“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 first sections, join me by commenting here.
Last week, everyone in Hambry was feeling the “wrongness” in the air, and the tension continued to build for the plans the two sides—our boys and Jonas’s crew—hope to put into play.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 1
Kimba Rimer awakes sneezing, and thinks: just his luck to catch a cold when he has so much to do. Turns out, he doesn’t have as much to do as he thinks. He feels something tickling his nose, and he thinks it’s a bird that’s gotten in his room—Kimba’s kind of squeamish about creepy, crawly, or flying things. He finally manages to get his lamp turned on, only to find Clay Reynolds sitting on his bed, tickling him with a feather.
Reynolds, we learn, doesn’t like Rimer because of a joke the man once made at his expense, so he stabs him in the chest with a twelve-inch blade that “went all the way through, pinning him like a bug.”
Nice way to visualize Rimer’s final struggle without actually describing it: “On the far wall was Kimba Rimer’s distorted, struggling shadow. The shadow of the other man bent over it like a hungry vulture.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Rimer was a “provincial man under his veneer of cynical sophistication,” and didn’t even realize he was calling Reynolds’ sexual preferences into question. So Reynolds’ joy at killing him and getting vengeance was off-base…except that, you know, some people just need killing. And Kimba Rimer was one of those characters for me. Unlike the mayor, for whom I could feel a little sympathy because he’s so clueless and pathetic, Rimer’s character didn’t get very well developed. He was a means of setting everything in motion and pretty one-dimensional in a bad way.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 2
Uh-oh, Mayor Thorin’s turn. He’s dreaming of a bird with pink eyes cruising above the Barony, and everywhere its shadow falls, things die, turning the Barony “into a waste land.” “It may be my Barony, but it’s my bird, too,” he thinks just before awakening. Shaken by his dream, he pours himself a drink and thinks that although he feels guilty about what he’s let the coffin hunters set in motion, he’ll be too busy boinking good old Susan to worry about it for long.
He cracks his knuckles, which annoys Roy Depape as he hides behind the curtains. Depape slits the mayor’s throat and puts Cuthbert’s lost rook skull in the dying man’s lap. “Bird,” Thorin “gargles through a mouthful of blood.” Depape doesn’t know of the dream, of course, and thinks he’s referring to the rook. He pops out Thorin’s eyeballs and draws Farson’s eye mark on the wall
What Constant Reader Learns: The nightmares continue to be an interesting constant as the big showdown approaches, and Thorin’s is no exception. Love that his bird has pink eyes like the glass ball, and then Depape draws the Good Man’s eye sigul on the wall. And, of course, last chapter we saw poor Olive dream of her husband’s death this very way.
Clever setup to frame our young ka-tet. Finally, the wheels are starting to turn faster on our story…what will be the fallout?
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 3
Fran Lengyll and his men are hidden around the stables at the Bar K ranch, ready to blindside the boys and arrest them. Sheriff Avery is technically in charge, but Lengyll is calling the shots. We learn they will kill the boys if they have to, but it will be better to take them alive so the Barony can “put paid to them.” So Lengyll promises he’ll “flay the skin off the face” of any man who shoots one of them without cause.
What Constant Reader Learns: Lengyll has a machine gun. Those touches of “modernity” as we know it are fun reminders that this is not just a story set in a primitive imaginary world.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 4
At 6:15 a.m., the boys exit the bunkhouse. They’re still half asleep, and Roland’s mind is on Susan. “His instincts did not awake; Alain’s touch…did not so much as quiver.” And Cuthbert’s pretty clueless, as is the norm. They head toward the stable, get their horses, and walk out to find a bunch of guns pointed at them.
Roland advises his friends to follow orders and not fight back, although he feels a perverse sense of pride that the men are taking them so seriously. They want Roland in cuffs first and he complies, to Cuthbert’s horror. Bert starts to react, but one of the men cracks Alain in the head with the butt of his gun, and will do it again unless Bert cooperates.
When the sheriff tells them they’re under arrest for the murder of the mayor and his chancellor, Roland chastises Fran Lengyll, wondering how he can do this to the town he and his fathers have lived in for generations. Lengyll tries to ignore him but Roland presses. Finally, Lengyll gives Roland some advice: “Stick with the winners in this world. And know how the wind blows, so ye can tell when it changes direction.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I guess it’s ka at work that none of our boys has a clue that something’s wrong—even Roland’s keen eye, which had seen Jonas coming to tear up the bunkhouse by the sun glinting off metal in the distance, is focused on Susan. As Cuthbert noted earlier, “Love is blind”—Roland attributes Rasher’s skittishness to spiders.
We’ll see if Fran Lengyll can follow his own advice.
Nice cinematic moment again as Alain moves and there’s “a ripple of small clicking sounds, like many dry twigs all snapping at once. The sound of cocking pistols and musketoons.”
The townsmen play the boys perfectly. They use the threat of death to Alain and Cuthbert to get Roland to let himself be cuffed, and injure Alain to keep Cuthbert in line.
Roland and Alain lock gazes as Al is handcuffed, and the boy tries to smile—and it kills our baby gunslinger: “In some ways it was the worst moment of that terrible ambush morning. Roland…made himself a promise: he would never be taken like this again, not if he lived to be a thousand years old.” So far, and Roland might well be a thousand years old in the current story, we haven’t seen him in this position. We’ll see if his pledge holds and if, in the rest of the books, anyone means enough to him to let himself be taken. He’s promised never to sacrifice Jake again, after all.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 5
The men help the boys onto their horses, and Roland has a short conversation with Deputy Dave, telling him he’s sorry he’s a part of this. It’s implied by Dave’s response, about Cuthbert being so arrogant as to “leave his calling-card,” that the deputy believes the boys are guilty of the murders. Roland figures he knows on some level, though.
As they turn to ride toward town, Roland spots Jonas sitting on his horse, watching. The older man doffs his hat to Roland and compliments him on playing a “good game.” Roland is blunt: “Old man, you’ve lived too long.” Jonas asks Roland’s real name, but Roland doesn’t answer.
He isn’t ready to let Jonas go, however. As they ride away, he asks Jones, “Who sent you west, maggot? Couldn’t have been Cort—you’re too old. Was it his father?” Jonas might be in Mejis, Roland says, but he’s still in the west. “The soul of a man such as you can never leave the west.”
Jonas pulls his gun, “out and cocked with such speed that only Roland’s extraordinary eyes were capable of marking the movement.” While Fran Lengyll tries to talk Jonas down, Roland eggs him on: “Shoot me. Shoot, exile. Shoot, worm. Shoot, you failure. You’ll still live in exile and die as you lived.”
Finally, Jonas gets himself under control and tells Lengyll to take them and lock them up. As they ride away, we’re told that Roland turns one last time, and “the contempt Jonas saw in those cool young eyes stung him worse than the whips that had scarred his back in Garlan years ago.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I absolutely love Roland in this section, and the way he knows how to play Jonas. In the end, Jonas showed quite a bit of restraint considering how Roland’s words got to him.
An intriguing glimpse into Jonas’s inner pain, after Roland asks him about Cort’s father sending him west: “For one amazing moment the man with the white hair was a child again: shocked, shamed, and hurt.”
Considering how Roland earned his gunslinger stripes, by using his hawk, it’s interesting that Lengyll, as he talks Jonas off the ledge, uses a hawkish metaphor: “You ain’t killin em after we took the time and risk to hook em and tie their hooks, are ye?”
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 6
After the posse and the boys ride away, Jonas goes into the bunkhouse and pulls up the board that had been hiding the guns. Only two are there—the matched set, which Jonas rightly assumes belong to Roland—are gone. He disassembles the guns and scatters the pieces, haunted by Roland’s words and “hearing what he’d believed no man had known.” By the end of the day, he knows, everyone will have heard that he is a failed gunslinger.
What Constant Reader Learns: Much has been made about the men of Mejis having poor pistols or no firearms at all. Seems as if it would have been wiser to keep those guns for someone to use instead of destroying them. But it was an emotional reaction on Jonas’s part; Roland’s words really got to him.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 7
Susan is shaken awake from a deep sleep in her rooms at Seafront by her maid Maria. She’s shocked at first that she’s slept so late, then at the noise and activity she hears outside, and finally at Maria’s unkempt appearance. “You have to go,” Maria tells her. “Seafront maybe not safe for you just now.”
Finally, she finds out what’s happened from Maria, who wants her to leave before the boys can come back and kill her like they killed Thorin and Rimer. At first, Susan tries to argue that the boys wouldn’t have killed them; all Maria knows is they’re dead and Susan needs to leave. She gets dressed after learning that the boys have been arrested.
What Constant Reader Learns: Once she’s finally awake, Susan is quick to grasp the scenario—the boys have been framed and tomorrow is the Reaping Bonfire. So she has to break them out of jail for the rest of the story to play out. Hm….how will she do this? I’m thinking I’d be rounding up Sheemie.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 8
Reynolds and Depape are waiting at the oilpatch when they see Jonas riding toward him. One glance and Reynolds can tell he’s in a dangerous mood. Jonas tells them the “cubs” are in jail. He asks if the men are in place at the spot where they planned the ambush, but when Reynolds assures them everything’s ready, Jonas says, “No need of em now.”
Reynolds and Depape are cautious. Reynolds figures if Jonas goes crazy, “there was no way they could get out of his killing zone in time.”
But once gain Jonas gets himself under control and looks into the hills, saying they have one more piece of business.
What Constant Reader Learns: We learn that Latigo’s boys (not men) will ride to Hanging Rock by midnight, “pennons no doubt flying for all the coyotes and other assorted desert-dogs to see and be awed by.” Methinks Jonas is pretty sick of the whole business, and even he says he doesn’t like the way Mejis feels anymore.
Judging by the name of this chapter, I guess old Rhea’s about to lose her pretty pink seeing glass.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 9
Rhea’s in her lair, watching a woman named Theresa Maria Dolores O’Shyven, who likes to lick the dirty corners of her house clean in her underwear. It takes her hours. She gets splinters in her tongue. Rhea’s enjoying the show.
Then the glass goes black for the first time in weeks.
Rhea is moaning over the glass, exhorting it to light up again, when she hears riders approaching. Three. At first she thinks it’s the boys again, but then realizes it’s worse—the Big Coffin Hunters, led by “the dirty old white-haired prick.” She swears they’ll never take the glass from her.
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, well, the woman licking corners in her underwear was just…bizarre. It was too weird to even be gross. Who thinks of such stuff, Stephen King?
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 10
Jonas & Co. are sitting outside Rhea’s hut when they hear her shriek. Jonas orders her to bring out the ball. She comes out, “blinking against the sunlight like something that’s spent its whole life in a cave.” She holds the ball over her head as if threatening to throw it against a rock and break it. Jonas knows that would be a bad, bad thing.
Depape’s about to shoot her, but Jonas orders him not to, even though Rhea is about the most horrible thing he’s ever seen. But he recognizes there are some people that threats just won’t work on.
What Constant Reader Learns: Okay, Rhea’s description is classic King grossiosity: “The thing inside the black dress appeared to be wearing the corpse of a putrefying snake around its throat for a necklace…Her peeling skull was only tufted with hair; the rest had fallen out. Sores clustered on her cheeks and brow, and there was a mark like a spider bite on the left side of her mouth.” Sweet.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 11
Rhea feels pretty cocky. She can handle these three men. She tells Jonas the glass went black as soon as it heard the sound of his voice. So Jonas, who’s nervous as he tiptoes around what’s left of her sanity, asks what she wants. He realizes she thinks of herself as the true mistress of the glass, and as such, Rhea says she wants to come with them. “I’ll go with ye to Farson. I’ll become his soothsayer,” she says.
Jonas agrees—let Farson do the dirty work, if she she even lives that long. “You go west with the glass…unless you die beside the trail some night,” he tells her. “You’ll pardon me for saying so, but you don’t look well.”
Finally, she hands over the ball. As soon as she does, the glass turns pink again, and “a throb of pain drove into Jonas’s head…and a shiver of lust coiled in his balls” (not for Rhea, I hope, please Stephen King: Do. Not. Go. There.).
Jonas realizes how dangerous the glass is and wants the drawstring bag the ball was in. Rhea orders Reynolds to get her goats and cart out of the shed, and he doesn’t much like taking orders from the old witch.
What Constant Reader Learns: As soon as the glass goes black, Rhea’s canny reasoning returns, and it’s fun to watch two devious minds—hers and Jonas’s—figuring out how to both get what they want. Jonas is using his bedroom voice (“it wasn’t the tone he used when he was in bed with Coral, but it was close”), and Rhea’s being crafty.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 6: Taking the Ball, Section 12
Reynolds gets to Rhea’s shed and realizes the witch’s fine pair of gray goats is long dead from starvation—probably by a week or more. He spots her cart, which is painted black with magical symbols in gold. He drags it out of the shed and vows Depape can handle the rest.
Rhea comes out with the drawstring bag and overhears Jonas saying they’ll take her to Seafront. She’s never been there, she says, and thinks if she meets Mayor Thorin there might be much to show him in the ball that would interest him. “If you meet him,” Jonas says. “It’ll be in a place where no magic is needed to see far.” She rightly surmises that the mayor “has met with an accident,” and is amused.
They hitch her cart to Depape’s horse, and ride back toward town.
What Constant Reader Learns: Another cinematic moment: “Rhea was still cackling as they drew out of the yard, cackling and sitting in the little black cart with its cabalistic decorations like the Queen of Black Places on her throne.” Too bad the folks trying to do a movie version of Dark Tower can’t find funding.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with the next chapter of Wizard and Glass.