“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 the story, Roland was watching in the wizard’s glass as Susan is burned at the stake (aka the Reap Night Bonfire), and Alain and Cuthbert were helpless as they watched him watch the glass.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 1, Kansas in the Morning, Section 1
Back to the current ka-tet, where Roland finally (after hours…or days…) shuts up. They’re all still sitting around the campfire, with the big glass palace looming down the road ahead of them. Roland’s wiped, and he lies back and empties his waterskin over his head.
Eddie asks the question we’ve all be wondering: “How long have we been here, Roland?” None of them are stiff or sore, and Roland says “one night,” but Jake knows it was no normal night. “The spirits have done it all in a single night,” he says, quoting “a guy named Charles Dickens.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Susannah isn’t surprised to hear Roland feels better after telling his story – “an ologist of the psyche could probably explain it to you,” she says.
Oh my. Roland actually cracks a joke of sorts. “It reminds me of the time I spent as a junkie,” Eddie says, and Ro replies, “Doesn’t everything?” Great reply from Eddie: “Oh, that’s funny. A real howl. Next train that goes crazy on us, you can ask it the silly questions.” Touche.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 1, Kansas in the Morning, Section 2
Everyone goes off to a private spot for some bladder relief, but Susannah’s crying when she comes back, and Eddie doesn’t have to ask why. They were both shaken by the story, although Eddie admits he was afraid Roland was going to say he killed Susan himself – “for his damned Tower.” Susannah points out that, in Roland’s mind, that’s exactly what he did.
What Constant Reader Learns: A pronunciation guide! “ ‘Charyou tree,’ she said at last, pronouncing it as Roland had: chair-you tree, with a little upturned vowel at the end.” (And Eddie thinks a Charlie by any other name is still a Charlie.)
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 1, Kansas in the Morning, Section 3
The foursome (five with Oy) split up the last of the gunslinger burritos. They’re still amazed at the (lack of ) time that’s passed. “Storytelling always changes time,” Roland says. “At least it does in my world.” He smiles, and Eddie notes how that rare expression transforms Ro’s face into something almost beautiful, and makes it easier to see how Susan could have loved him before time and loss had ravaged his face.
Susannah has a couple of questions. She wants to know how long Roland was “gone” as he looked into the glass. “I was traveling. Wandering. Not in Maerlyn’s Rainbow, exactly…” He points to his head. “That’s where I traveled while my friends traveled east with me.” He says the glass never glowed for him again “until the very end…when the battlements of the castle and the towers of the city were actually in sight.”
And (thank you, Jake) Jake notes that the glass must have told him the rest – because “you weren’t there to see.” And Roland says yes, that’s how he knows so much of the story.
Other things we learn: Farson was “insane with rage” when he discovered Roland had taken the glass. Roland saw into the glass three times after leaving Mejis. First was the night before they got back to Gilead – when it showed him most of the story we just heard. “It showed me these things not to teach or enlighten, but to hurt and wound,” he says. “The remaining pieces of the Wizard’s Rainbow are all evil things. Hurt enlivens them, somehow.” And it still hurts him.
The second time he saw into the glass was three days after arriving back in Gilead. His mother was due back that night – she’d gone off to pray for Roland’s return. Marten had gone off to join Farson. Roland admits he hadn’t given the ball to his father at first – he found it hard to give up. Alain and Cuthbert had come to his rooms and confronted him and said if he wouldn’t give the ball up voluntarily, they’d turn the decision over to their fathers. So he promised to give it to Steven before the banquet, before his mother’s return, which he did. But first, he looked into it again and saw the Tower, the fall of Gilead, and the victory of Farson. They hadn’t prevented it by their actions in Mejis. After all the sacrifice they had only delayed the inevitable.
But he saw something else: a knife whose blade had been treated with a potent poison called garlan. It had been passed to a nephew of Farson’s who worked in the castle, and the intended victim was Roland’s father. He took care of it.
The other thing he saw in the glass was shoes “tumbling through the air.”
Susannah then asks what else he saw in the glass but he says he’s told all he can for the time being – except that Rhea “wasn’t done with me.” For now, they need to approach the glass palace before dark falls.
What Constant Reader Learns: Everyone’s feeling badly for Roland, and it’s sweet. Eddie sees “an expression of sadness on the gunslinger’s face that made him look both old and lost.” Jake sees it too, and goes to hug Roland. Eddie’s sure for a moment that Roland’s going to break down and cry, and thinks it has probably been “a long time between hugs, maybe. Mighty long.”
Interesting observation from Roland that everyone has a Maerlyn’s Rainbow kind of place in his mind.
Well, of course, Roland saw all the other stuff in the glass….*headdesk*
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 1, Kansas in the Morning, Section 4
The thinny is warbling so loud they can’t block it out as they approach the palace. It’s lapping almost to the road on either side of them, “casting its twitching misshapen reflections of trees and grain elevators, seeming to watch the pilgrims pass as hungry animals in a zoo might watch plump children.” It’s getting to Susannah most, it seems, and just when she thinks she can’t stand it any more, it recedes a bit.
They all have headaches, so Jake asks Roland if he has any aspirin (aka “astin”) left. While he’s rummaging, Jake asks if Roland ever saw Clay Reynolds again. Roland said no, but he knows what happened to him. He joined up with some of the deserters from Farson’s army, began robbing banks, and ended up hanged after a big shootout. His woman, Coral Thorin, was shot in the melee.
As they’re walking along the road, Jake spots a note under a windshield of one of the abandoned vehicles. It says “The old woman from the dreams is in Nebraska. Her name is Abagail… The dark man is in the west. Maybe Vegas.” Roland’s response? “In the west. Dark man, Dark Tower, and always in the west.”
When Susannah says maybe they should look up “this Abagail person,” Roland says, “I think she’s part of another story.”
“But a story close to this one. Next door, maybe,” Eddie adds. Roland says they may have business with the old woman and the dark man, but not today.
What Constant Reader Learns: Um, if I’m walking along the road and the thinny’s lapping up to the embankment on either side, I might be, like, running instead of walking. Or maybe that’s just me.
Somehow, I like that Coral and Clay ended up together. She was a snake but I kind of liked them anyway.
I’m trying to remember who left that note on a car in The Stand, but don’t have it handy to look it up. Was it Nick, or Larry? Seems like it was Larry. Or Stu. Well, obviously I don’t remember. I’d like to see Roland and Mother Abagail, I think, although Randall Flagg might eat Eddie’s lunch. Can’t you imagine Stephen King writing that scene and getting a big old laugh out of it? Heck, I got a big old laugh out of it.
Wizard and Glass, “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes”: Chapter 1, Kansas in the Morning, Section 5
The ka-tet continues walking toward the glass palace, and Jake asks about Sheemie. Roland laughs. “He followed us,” he says. “It couldn’t have been easy for him…but ka was with him, and he showed up in time for Year’s End Fair. He and that damned mule.” When Roland and his friends went in search of the Tower, Sheemie went with them. But Roland wouldn’t say more about what happened to him.
Susannah asks about Cordelia, and Roland says she died before the bonfire had burned itself out, either of a “heart-storm” or a “brain-storm – what Eddie calls a stroke.”
Jake spots something ahead, and Roland sees it too, but it’s another fifteen minutes before Eddie and Susannah spot the specks ahead. She’s not altogether surprised to see shoes. Six pairs of shoes lined up across the eastbound lanes of I-70.
What Constant Reader Learns: Oh dear. I hope we don’t have to hear a horrible Sheemie death story at some point. And Cordelia got off easier than she deserved, although Roland says, “Waking to the truth when it’s too late is a terrible thing. I know that very well.”
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of Wizard and Glass, beginning Part Four, Chapter 2, “Shoes in the Road.”