Last week, Roland & Co. went todash back to 1970's NYC. This week, Father Callahan takes center stage as we learn about what happened after the seminal events of Salem's Lot.
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, Father Callahan takes center stage as we learn about what happened after the seminal events of Salem's Lot! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part III of Wolves of the Calla: Part Two Telling Tales, I: “Pavilion” – Part Two Telling Tales, III: “The Priest's Tale (New York)”!
Part Two Telling Tales, I: “Pavilion” – Part Two Telling Tales, III: “The Priest's Tale (New York)”
Is Eddie Dean beginning to have delusions of grandeur? He’s pondering whether he’s a genuine son of the near mythical Arthur Eld (an alternate version of King Arthur). You see, he’s never been in a horse saddle before, and yet, here he is riding toward Calla Bryn Sturgis with Roland and the rest of the horsemen with ease, as if he’s George Woolf on Seabiscuit. Is it possible he’s descended from that legendary stock? Perhaps Father Eld stepped through a magical transom 27 generations back or so and had a dalliance with a greaty-great granny of Eddie’s? Makes sense though, doesn’t it, that Eddie, Susannah, and Jake have some sort of rarefied DNA. Though how to explain Oy’s evolution?
Residents are inviting the ka-tet to stay at their individual homes while they wait for the wolves to arrive. Ben Slightman the Younger asks Jake to stay at the Rocking B, and Roland okays a sleepover knowing that what’s left of Jake’s childhood is slipping away with each horror he encounters along The Path of the Beam. To see just a glimmer of what innocence remains is endearing to the gunslinger (who, let’s not forget, allowed the boy to die), but I’m left wondering where King is going with this thread. Betting something ain’t right at the Rocking B. Careful, Jake.
First, though, the ka-tet are presented to the entire town of Calla Bryn Sturgis. A surprise occurs when Oy introduces himself by rising on his back legs, keeping his balance, and says, “Oy! […] Eld! Thankee!” Then, Roland passes the torch to Eddie—to Mr. Dean’s irritation—to say a few words on their gang’s behalf. He bluntly tells the town they will probably help them against the wolves (provided a scope-out of the terrain pans out), but the town has to help themselves too. This ride-ain’t-free message seems to bristle a few citizens, the ones that had originally planned to just give-in to the wolves.
And then, amusing shocker to Eddie and Susannah … Roland of Gilead dances:
He stood for a moment longer in the orange glow, as if gathering his strength, and then he began to dance something that was caught between a jig and a tap routine. It was slow at first, very slow, heel and toe, heel and toe. Again and again his boot heels made that fist-on-coffintop sound, but now it had rhythm. Just rhythm at first, and then, as the gunslinger’s feet began to pick up speed, it was more than rhythm: it became a kind of jive. That was the only word Eddie could think of, the only one that seemed to fit.
He ends his jig by diving into the crowd. Eddie quips, “Roland stage-dives like Joey Ramone.”
With Jake (and Oy) off for a sleepover—good luck, kid—the other three follow Callahan to his house where they are relieved to learn that the crystal ball, Black Thirteen, is not “awake.”
Roland tells Eddie about Susannah and Mia and Demon baby, expecting blowback, but Eddie is accepting of the situation, and they agree to keep it quiet from Susannah. Eddie’s not comfortable lying to her but feels Mia could become all-powerful in an attempt to protect the baby, possibly squashing Susannah’s personality in the process. Roland, always practical, needs Susannah’s help in training citizens for the wolves’ onslaught. Eddie also realizes that the rose and what it stands for—basically, all humanity—is worth the sacrifice.
Biggest chunk of this week’s read was devoted to Father Callahan, as we finally learn what transpired in his life after leaving Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine. First, tormented by his failure in battling the vampire Barlow, he took a bus to New York City and climbed into a bottle. When sobriety returned, he managed to get a gig working in a homeless shelter of sorts and fell in love with a guy named Lupe Delgado.
It turns out Callahan can see a sort of blue ring around vampires, and one day he spotted the colorful glow surrounding a creature who just so happened to be sucking some blood from Lupe. Callahan zaps him into eternity with a meat cleaver and viola! Father Callahan, The Vampire Slayer, is born. Besides three classes of blood-sucking leeches, he also identifies another species:
“The low men,” Callahan said. “They call themselves that, sometimes, although there are women among them. Sometimes they call themselves regulators. A lot of them wear long yellow coats … but not all. A lot of them have blue coffins tattooed on their hands … but not all.”
“Big Coffin Hunters, Roland,” Eddie murmured.
Roland nodded but never took his eyes from Callahan. “Let the man talk, Eddie.”
“What they are—what they really are—is soldiers of the Crimson King,” Callahan said. And he crossed himself.
Quite revealing passages, don’t you think? Father Callahan is an intriguing character regardless of whether you are familiar with Salem’s Lot, but learning what happened after those seminal events of King’s 1975 novel is a huge bonus. We meet a lot more of the Calla Bryn Sturgis populace, which I’m guessing is providing the emotional hook needed when the wolves arrive and people start dying. A smaller detail I’m wondering about is Roland’s dry twist—an arthritis that seems to be spreading fast. Roland considers whether he has a year, or maybe two, left to live.
And our quest for The Dark Tower continues…
What did you think of Father Callahan's backstory? 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.