“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 young ka-tet, Cuthbert was hating on Susan, Alain smelled blood in the air, Jonas agreed to have a look around at the Bar K, and Rhea was in a temper.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 1
Time’s passing, as time will, and the season of harvesting is approaching, with squashes and pumpkins piled against the sides of barns, potato carts rolling across the fields followed by pickers, and reap-charms hanging in front of the Hambry Mercantile. “Stuffy Men,” scarecrows, seem to be a big thing. All over Hambry, girls worked on their Reap Night dresses and everyone’s looking forward to the festivities.
What Constant Reader Learns: First, I was glad to see the title of this chapter since our earliest glimpses of Susan, in The Gunslinger, referred to her as the girl at the window.
Somehow, I think Susan is NOT looking forward to the Reap Night festivities. I don’t know how nervous she is, but I’m kind of nervous for all of them.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 2
“Rhea cared not a fig for Reaping dances,” but she, too, is restless. Only she’s filled with rage. She doesn’t even have enough “graf” for a good drunken bender. While thrashing and cursing in her bed at night, Rhea realizes that although she doesn’t understand why her curse to make Susan cut off her hair didn’t work, she does have some valuable knowledge about the girl.
She doesn’t want to go to the Mayor with her dirty little secret, but she thinks Cordelia Delgado might find it very interesting. “Rhea didn’t think Cordelia would go to the Mayor, either—the woman was a prig but not a fool—yet it would set the cat among the pigeons just the same, wouldn’t it?”
With this decision made, Rhea is able to release her anger, sleep soundly, and once again see images in the glass instead of that infernal pink mist.
What Constant Reader Learns: So, Rhea hopes the “Mayor had forgotten about his wonderful glass ball.” We know the ball doesn’t belong to the idiot Mayor and seems like I recall it belonged to the Good Man himself—or at least he’d had possession of it. I suspect it might be the type of thing that no one we’ve yet met might actually “own” if it can be “owned” at all. Which makes me think Rhea knows its power but not really who it belongs to or what its ultimate purpose is. It does remind me of the “One Ring,” since it obviously has an ill effect on anyone who uses it too often.
Musty the Mutant is sitting nearby and comes to his mistresses’ call of “Come to me, my precioussss.”
Um…there’s a kinda gross moment at the end of this scene with Rhea and her snake. Well, no, it’s not kinda gross. It’s REALLY gross. Ewww.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 3
Alain and Cuthbert are at the ranch, and as they hear Rusher’s hoofbeats drawing closer, Alain reminds Bert he promised to keep his temper. Bert agrees, but isn’t sure he can. “Another go-round,” he thinks. “Gods, but I’m sick of them. Sick to death.”
They’ve been arguing—most recently about the pigeons. Cuthbert wants to let the folks back home know about the oil tankers, but Roland still doesn’t want to report anything. Well, they don’t really argue here, because Roland doesn’t “deign” to argue. He just says no, it is too late. When Bert says it might be too late to get help from Gilead but it might not be too late to get advice, Roland doesn’t give it much credence, telling Bert he is seeking comfort, not advice. Finally, Bert does something neither he nor Alain have ever done. He says, “You’re not thinking clearly about this.” Alain gasps, but Roland only says, “Yes, I am,” and then walks away.
Now, after that mini-flashback, here Roland comes again, saying only, “I’ve been with Susan.” Bert has a visual image of the two of them together. And in his mind, Bert the virgin says, “Why do you always have to be first?”
That’s what he thinks. But what Bert actually says is a smart-aleck comment about how much fun he and Alain have had, counting nets on the dock again—that the locals all think they’re fools. Roland thinks that’s a good thing. But Alain intercedes, pointing out that Kimba Rimer doesn’t think they’re fools; he wonders what Rimer, Jonas, and the others do think.
“They think we’re avoiding the Drop because we already know what’s there,” Roland answers.
Alain says that Bert has a plan, and even the way Roland shifts his gaze to Cuthbert enrages him. “Gods, I don’t want to hate him…but now it’s so easy.”
Cuthbert’s idea is to go and see the sheriff and give him a list of the ranches they’ll visit on what days, to try and anticipate when the schemers will be moving things. Roland likes this idea enough to give Bert a hug, not realizing his old friend is thinking about choking him. As Roland grins, the other two get kind of creeped out: “Even at fourteen, such an expression on his face was troubling. The truth was that when Roland grinned, he looked slightly mad.”
The grinning ends when Roland suggests Cuthbert and Alain go to see the sheriff in the morning. This time, Alain finally speaks up. “Don’t be a fool,” he tells Roland (which gets Ro’s attention fast). He points out that Roland is their leader. Cuthbert chimes in in agreement, and Roland, in “his new way—that mild, it-doesn’t-much-matter way that made Cuthbert feel like biting him to wake him up,” finally agrees.
Afterward, Alain and Cuthbert talk in the yard as Roland goes off to bed. “You have to stop being angry at him, Bert. You have to,” Alain says. But Cuthbert’s answer is, “I can’t.”
What Constant Reader Learns: I get a good image of Roland here, or at least as Bert sees him. We’ve all had “conversations” with people who were there in body only, with their heads somewhere else, and it’s frustrating. Add Cuthbert’s extreme jealousy to it, and his fear and anger, and it’s going to get uglier.
Roland’s more apt to listen to Alain than Bert—and, at this point, vice-versa. Something’s got to happen to either end this animosity between Cuthbert and Roland, or it’s going to play right into Jonas’ and Rimer’s hands. Gotta say, at this point, I’m kind of with Cuthbert: my trust of Roland’s judgment is being tested, but it’s mostly because of sneakiness on Stephen King’s part. We’re seeing this story unfold through everyone’s point of view except Roland’s. We don’t really know what he’s thinking or planning. So it’s easy to assume he’s thinking of nothing but Susan, even though that’s probably quite untrue.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 4
The next morning, Roland and Cuthbert ride into town to see the sheriff, with Roland carrying a list they’d put together the previous night with their “schedule” of the farms they’d visit. On the way, they pass the Delgado house, and Roland looks up to see Susan sitting in her upstairs window. “Although he didn’t know it then, it was how he would remember her most clearly forever after—lovely Susan, the girl at the window.” Roland catches himself as he almost blows her a kiss and instead gives her “a saucy little salute,” and gets one in return.
They don’t see Cordelia watching, and her suspicion ratchets up further because of the knowing way they’d smiled at each other. She tries to convince herself that she’s imagining more from what surely is only a harmless “youth calling to youth.” But inside, she doesn’t really believe it.
What Constant Reader Learns: Stephen King indulges in a fanciful bit of philosophical commentary in this section after Roland has passed Susan: “So do we pass the ghosts that haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes…” blah blah blah. I found this a really annoying bit of author intrusion. Intrude if you must, but don’t preach at me.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 5
Jonas answers the door at the sheriff’s office—the sheriff’s upstairs tending to the business of his needy bowels and joins them a big flush later. Jonas seems to be limping worse than usual in the damp weather, but the office is warmed by a gas heater. The cells are full of drunks and a nose-picking woman in red underwear. Reynolds is there, but not Depape, and Deputy Dave is playing a game of Castles with Jonas.
Cuthbert and Reynolds exchange some faux-pleasantries that are growing uglier until Roland pokes Bert and apologizes. After some chit-chat, Roland pulls out his list. Deputy Dave thinks to take advantage of Jonas’s inattention to the game of Castles and makes his move, but Jonas quickly obliterates him. “You want to remember, Dave, that I play to win,” he tells him. “I can’t help it; it’s just my nature…Like the scorpion said to the maiden as she lay dying, ‘You knowed I was poison when you picked me up.’”
What Constant Reader Learns: Jonas is splendid in his self-confident awfulness! I find myself looking forward to the time when he and Roland match wits.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 6
When Susan comes in from feeding the livestock, she pours herself a glass of juice, not expecting to be pounced on by Cordelia, who’s demanding to know what Susan has going on with “Will Dearborn.” When Cordelia seizes the girl’s arm and calls her “Miss Oh So Young and Pretty,” Susan pulls away hard enough to almost knock her aunt off-balance. Susan’s running out of patience with her aunt: “I’ll have no more. If I’m old enough to be sent to a man’s bed for money, I’m old enough for ye to keep a civil tongue when ye speak to me.” And when Cordelia asks her to swear she doesn’t know Will Dearborn beyond their meeting at Mayor’s House, Susan refuses.
What Constant Reader Learns: Susan stands up to her aunt, then goes into the barn and cries. Is she going to be strong enough to do whatever it is she’s going to have to do? I have my doubts, but we’ll see.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 7
Sheriff Avery is in a fine mood after Roland and Cuthbert depart. Now that the stupid boys have told them exactly where they’ll be—and when—the townsfolk in on this scheme can move things in advance so they find nothing. Reynolds declares the boys fools.
Jonas is not happy, though, and limps outside to think. He realizes he should have been pleased at the list. But he feels unsettled and jittery. For one thing, he’d been expecting to hear from “Farson’s Man, Latigo.” He also thinks about how, sometimes in a game of Castles, a “clever player would peek around his Hillock for just a moment, then duck back.” And he wonders if that’s not what Roland is doing—trying to engage in a game of Castles with him.
What Constant Reader Learns: I know Avery and Deputy Dave are one-dimensional cartoons, but they do make me laugh. Jonas, now… not laughing at him at all, although I can’t decide if he’s as smart as he thinks he is.
Wizard and Glass, “Come Reap”: Chapter 2: The Girl at the Window, Section 8
Roland and Cuthbert head back to the ranch, and Cuthbert’s good mood is back at how quickly Avery & Co. bought their story. He asks what their next move is, and Roland says: “It’s theirs. We count. And we wait.”
So much for Cuthbert’s good humor. He wants to act. He thinks Roland is shirking his duty to “wallow in the undeniable charms” of Susan, and that he’s lost his wits when Mid-World most needs them. He shuts up but he’s not a happy camper.
What Constant Reader Learns: Cuthbert is partly jealous of Roland and partly concerned about their “mission.” He doesn’t have the “touch,” but he does have “at least one valid intuition,” we’re told—“Roland was heading for disaster. And so they all were.”
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with the next chapters of Wizard and Glass.