“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.
Our ka-tet and the fair folken of Calla Bryn Sturgis have defeated the robot Wolves, with the loss of poor Benny Slightman Jr. and Margaret Eisenhart… and, quite possibly, Susannah. Because Mia, daughter of none, and her chap are on the move.
[Read this week’s post.]
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Epilogue, The Door Way Cave, Section 1
Eddie, Roland, Jake and Callahan race for the path to the cave to search for Susannah. A mile beyond where the path divides, they find her wheelchair, which had struck a rock, severely damaging a wheel and making the chair useless. Eddie rushes ahead. Jake asks Roland if Suze could possibly have made it up the treacherous path with her legs gone. Roland agrees that one wouldn’t think she could—but he knows she has.
What Constant Reader Learns: Poor Eddie. He’s shouting for Susannah to fight Mia, but I suspect he’s too late. Plus, Susannah told Mia she’d help her once the Wolves had been defeated, and I doubt she was able to back out on that deal. I still wonder if Mia helped Susannah in any way during the fight? Maybe just by stepping back until it was over.
Now that the fight’s done, Roland is limping. The adrenaline of Wolf-fighting and Rosa’s magic touch have kept his arthritis at bay during their stay in the Calla, but I think that might become a bigger issue before long as well.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Epilogue, The Door Way Cave, Section 2
Roland catches up to Eddie where the path begins to climb and suggests that perhaps since Mia is in charge, it would be best to leave her alone for a while and let her finish her business and be gone—though Roland himself doubts that is what would happen. Eddie is adamant that they press on, fearing that part of Mia’s business will be to kill Susannah—even though it might mean suicide. So Roland agrees to go after her, but warns Eddie: “She’ll kill if it comes to that. You before any of us…”
As Eddie gazes up the zigzag path toward the cave, it occurs to him that Susannah might not be up there at all. Yet he urges the others on.
What Constant Reader Learns: Ah, Roland makes a good point. Eddie would be the first one Mia would kill because he’s the one Susannah would fight to get back to. I’m really curious to see how the next book plays out. I hope there’s not a lot of live frog consumption, however.
Cute exchange, just in case we missed Jake growing up over the last few hundred pages. Eddie tells the others that “four able-bodied men” should have no problem catching up with Susannah. “You just called me a man,” says Jake, who no doubt still has tobacco breath. “Don’t let it go to your head, Sunshine,” Eddie responds.
Hm, it occurs to me, as Roland and Eddie discuss the possibility that Mia might try to kill Susannah—which would essentially be suicide—that everyone’s assuming the chap will come out as a demon baby with Mia protecting him. But couldn’t a demon baby, at least theoretically, control both Mia and Susannah? We’re assuming Mia is in charge. But that might very well not be the case. Just a thought.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Epilogue, The Door Way Cave, Section 3
Eddie and Susannah think of themselves as married, and Eddie at some point carved her a ring of willowgreen, which she wore on a rawhide string around her neck. Eddie’s dismayed to find the ring, still on its loop, lying at the foot of the path. He slips it around his own neck.
Jake spots tracks of a three-wheel, tricycle-like machine. Eddie is impatient when Roland stops to look at the tracks and notes that there was a motor. “Someone sent her a ride,” Roland tells him. “Or something.”
Eddie doesn’t think so—who would do it? Jake suggests Andy, but inside he thinks maybe it was Finli o’Tego, or maybe even Walter. But he doesn’t voice an opinion—Eddie’s close to losing it.
What Constant Reader Learns: So, Eddie’s afraid the chap will turn on Mia/Susannah too. It seems like a likely scenario once she’s outlived her usefulness.
Interesting, this machine. Is “Finli” another incarnation of Walter? If so, there are bigger problems even than the chap. I know whoever Finli is, he’s going to show up again at some point because there’s been too many mentions of him. And I can’t imagine we’ve seen the last of Walter, or one of his other incarnations.
I wonder… of course one would expect Eddie to be anxious to go after Susannah, but Roland’s kind of dragging his feet, and I get the impression he’s going along mostly to appease Eddie. He doesn’t seem much convinced they can a) find her, or b) save her. Were Eddie not as adamant, would Roland let Susannah fend for herself and go on toward his mission to get the vacant lot? Moot point, but interesting to consider. Of course, I suspect ka will tie it all together somehow.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Epilogue, The Door Way Cave, Section 4
Even knowing that Roland is probably right, Eddie determinedly attacks the path to the Door Way Cave. Where the boulder had fallen blocking most of the path, they find the abandoned three-wheel vehicle with its motor still humming. On the left handgrip brake is a plate stamped “Squeeze-Pie Brakes By North Central Positronics.” Eddie also finds a six-pack of Nozz-A-La with one missing.
Jake tells them that the machine probably came from the Dogan across the river. He still thinks Andy provided the vehicle.
From their vantage point on the trail, Eddie can look down upon the battlefield along the East Road where they had defeated the Wolves that morning. He is angry the folken and their battle has cost him Susannah.
What Constant Reader Learns: Guess Mia likes alt-world soda.
So if Andy provided the vehicle, was he told to do this by Finli, who had a psychic sense of what would happen? Or did Mia slip out and make the arrangements? We know at least one time in the Calla where Susannah lost track of several hours.
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Epilogue, The Door Way Cave, Section 5
At the Doorway Cave’s entrance, they hear a woman’s voice, good old Rhea of Coos—a woman Eddie had never met, but he recognized her voice immediately. With her usual finesse, Rhea assures them that Susannah is gone and that when the baby is born, it will eat the mother. When Eddie yells for the voice to shut up, it does.
Looking around, Eddie sees Calvin Tower’s two-shelved bookcase with its first editions under glass, but the pink Mid-World Lanes bowling bag is gone—along with Black Thirteen’s box. The unfound door was till there looking strangely dull.
Eddie asks Roland what happened, even though it’s obvious. Susannah took her wheelchair as far as she could, then went on her hands and knees to the foot of the path, where she found her ride, most likely left for her by Andy.
This time, it’s Henry Dean’s voice taunting them that the baby has already eaten Susannah from the inside out, including “brain food.” This time, it’s Callahan who tells it to shut up, in the name of God. And again, the voice quiets.
Roland continues. Susannah had opened the bag, gone through the door carrying Black Thirteen, and took it with her. And now they’re stuck on the cave side of the door.
Now it’s Jake’s turn to have a voice taunt them in the cave—his father, saying if they’d been quicker, they could have saved her. And then Detta Walker, telling Eddie she had always hated his guts.
Roland is still preoccupied with the books. Eddie pleads with him to help him find a way to open the door. Roland says that he knows how to open the door. The question was, where would it take them now that the ball was gone, and where did they want to go? Of course, Eddie wants to go after Susannah, fearing the voices from the cave might be right.
Roland, ever aware of his quest, points out that the Tower’s more important. So, in case we’ve forgotten, Ro reminds Eddie that Calvin Tower is still hiding out and the deadline’s approaching for the vacant lot. He reminds Eddie about the Rose. And just to top it off, he adds that all things serve ka.
Roland selects the book he’d found and saved earlier, handing it to Jake—who’s riveted on the cover photo of the church, the twin to the Calla Gathering Hall. The book is Salem’s Lot, a novel by Stephen King. Now we have Callahan’s attention. He says the church on the cover also looks just like the East Stoneham Methodist Meeting Hall. Now we have not twins, but triplets.
What Constant Reader Learns: The order in which they hear voices—and the fact that they only hear one at a time—is interesting. Roland’s nemesis, Rhea, comes first. Then Eddie Dean. Then Elmer Chambers. Then Detta Walker, representing Susannah. Callahan, although he’s at least a temporary part of the ka-tet, doesn’t hear a voice of his own.
And what will Mia/Susannah find in that secret compartment of the bowling bag, I wonder?
This is the third time in the Epilogue where sai-King is spoon-feeding us explanations that, even to clueless Constant Reader’s mind, seem obvious. Callahan wonders why Susannah would want to go to the door in the cave. And Eddie wants to know what happened to Susannah when she got to the cave and why the door isn’t working. And Roland recaps the Calvin Tower situation. DUH, guys. Someone needs to teach Roland to say, “Duh.”
Ah… finally! I wasn’t sure what the book was that had so fascinated Roland. I should have seen this one coming *bangs head against desk* I have a feeling Callahan’s about to have his mind blown!
Wolves of the Calla—“The Wolves,” Epilogue, The Door Way Cave, Section 6
Callahan tries to convince himself that the book is some kind of joke; after all, writers often pen make-believe stories about real places. Roland tells Callahan to look at page 119, where he reads about a priest named Callahan being given a sampler whose saying comes to mind as he officiates the funeral of one Danny Glick. Eddie wants to know: Did Callahan have such a thing? And of course he did.
Jake takes the book and finds where the vampire broke Callahan’s cross. Callahan is beside himself, crying out, “Damn it, I’m a real person!” There is even a passage in the book Father Callahan thinks the vampire reminds him of the bogeyman who lived in his closet when he was a kid, Mr. Flip.
Callahan never told anyone that, not even his mother, so how can it be in this book? And Jake and Eddie finally remember that they have, indeed, heard of this Stephen King dude—on the specials board at Calvin Tower’s bookstore, when he and Eddie went todash.
Eddie’s about tired of the book club meeting, and asks Roland if this is really getting them any closer to Susannah? Roland says it is, that they have reached the heart of the great mystery. The Dark Tower, he says, is almost close enough to touch. “And if the Tower is close, Susannah is too.”
Eddie asks again if Roland knows how to open the door. Roland tells him that he does, but he will need the help of the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis. Finally, Eddie begs Roland to help him find his wife, and Roland says, “Yes. We go.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Poor Callahan. Now he feels the need to insist that he’s a real person and not a fictional character. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of blowing my mind as well. Are we reading a book about a book? A story taking place purely in the mind of the sadistic sai (Crimson) King?
Okay, can’t think about that too long without drooling and rocking back and forth in my chair, feeling a bit like Callahan. Time to move ahead.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll begin our read of book eight, Song of Susannah.