
On the way down the mountain, Eddie tells Roland about the book and wonders if Benny Jr. could be in cahoots with his father. Roland thinks not, because Jake would know. “Are you sure he doesn’t?” Eddie asks. Roland has to give this some thought, but he doesn’t want to bring Jake in from the ranch. “This is Jake’s part of it,” he tells Eddie. “Jake will do what he needs to do. So will we all.”
When Eddie points out that Jake’s still just a boy, Roland says, “He won’t be for much longer.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Poor Jake’s got some bad stuff coming up, I think.
Eddie again notices Roland being in pain as he mounts his horse. I wonder how this debilitating ailment will impact the rest of the story? Hm.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll tackle the next chapter of Wolves of the Calla.