“Cast your nets, wanderers! Try me with your questions, and let the contest begin.”
—Blaine the Mono, to Roland and the Ka-Tet, at the end of The Waste Lands
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 sections, join me by commenting here.
Last week, Roland had finally come to his senses (at least we think so), and he and Cuthbert had issued a warning to Rhea and killed her beloved snake Ermot.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 1
We pick up three days after the visit to Rhea. Roy Depape and Clay Reynolds go to talk to Jonas in his room at the Travellers’ Rest, only to find Coral Thorin in her nightdress, knitting in front of the window. Jonas is bare-chested and in the middle of a shave. They are a bit taken aback but have the good sense not to say anything.
We learn that they have the Citgo oil patch staked out day and night. Jonas is disappointed that, so far, the boys haven’t reacted to his bit of vandalism in the bunkhouse—he’d hoped they would rush out to Citgo and right into an ambush. He can’t figure out why they’re holding back.
The long-lost Latigo finally arrives, and although he sounds and is dressed like a Latino Latigo, he’s blond and pale and of hard disposition. He speaks “in the abrupt, clipped tones of northern In-World, where—or so Depape had heard—reindeer-f*cking was still considered the chief sport. If you ran slower than your sister, that was.” (Yar.)
Latigo says his party is camped thirty wheels west of Hambry, in the forest beyond Eyebolt Canyon, and has about a hundred well-armed men. Jonas realizes Latigo’s force is too small to be more than an advance scouting party. But Latigo isn’t saying—he lets Jonas know he didn’t come into this “godforsaken shitsplat of a town” to discuss his plans.
The Good Man is well aware of the boys, though, and is disturbed that there are folk from In-World in Mejis. “They’re not young men but mere boys,” Jonas says. “And if their coming here is ka—about which I know Farson concerns himself deeply—then it may be our ka rather than the Affiliation’s.”
Latigo wants the boys treated as a threat, and Jonas assures him there is nothing to be concerned about, as he’d told Walter. “[Walter] is the Good Man’s underliner,” Latigo says. “The chief reason he came to you was to underline these boys.”
The plan is to take the boys out the day before Reaping, and Latigo asks Jonas if this will happen. Jonas is nervous: “He would be held to what he said next, and without grace. If he was right, the Big Coffin Hunters would be thanked and paid…perhaps bonused as well. If he was wrong, they would likely be hung so high and hard that their heads would pop off when they hit the end of the rope…‘We’ll take them easy as birds on the ground,’“ he assures Latigo.
So the plan is to accuse the boys of treason, in the pay of John Farson and plotting against the Affiliation—and of the murder of the mayor, a plan Coral Thorin is in on. “What a pity it will be,” she says. “I may be moved to lead the rabble myself.” Said rabble will throw the boys on the Reaping Day fire.
Finally, Latigo asks about the glass ball, and tells Jonas he should soon get it back from the “local bruja.” Latigo refers to it as the “Wizard’s Rainbow.” Jonas says Rimer and Avery will be going to get the glass back from Rhea. When Latigo says, “That won’t do,” it’s Coral who understands why: “When the piece of the Wizard’s Rainbow Rhea holds is taken back into custody, the Chancellor will be accompanying my brother to his final resting place.” So the plan is to kill Rimer as well—another thing to blame on “John Farson’s filthy spyboys,” aka our ka-tet.
What Constant Reader Learns: In another time and place, the little domestic scene with Jonas and Coral would be kind of sadly sweet. Well, before she talks about murdering her brother.
The Man in Black gave everyone the heebie-jeebies. When there’s a knock at the door, Depape is startled, fearing their buddy Walter is back. But Jonas says “our friend in the black robe has decamped. Perhaps he goes to offer comfort to the Good Man’s troops before battle.” Uh-huh. Comfort.
Latigo does not know what a thinny is, which surprises me for some reason. I guess because our boys had at least heard of a thinny and Roland recognized it as such even though he’d never seen or heard one firsthand.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 2
We’re told a Romeo and Juliet-ish story of a young married girl and her handsome, but unstable, lover. When she breaks off their affair, he picks up a rock and kills her with it, then kills himself. They are found with their lips sealed together by dried blood. Sweet.
“An old story,” we’re told. “Every town has its version,” complete with “morbidly romantic songs.” The Hambry version ends in the town cemetery, believed to be haunted and seldom visiting after dark. So it’s the perfect place for our revised ka-tet (the boys plus Susan) to meet.
Roland and Susan are concerned about Cordelia, who is openly suspicious and accusatory now, despite never getting Rhea’s message. She’s taken to following Susan—twice before the group had agreed to meet, but Cordelia had been watching. Finally, Maria, the maid at Seafront, had helped her by presenting a note from Olive Thorin (which she’d written “listlessly and without questions”) requesting that Susan stay overnight.
What Constant Reader Learns: When Susan finally gets away, climbing off the Juliet-like balcony, Roland is waiting for her. “After two warm minutes with which we need not concern ourselves, they rode double on Rusher to the graveyard.” Thank you, intruding author or narrator, for sparing us those details.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 3
Alain and Cuthbert are waiting when Susan and Roland arrive at the graveyard. The boys give her a formal In-World bow and they greet each other, then share an awkward moment. Susan finally says, “I hope you don’t hate me….I love him.” Alain assures her they don’t hate her, but when he turns to Cuthbert for confirmation, he is slow to answer. “For a terrible moment Cuthbert was silent, looking over Susan’s shoulder to study the waxing Demon Moon…Then his gaze returned to her and he gave a smile of such sweetness that a confused but brilliant thought (If I’d met this one first—, it began) shot through her mind like a comet.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Not for the first time, we see a spark of admiration between Cuthbert and Susan. Wonder if Roland’s at all aware of their attraction to each other?
Roland’s no help at all, sitting back on his horse and letting the other three figure out what their attitudes and roles with each other will be.
Love the touch of gallows humor. After saying he and Roland have been friends since childhood and will continue so until the day they die, he adds, “Mayhap we’ll all find the end of the path together, the way things are going,” to which Alain adds, “And soon.” And Susan says that’s okay, as long as Cordelia doesn’t come along as a chaperone. Roland doesn’t participate in banter.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 4
“We are ka-tet,” Roland says, officially beginning their meeting. They give Susan a little bit of their backstory, then Roland says he thinks Farson intends a battle in the mountains. The Affiliation forces will think they’ve trapped him, but he will have the “weapons of the Old People” waiting once he’s lured them in.
There’s a lot of machinery left in the mountains, Alain adds—robots and killer lights (”razor beams,” such are they called). They also share the story of their visit from Deputy Dave to tell them how Hambry folks don’t like strangers at their Fairs.
They’ve figured out that all the warnings mean Jonas and Co. will be making their move on Reaping Fair-Day, and “steal Farson’s goods right out from under our noses,” and then blame the boys. Roland says they plan to destroy what they’ve left at Citgo “as bait of our own,” and strike them where they gather, at Hanging Rock where they’ve been moving the tankers. He figures there will be at least a couple of hundred men, and he “intends that all these men should die.” The plan is to blow up the tankers, let themselves be seen, and then lead Jonas and Co. into Eyebolt Canyon, and into the thinny.
Not only is Susan agog, but so are Alain and Cuthbert, who, of course, have known nothing of what Roland has been planning.
What Constant Reader Learns: Cuthbert admits that, despite their earlier disagreements, he now thinks Roland was right about not telling anyone back home of the goings-on in Hambry. For his part, Roland acknowledges he was right for the wrong reasons. He has a bruise on his chin, but they seem to have truly settled their differences, at least for now.
Fun to watch Cuthbert and even Alain try to joke a little with Susan, who’s also quick to laugh, but Roland’s as entertaining as a turnip.
I like the way Stephen King is setting this up, where we know what each side’s plan is, and the tension keeps building as we get closer.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 5
Roland’s little bombshell silences everyone for a while. Finally, Susan tells him he’s mad, but Cuthbert’s starting to understand. The cut in the canyon wall they’d spotted earlier will be their escape route. When they get to the top, they can pile enough stones to send an avalanche after anyone who tries to follow them. Those who try to ride out of the canyon will face a wall of burning brush from the boys’ earlier work, and the smoke will drive them into the thinny if the wind is blowing right.
Roland tells Susan that she and Sheemie can help, and she’s level-headed: “Tell me what you want.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I like this: “They were silent for a moment, four children contemplating the murders of a hundred men. Except they wouldn’t all be men; many (perhaps even most) would be boys roughly their own ages.”
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 6
The foursome talk about the plan a bit more, but change little. “All of them seemed to understand that if they planned too much and things changed suddenly, they might freeze. Ka had swept them into this; it was perhaps best that they count on ka—and their own courage—to sweep them back out again.”
They get ready to leave until Alain reminds them: There’s the matter of Rhea. Roland doesn’t see the problem—he and Cuthbert have warned her. Alain points out it’s not what she knows that worries him, it’s how she found out. “Pink,” Susan says suddenly, fiddling with her hair where she’d chopped it off.
Roland collapses onto the floor. “Dear gods. It can’t be true,” he says.
Cuthbert realizes what Roland’s already grasped—the pink thing is what Roland’s father warned them of just before they left. Finally, Alain understands. Roland wants to hypnotize Susan again, and she gives her permission. She goes under fast, and Roland realizes she’s been hypnotized before, probably by Rhea.
What Constant Reader Learns: Every once in a while we get a reminder of how young these characters are, as when Alain finally gets Roland’s reaction to “pink” and he drops an F-bomb. Since he’s sitting next to a girl, his first reaction is to clap his hands over his mouth and apologize.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 7
Flashback! Roland remembers when they left home, “the road, and the mysteries that lie along it” calling them. As Steven sees them off, Bert’s and Alain’s fathers are standing sentry, hands on their guns, even though Marten is believed to have left Gilead for a while.
“I’d have you keep an eye out for a color of the rainbow,” Steven tells the boys. “The Wizard’s Rainbow, that is…it’s the pink one.”
They’d thought it was a fairytale, but Steven says the tale of Maerlyn’s Rainbow is true. “It’s said that once there were thirteen glass balls in it—one for each of the twelve guardians, and one representing the nexus-point of the beams.” The Dark Tower.
“Thirteen it was called when I was a boy,” Steven says. “But Black Thirteen doesn’t matter to you three—not now, at least. It’s the pink one. Maerlyn’s Grapefruit.” Farson had been seen with a talisman that glowed pink before battles or big decisions were made.
When Roland points out that Farson is not in the direction they’re going, Steven says the thing about the glass is that he can’t keep it with him—he can only send for it when he needs it and then send it away again, because the glass is “alive and hungry.”
Steven leaves them with these words: “I don’t expect you boys to see Maerlyn’s glass, but I didn’t expect to be seeing you off at fourteen with revolvers tucked in your bedrolls, either. Ka’s at work here, and where ka works, anything is possible.
What Constant Reader Learns: Ah, the glass gets even more interesting. As is the news that there are other balls “rolling around this sad world of ours.” The blue is out there. The green is supposedly in Lud. The orange in Dis. Some of the balls look into the future, some into other worlds where demons live, some into the world where the Old People “are supposed to have gone when they left our world.” They may also show the location of secret doors between worlds. Did we see a green ball in Lud? This has me wondering about doors and glowing balls.
On their way out of town, Roland sees his mother leaning from her bedroom window, crying. She waves at him but he doesn’t wave back. Shades of Susan in the window, and Roland’s comparison of the two.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 8
Cuthbert pokes Roland in the ribs to bring him out of his chapter-long flashback. Susan’s hypnotized, and Roland begins to talk to her. She remembers Rhea telling her to cut her hair, and fetching some wood before that. She can’t remember what Rhea said to her just before she left, so Alain steps up and guides her through the memory. She remembers Rhea holding a little silver medal, and then ordering her to cut all her hair as soon as the mayor takes her virginity and falls asleep.
When Roland asks why the moon Susan remembers is pink, she said it’s Rhea’s “glam,” that she keeps under her bed in a box.
Finally, Alain fears they’ve kept Susan under too long, and Roland thinks they have all they need, so he brings her out of it.
What Constant Reader Learns: Hm…now what are they going to do about getting the glass—or will they destroy it? Can it be destroyed? Will it end up in the thinny as well? I need to know these things.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 5: Wizard’s Rainbow, Section 9
On the way back, Susan asks Roland if he plans to take the glass from Rhea, but he thinks it’s safer where it is for now, then he’ll “take it or break it.” He realizes Rhea’s probably under the spell of the glass and won’t come after them herself. She’ll want to do nothing but sit and look in it and hold it (preciousssss). Roland says goodbye to Susan outside Seafront.
What Constant Reader Learns: Just in case we have missed some of the 4,523 foreshadowings of gloom, here’s another: “Whatever comes, we’ll be together,” Roland said, but above them, Demon Moon grinned into the starry dark above the Clean Sea, as if he knew a different future.”
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with the next chapter of Wizard and Glass.