“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.
When we last left our cast, Susan had just donned a serape, broke the boys out of jail, and killed Deputy Dave and Sheriff Avery while Sheemie set off firecrackers to camouflage the noise.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap,” Chapter 9: Reaping, Section 1
Roland and the boys arrive at the stables and are greeted by Sheemie. They need a place to hide out until dawn, and although Roland first suggests the mausoleum, that idea’s shot down because it’s haunted and, besides, the women will be decorating it for Reaping. Roland asks for suggestions of a spot where they can hide out, is less than an hour away, and is in any direction except northwest—because that’s where they’re going next. “We’ve got a job to do…and we’re going to let them know we’re doing it,” Roland says. “Eldred Jonas most of all. I want him to know the game is over. No more Castles. The real gunslingers are here. Let’s see if he can deal with them.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Interesting detail. When the boys get to the stable and Sheemie is so excited to see them, Roland holsters his guns and holds out his arms, thinking Sheemie is running to him, but it’s Cuthbert (or “Arthur Heath”) whom he loves. Of course Bert is the one who came to Sheemie’s defense back in the early days at the Travelers’ Rest, but if I wanted to go all English Lit, I could also say that it’s symbolic of the thankless task of a gunslinger. Roland will always be a man to be admired, or feared, or even revered…but maybe not loved in an affectionate way. Although Susan loved him, she also recognized that in another setting, Cuthbert could have been the one to win her heart.
*Dances in circles* So excited to FINALLY get here!
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap,” Chapter 9: Reaping, Section 2
An hour later, Roland, Alain and Cuthbert arrive at the Citgo oil patch. They see no one on the roads. They leave the horses and Capi the mule tethered near the corner of the patch and walk to the derricks.
Once they get to the active part of the oil field, Roland asks Sheemie for a couple of his big firecrackers. Roland and Bert light the firecrackers and set off an overflow pipe. As they take off running, the “world blew up” behind them. “They had lit their own Reaping bonfire, it seemed, a night early and much brighter than the one in town could ever hope to be.”
They’d gone in with the plan of blowing up as many derricks as possible, but the extra firecrackers had turned out to be unnecessary. Thanks to a network of interconnected pipes filled with natural gas under the derricks, the explosions set themselves off.
What Constant Reader Learns: Normally, there would be people out and about the night before Reaping, but not this night. Because we know all the people are either hiding out at home with uneasy feelings or getting sloshed at the Travelers’ Rest.
Interesting that to the others the mausoleum was too scary a place for them to take cover, but Roland finds the oil patch much scarier; he likens the derricks to “unquiet corpses, squalling zombies that stood rusty-weird in the moonlight with their pistons going up and down like marching feet.”
Ah, Roland’s such a hard case with mommy issues. He thinks of his mom when he’s holding onto the firecracker as long as possible before lobbing it into the overflow pipe, remembering her admonitions to him as a child to take care.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 3
Jonas and Coral are in the throes of passion in her dead brother the mayor’s bed when the oil patch blows, so at first he thinks he’s hearing fireworks in his head. We get a few details of Jonas’s and Coral’s affair, and learn Rhea has been locked in Kimba Rimer’s old suite, although she does nothing but try to bring the darkened wizard’s glass back to life.
When the derricks explode, Jonas goes to the balcony. (Coral’s quite put out that the explosions have happened at such an inopportune time during their sexual olympics). But Jonas is remembering Roland’s words. “He felt a curious darkening in his mind—that feeling had been there ever since the brat, Dearborn, by some febrile leap of intuition, had recognized him for who and what he was.” Jonas realizes the boys are behind it and are no longer in the jail.
Jonas again wishes he could just leave and put Mejis behind him. But “he had bounded around his Hillock, it was too late to go back, and now he felt horribly exposed.
Finally, his brain kicks back in and he asks Reynolds, who’s come rushing in to tell him the boys have escaped, how many men he can round up. He wants five to ten armed men and Rhea in her cart. Jonas “now saw his priorities in clear, ascending order.” The horses are least important, he thinks—Farson can get horses somewhere else. Next were the tankers at Hanging Rock—more important now that the source of oil was gone. But most important was the piece of the Wizard’s Rainbow.
What Constant Reader Learns: Love that we get others’ reactions to the explosions at Citgo, and the description of Jonas and Coral’s sex life is pretty funny: “They made love like cats or ferrets, twisting and hissing and clawing; they bit at each other and cursed at each other and so far none of it was even close to enough. When he was with her, Jonas sometimes felt as if he were being fried in sweet oil.” Go, Jonas. Forget this sweetness-and-light nonsense. Now THAT’s a Stephen King-worthy love scene.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 4
The boys, Susan, and Sheemie escape Citgo unharmed, and the five of them ride to the hut in the Bad Grass where Susan and Roland had trysted a couple of times. Roland suggests they get some sleep but asks Alain if he’s “listening.” And Roland’s not talking about his ears. “I can’t promise anything,” Alain tells him. “The touch is flukey.”
While Sheemie has a delightful time learning “Key-youth-bert’s” real name, Roland and Susan go outside to talk in private.
What Constant Reader Learns: Sheemie and “Key-youth-bert” are funny together. So, I’d been sounding out “CUTH-BERT.” Is it pronounced with a long U instead of short, or should I really take Sheemie’s word on it?
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 5
Out in the Bad Grass, Roland thanks Susan for saving them, but says, “Thee mustn’t disobey me this time.” She knows what he means—that she and Sheemie are to stay in the hut while the gunslinger(s) ride. She promises, but asks him a question in return. She wants to know, honestly, what are the chances he’ll come back to her?
He thinks about it a while before answering. “Far better than Jonas thinks.” He’s already figured out that Jonas might come without the horses. And if they send scouts ahead, “We’ll kill them. Silent, if we can. Killing’s what we were trained to do; we’ll do it.”
Finally, he gives her even odds they’ll return. She agrees to go west if they don’t.
What Constant Reader Learns: Susan decides not to tell Roland she’s pregnant, but obviously he knows since he’s telling this story. (Come on in and set a spell, Stephen King. Take your shoes off. Y’all come back now, y’hear? See, I also can quote obscure pop culture references.)
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 6
A while later, Jonas, Reynolds, Rhea, Depape, and five others ride out of Seafront. Jonas has left Coral with a place to meet him if all goes well. As they ride, Jonas hangs back to check with Rhea to see if she’s seen anything in the glass, but she hasn’t. She assures him it will speak when it’s ready.
Jonas has decided to take the ball from Rhea at any sign of trouble. “It had already inserted its strange, addicting sweetness into his head; he thought about that single pink pulse of light he’d seen far too much.”
He’s unhappy to learn that Fran Lengyll will only be bringing thirty men for his part of the task. “You’re too stupid to know who [the boys] are or what they’re capable of,” he tells the hapless Renfrew as they approach the bad grass.
What Constant Reader Learns: Gotta say I like Jonas and Coral. When she starts spouting poetic sentiments about not wanting to go on without him, he tells her to “quit that schoolgirl shit, it don’t become you. You’d find plenty of reasons to keep staggerin down the path.” Sadly, I don’t believe they’ll be meeting up in the mountains after all this is over.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 7
As Jonas and his buddies ride down the Drop, Roland, Cuthbert, and Alain are getting ready to leave the hut in the Bad Grass. Roland and Susan say a sweet farewell, and as Roland rides away, we’re told: “The next time Roland saw her, she was caught inside the Wizard’s Glass.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Arghhhh. Roland leaving Bad Grass with Susan and Sheemie behind them. Jonas and spiteful old Rhea approaching Bad Grass. Bad bad bad. T’is an ill wind blowing in Mejis.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 8
As the boys ride west of the Bad Grass, they can see glimpses of Hanging Rock ahead of them. Roland predicts Jonas will come soon in a small party and will have the ball. In which case, he says, they’ll kill them all and take the glass. If Jonas comes later, with a bigger party of riders, they’ll let them pass and fall behind them.
They dismount and start watching. Alain hears them coming first via the touch, quite a while before the others. Finally, he tells them it’s a small party, and they probably have the ball with them. “Be ready, boys,” Roland says. “We’re going to take them.”
What Constant Reader Learns: It’s Alain, who’s not always the quickest on the uptake, who first realizes the Wizard’s Glass could give their plans away. There isn’t much they can do about it, though.
While they’re waiting for Jonas, Roland has a daydream of being married to Susan, raising kids somewhere south of Gilead, with his gunslinging days behind him. He is already tired of the guns, we’re told. Which is kind of sad because we know how long he’ll go on to carry them and what he’ll sacrifice for his quest.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 9
Jonas and his small band of merry men are riding through the Bad Grass when he gets word that Rhea wants to see him. When he hangs back to keep pace with her cart, he sees the ball is again glowing pink. Jonas looks into the ball and “was lost. He could feel that pink glow radiating into all the deepest passages and hollows of his mind, lighting them up in a way they’d never been lit up before.” This greatly amuses Rhea.
When he leans over to really look into the glass, he sees the hut in the Bad Grass and, sitting in front of it, Susan. He realizes everything Cordelia had told him about Susan and Roland was true. He realizes Susan was the one who broke the boys out of jail. And he realizes she’s alone.
Rhea cuts off the glass’s light, and Jonas wants to know if the boys are aware of the glass. When Rhea looks away, he knows they do. “They might know of it,” she finally admits.
Jonas stops the riders and asks Renfrew if he knows of the hut with the red door, and he does. So Jonas sends the men back to intercept the larger party behind them and tell them to wait until Jonas gets there—and he sends Rhea and the ball with them.
In the meantime, he and Reynolds and Renfrew are going on a side-trip.
What Constant Reader Learns: Checkmate, Roland.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 10
As soon as Jonas changes his plans, Alain’s touch tells him the smaller group has turned around to join the larger one. Roland realizes the wizard’s glass is the real treasure, and wants to make sure Rhea has gone back to join the larger group as well.
Roland deduces that Jonas is afraid of him, and wants more men around him. What he doesn’t realize, nor does Alain, is that Jonas has split up his riders and while the glass ball is headed for the larger group, Jonas and two others are headed for Susan. Roland, we’re told, is “unaware that he was both right and badly out in his reckoning. Unaware that for one of the few times since they had left Gilead, he had lapsed into a teenager’s disastrous certainty.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Ah, so sad. Cuthbert even asks about Susan, and how they know Susan and Sheemie are all right. And Roland isn’t concerned—he only knows they need to sit back and wait for Jonas and his larger group to come by.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 9, Reaping, Section 11
We’re back with Susan and Sheemie. Susan has decided to sleep outside under the stars. She’s dreaming when she hears the click of a pistol being cocked, and looks up to see Jonas, a man with white hair and eyes “the same faded blue as Roland’s.” He’s with Hash Renfrew and who we know (but she doesn’t) is Clay Reynolds.
Susan is worried about Sheemie, but our wise associate with the sore butt has hidden. Susan’s defiant and Jonas is maddeningly calm. He asks what the boys are carrying on the mule? “Shrouds for you and all yer friends,” she answers. When Jonas asks her where the boys have gone, she tells him to come closer, then spits in his face.
So much for maddeningly calm. Jonas doesn’t like being spit on, and hits her hard enough to knock her to the ground and give her a nosebleed. Then he kicks her in the shoulder for good measure.
They tie her on her horse and ride.
What Constant Reader Learns: LOL. Sheemie gets up during the night for a little bladder relief, and Capi the mule bites him on the butt. Even in a tense moment, a little pratfall humor is fun.
Jonas as the anti-Roland is deliciously evil here, even down to his “faded blue” eyes.
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of Wizard and Glass, Chapter 9, “Reaping.”