Last week, we finished up The Wind Through the Keyhole with a terrifying Skin-Man reveal. This week, we meet an old King friend as we begin Wolves of the Calla!
Our previous read, The Wind Through The Keyhole, waylaid us in a town hall as a starkblast trapped our ka-tet with freezing conditions. Roland of Gilead spent the time palavering with Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy about long ago when him and fellow gunslinger Jamie tracked down and killed the shapeshifter Skin-Man. Intertwined in the narrative, we discover that Roland’s mother Gabrielle had learned from Randall Flagg that her son would murder her, and so in a letter she’d written in advance, she absolved Roland of the deed. After the icy weather passes, the ka-tet emerges and heads along the Path of the Beam toward Thunderclap.
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
We're back to wacky Stephen King chapters, so the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages) and meet here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, we begin Wolves of the Calla and meet an old Stephen King friend from Salem's Lot! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part I of Wolves of the Calla: Prologue: “Roont” – Part One Todash, IV: “Palaver”!
Prologue: “Roont” – Part One Todash, IV: “Palaver”
Tian Jaffords and his clan (wife Zalia, five kids, his twin sister Tia, and brother-in-law Zalman Hoonik) live in the borderlands of Calla Bryn Sturgis—a farm country where few can read or write, except select few like Tian. He plows the earth, living out an unremarkable existence, but he’s dedicated to his work and family.
Roving about is a friendly robot named Andy, manufactured by—you know it—North Central Positronics. Andy sings old ditties and tosses out a horoscope now and again for anyone so interested. His latest jaunt to the Jaffords, though, brings startling news that the wolves who reside toward the east at Thunderclap will be returning in about a month.
Too alarmed by Andy’s wolves report, Tian brushes aside additional news that a small group of strangers are moving along the Path of the Beam their way. Tired of the wolves descending to prey on their children, he gathers the Calla townsfolk with the idea that the time has come to fight back. He almost sways them until the fork-tongued Telford takes center stage to remind them of the fierce wolves’ weapons that spin through the air, locking on their targets and cutting down their prey with whirling blades. When it looks like all is lost for Tian’s plea, Old Fella, aka Father Callahan, steps forward.
Why, fancy meeting you here, Callahan—he was a character last seen in King’s Salem’s Lot (1975) who is now acting as a catalyst to move The Magnificent Seven plot forward. You agree with me, right? First, there was the Steve McQueen quote at the beginning of the book, “Mister, we deal in lead,” and now Callahan is encouraging the farmers to hire these gunslingers he has heard about that’s passing by. Just like in the 1960 (and I contend overrated) flick, the farmers wonder what they can pay the gunslingers for help. Callahan has an answer he’s keeping close to his vest. Something he knows the descendants of Arthur Eld will want.
Eddie’s thoughts guide us away from the Emerald City as he contemplates that it was as if someone had transported them into and out of Maerlyn’s Rainbow, dropping the ka-tet about thirty miles from the green palace complete with sodas and Keebler cookies. Though that reality had just happened, it now seems like another world they are looking at—time out of mind.
The only peculiarity he could think of since returning from the Wizard’s Glass was what Jake called the Mystery Number, and that probably meant nothing. They’d needed to solve a mathematical riddle in the Cradle of Lud in order to gain access to Blaine, and Susannah had suggested the Mystery Number was a holdover from that. Eddie was far from sure she was right, but hey, it was a theory.
And really, what could be so special about the number nineteen? Mystery Number, indeed. After some thought, Susannah had pointed out it was prime, at least, like the numbers that had opened the gate between them and Blaine the Mono.
Whether it’s the number of kindling they gather for fire, a person’s name, or an ancient tree (“The shape those branches made against the sky was the number nineteen.”), it seems like nineteen keeps surging to the top of every activity. Also, they are aware of a group of individuals following them yet keeping their distance. Jake first noticed when he was picking some pleasing delicacies called muffin-balls. Roland isn’t worried, and they all lay down to sleep without setting a sentry. Perchance to dream … BIG! Or maybe I should write, todash to dream. For Eddie, Jake, and Oy have traversed a void that exists between worlds.
Jake finds himself back to New York City on May 31, 1977, the very day he saw the red rose in the vacant lot. He meets up with Eddie and Oy and then pushes the already burgeoning envelope of the temporal paradox when he sees himself on the way to buy Charlie the Choo-Choo and the riddle book from Calvin Tower. No one can see them, though pedestrians walk around them on the Big Apple streets just the same.
The fractional ka-tet follows the ’77 Jake into the book store, and that’s where ripples in time, so to speak, become more noticeable. The Charlie book is written by a different author, and a bookstore sign alters while they are milling about. Eddie is unsettled to find goodfellas Balazar, Jack Andolini, and George Biondi (from The Drawing of the Three) working under the auspices of the Sombra Corporation and leaning on Calvin Tower to sell the vacant lot that houses the rose to them. Is it possible that the rose leads to the Dark Tower itself?
Meanwhile, back in mega-unsettling dreamland, a fourth personality of Susannah’s named Mia has emerged, and only Roland has noticed. He follows her—after first observing the other members of his troop are doing the todash fandango—watching as Susannah treats a nearby swamp as a smorgasbord, dining on every creepy crawly she snatches. She mumbles different voices, courtesies, and moves about like she’s living out another existence from long ago. Roland knows she’s pregnant and may be carrying his son (say what?!) from that succubus that she dallied with while holding the doors open between worlds for Eddie and Jake. Well, that could get all kinds of relationship-complicated weird between Eddie, Roland, and Susannah.
In the morning, they all wake up, Roland explains todash, and they palaver over what to do about the rose. Easier said than done—to Roland’s way of thinking—they decide on traveling back to two points on American time. One, so Susannah can make good use of her millions by withdrawing from her inheritance and paying Mr. Tower for the lot where the rose grows.
Enter Father Callahan, who approaches the ka-tet with the wherewithal he obtains for supernatural conveyance.
Jake’s face filled with understanding and horrified wonder. “Which one is it?” he asked. “It can’t be the pink one from Mejis, because Roland went inside it, it never sent him todash. So which one?”
A tear spilled down Callahan’s right cheek, then another. He wiped them away absently. “I’ve never dared handle it, but I’ve seen it. Felt its power. Christ the Man Jesus help me, I have Black Thirteen under the floorboards of my church. And it’s come alive. Do you understand me?” He looked at them with his wet eyes. “It’s come alive.”
Lots happening, and I’m glad after Wizard and Glass and The Wind Through the Keyhole that it’s happening to Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy once again. Enjoyed the trip to NYC and the strange developments going on with Susannah. I’m going to hedge my bets and say I’m on board with the twisted pregnancy, but, holy hades, where is that all going, right? Biggest shocker, as mentioned, was the welcoming addition of Father Callahan. I’m interested in what happened since we last read about him and wondering how much he will contribute for the rest of the series. So far, Wolves of the Calla rocks.
What did you think of the beginning of Wolves of the Calla? Head to the comments and start/join the conversation!
*Remember: Be careful with your comments—NO SPOILERS! We will be moderating the comments and deleting anything we feel is a spoiler, so pause before you post and make sure you're not ruining it for someone else.
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|The Wind Through the Keyhole Part III||| Index |||Wolves of the Calla Part II|
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.