Last week, we met an old King friend as we began Wolves of the Calla. This week, we meet more of the people of Calla Bryn Sturgis and Roland & Co. todash back to 1970's NYC.
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 meet more of the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis and the gunslingers todash back to New York! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part II of Wolves of the Calla: Part One Todash, V: “Overholser” – Part One Todash, VII: “Todash”!
Part One Todash, V: “Overholser” – Part One Todash, VII: “Todash”
The ka-tet dine with their perspective employers, feeling out the sharecroppers and the mysterious Father Callahan and learning that Thunderclap is somewhat of a dead zone populated by the wolves. When Eddie excuses himself to take a dump in the woods, he discovers Andy is quite the stealthy robot. Startled while still squatting, the gunslinger has a couple of questions for the apologetic machine—the most troubling of which regards the wolves: “… how do you know when they’re coming?”
The normally genteel machine turns haughty, “What’s your password, sai Eddie?” Turns out the bot is restricted from divulging this information under directive nineteen (there’s that damn prime). So, I’m making the call early: Andy is in cahoots with the wolves. Agreed? Of course, I’ve come to not trust any machine with a North Central Positronics, LTD label.
Roland gathers the farmers and Father Callahan for a palaver, during which farmer Overholser, the wealthiest of the bunch, goes into his own history of losing a sibling.
“Our Ma and Pa tried to hide us away in the cellar. So I’ve been told, anyway. I remember none of it, m’self, to be sure. Taught myself not to, I s’pose. Yar, quite likely. Some remember better’n others, Roland, but all the tales come to the same: one is took, one is left behind. The one took comes back roont, maybe able to work a little but dead in the b’low the waist. Then … when they get in their thirties…”
When they reached their thirties, the roont twins grew abruptly, shockingly old. Their hair turned white and often fell completely out. Their eyes dimmed. Muscles that had been prodigious (as Tia Jaffords’s and Zalman Hoonik’s were now) went slack and wasted away. Sometimes they died peacefully, in their sleep. More often, their endings weren’t peaceful at all.
It’s revealed that sixty to eighty wolves appear humanoid in shape but wearing masks. So, we get the build-up—like The Magnificent Seven’s “sheep” talking about the return of Calvera (Eli Wallach) and his bandits, only on a greater seismic scale with these advanced-tech marauders operating drones that can hunt down and eradicate.
There’s a great passage when one of the farmers basically implies the ka-tet appears rather rag-tag—given that the lead is a couple of digits short of a full set, one is in a wheelchair, and another is a preteen—putting forth the notion that perhaps they’re not as talented as they think. Roland may be missing fingers, but he doesn’t miss an opportunity—to show off their skills, he quickly tosses four plates into the air that Jake blows away with precision marksmanship using his Ruger, and Roland, Eddie, and Susannah rush forward to gather the shards as they fall from the air.
Descendent of Arthur Eld having to prove himself? As if to punctuate the ridiculousness of it, King includes Roland’s glorious, nostalgic dream of Cuthbert taking a last stand at the Battle of Jericho Hill.
Cuthbert Allgood, who had once ridden into the Barony of Mejis with a rook’s skull mounted on the pommel of his saddle. “The lookout,” he had called it, and talked to it just as though it were alive, for such was his fancy and sometimes he drove Roland half-mad with his foolishness, and here he is under the burning sun, staggering toward him with a smoking revolver in one hand and Eld’s Horn in the other, blood-bolted and half-blinded and dying … but still laughing. Ah dear gods, laughing and laughing.
“Roland!” he cries. “We’ve been betrayed! We’re outnumbered! Our backs are to the sea! We’ve got em right where we want em! Shall we charge?”
Having Cuthbert back, even if for a cameo, is like meeting an old friend for drinks. An immensely satisfying glimpse—though bittersweet—to see him laughing in the face of impending eternal darkness. Knowing that Alain and Jamie have already perished makes it even more poignant, and I want to know more about the Battle of Jericho Hill. (Note: Marvel released a five-issue comic book limited series in 2009 that King was the Creative and Executive Director.)
From the fall of Gilead, Roland todashes with Susannah, Eddie, Jake, and Oy to 1970’s New York. Susannah is exhilarated to have her legs back, even if only temporarily, but her emerging Mia personality may becoming noticeable to Eddie Dean.
The petals of the rose open, a nexus of time, of reality, that is separate from The Dark Tower but co-existing to keep balance. Millions of images are revealed in a matter of seconds, from Albert Einstein to countless acts of kindness. Key linchpins in time. But something is wrong.
There was a jagged dissonance buried in the hum, like bits of broken glass. There was a nasty flickering purple glare in its hot heart, some cold light that did not belong there.
Susannah had waited on the street with Oy while the boys checked out the rose. Time hiccups again, and she finds she’s lost seven minutes and, with it, her legs. A dead woman walking across the street has a green worm crawling out of her mouth, and Susannah becomes terrified when she sees a man that seems to be looking through her. She screams for Eddie. The trio makes hasty tracks but not before Jake swipes a bag that had been left in the exact spot he had found the key. Roland identifies the anomalies as “the vagrant dead,” explaining some don’t know what has happened to them and best not to disturb their zombie “sixth sense”-like existence.
Our week’s reading closed with the ka-tet returning to Roland’s world. What did you think of the changes in Susannah? I’ve always liked the direction of the gunslinging couple, and so I’m wondering how these new developments in Susannah will upset their relationship. But perhaps Mia is a passing phase, or maybe she will be submerged as was Detta? Or, a full-fledged demon baby is on the way. That should get interesting real fast.
What did you think of Part II 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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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.