Last week, true intentions surfaced and a forbidden love was consummated. This week, tension builds as the man in black shows up in Mejis and the ka-tet's trust and friendship is tested.
Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass (1997), the 4th book in The Dark Tower series. When we left Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy the billy-bumbler, they were trapped on the psychotic locomotive, Blaine the Mono, crossing through the feared waste lands. Our ka-tet had narrowly escaped the destruction of Lud that Blaine had decimated with gas—but for what? To become prisoners aboard a train bulleting into a desolate hell populated by fierce beasts, with a guide that’s clearly mad. Yeah, it looks like we are bound to have a helluva lot of fun as we continue our journey to the Dark Tower.
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
We're back to wacky Stephen King chapters, so the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages) and meet here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, the tension reaches its boiling point as the man in black shows up in Mejis and our ka-tet seems splintered. Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part V of Wizard and Glass: Come, Reap: Chapter 1 “Beneath the Huntress Moon” – Chapter 4: “Roland and Cuthbert”!
Part III Come, Reap: Chapter 1 “Beneath the Huntress Moon” – Chapter 4: “Roland and Cuthbert”
Roland and Susan continue their coupling here, there, and anywhere to further their forbidden lust. Since they are undercover lovers, they are using simple-minded yet loyal Sheemie, at first, as a go-between to let each other know if the coast is clear for a rendezvous. Then, not wanting to risk their mutual conduit any longer, they begin using visible signs that they alone recognize, like a special color shirt hanging in her window or a distinctive white stone Roland leaves in the yard.
For the time being, their illicit affair is safe, though Cuthbert is not jazzed by this newly expanded quadrilateral ka-tet, of sorts. Practical Alain looks at it as ka (i.e., fate), to which the normally jocular Cuthbert sneers, “If I had a hot dinner for every time someone blamed theft or lust or some other stupidity on ka—”
Meanwhile, notorious elements are plotting against them, including but not limited to: Big Coffin Hunters leader Jonas, who plans on snooping around the Bar K—where the visitors from Gilead are residing—and a deeply spiteful Rhea, whose dark thoughts remain fixated on Susan.
She had given the girl a command, and the girl, for whatever reasons, had disobeyed. For standing against Rhea of the Cӧos, the bitch deserved to die.
“But not right away,” the old woman whispered. “First she should be rolled in the dirt, then pissed on until the dirt’s mud and her fine blonde hair’s full of it. Humiliated ... hurt ... spat on ...”
Susan seems to have hags coming at her from all corners. Her Aunt Cordelia spots Roland acknowledging Susan as he rides by the house, and auntie rightly suspects there’s something going on between them. But when she approaches Susan, she is quickly scolded by her niece, “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.”
Finding a need to relay her suspicions to someone, Cordelia confides in the worst possible choice for Roland and Susan: Jonas. It raises his own misgivings, as he begins to suspect that a boy who could be hiding an affair with the mayor’s gilly is undoubtedly possessing other secrets.
The Big Coffin Hunters boss has a lot to be worried about. He has taken a large cash advance from John Farson, via George Latigo, to help eliminate the Affiliation’s forces. His suspicion is justified when he finds the bird skull that Cuthbert had lost near the Citgo oil patch.
Jonas goes to the Bar K, ransacking Roland, Cuthbert, and Alain’s belongings, going so far as to snap the necks of all the carrier pigeons. At the same time, Alain experiences the “touch” (mounting fear that something is wrong), and he begs Roland to head back to their digs. But Roland is unusually calm and aloof, having sensed the same trouble as Alain even before his friend’s heightened sense, and he says the time is not right. Alain doesn’t understand, but he trusts his gunslinger bud. Upon returning, Cuthbert has finally had enough, especially when he sees the derogatory message directed at his mother by Jonas.
Back in town, Jonas learns an emissary from John Farson has arrived and goes to meet him. The encounter startles Jonas, but, perhaps even more us the reader.
Jonas whirled on his heels, suddenly feeling old and slow. Standing there was a man of medium height, powerfully built from the look of him, with bright blue eyes and the rosy cheeks of either good health or good wine. His parted, smiling lips revealed cunning little teeth which must have been filed to points—surely such points couldn’t be natural.
“You know my name; I would know yours.”
“Call me Walter,” the man in black said, and the smile suddenly fell off his lips. “Good old Walter, that’s me. Now let us see where we are, and where we’re going. Let us, in short, palaver.”
I was expecting the man in black to return, but not necessarily in the backstory—though it makes perfect sense that King would insert the first-time encounter of Roland and Walter, or I assume he’s going to in the next few chapters. Here, as in previous encounters, Walter seems to be orchestrating events much in advance of the other players.
Our reading ended with Cuthbert intercepting a message that Sheemie was carrying from Rhea to Cordelia, and before presenting his find to Roland, he sucker-punches Roland in the chin to bring him to his senses. The letter reveals that the witch has been spying on Roland and Susan, and she is about to blow their cover. Roland realizes he’s been an arrogant fool and begs forgiveness, which Cuthbert accepts.
Roland and Cuthbert go to Rhea, where the gunslinger warns the woman to stop meddling. It would have been left at that if it weren’t for Rhea’s poisonous snake Ermot, who strikes at Roland from a tree branch. With seemingly super-human agility, Roland kills the serpent in three swift shots.
Yeah, you should have killed the sorceress too, because as she cradles her pet she promises, “I’ll pay ye back. When ye least expect it, there Rhea will be, and your screams will break your throats. Do you hear me? Your screams will break your throats!”
The man in black is in Mejis and the tension is reaching its boiling point—how do you think this plays out? Head to the comments and start/join the conversation!
*Remember: Be careful with your comments—NO SPOILERS! We will be moderating the comments and deleting anything we feel is a spoiler, so pause before you post and make sure you're not ruining it for someone else.
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.