Micro Scene #1

Tower of London Yeoman Warder

The tour group has filtered through the grounds of the Tower of London. Couples, families, and strangers on organized, all–inclusive trips follow the Yeoman Warder, whose black and red regalia proves the authenticity of this experience.

At the foot of the Bloody Tower, the Warden stops. The group flows in around him. Stragglers slip into spaces at the back.

"For the Shakespeare fans among us, the Bloody Tower will already be familiar."

Tourist nod in recognition, mmms and aaahs escaping their lips as they gaze up the tower's vertical climb.

"In the perenially popular Richard III, the former Duke of Gloucester has his brother murdered in one of the cells above us now."

The crowd murmurs, nods. A small, American voice pipes up from the front.

"I hate it when Clarence dies. He was nice."

The Warder smiles down beneficently at the seven–year–old, thigh–high girl just in front of him. She's clasping her younger sister's hand. They wear matching Osh Kosh dresses: one in blue, one in pink.

The Warder asks, "Have you seen the play, dear?"

"I read it," she replies.

The crowd titters. Children can be so precocious. The Warder leans down to her.

"You read it? How did you find the pictures?" He looks up, grins at the crowd, an entertainer to the hilt.

"There weren't any pictures. Just the play. The words were hard sometimes, but my book has footnotes."

The Warder widens his eyes, rolls them slightly towards the crowd. Americans tell such tall tales. The girl's parents stiffen slightly as her sister blinks up at her.

"Well, dear," he says, "I'm sure you read the play. It's a lovely one."

At this, he cuts his eyes at the parents. Culture is all well and good, but the play isn't suitable and lies are simply unbecoming.

As the Warder turns away towards the next stop, the girl turns to her parents, brow furrowed. The Tower's ravens peck around the foot of the Bloody Tower in search of anything the tour group may have dropped.

Micro Scene #2


The office is cramped, stacked with books, tidy, but claustrophic. Across from Beth, Dr. McDonald perches with his arms folded. His chair sits too low to the floor, and his long, crossed legs remind her of a praying mantis. The bottle–glass spectacles enhance the illusion.

"So, tell me about your project," Dr. McDonald asks.

Beth hesitates briefly. She's already been accepted to the Ph.D. program, but wants to start off on the right foot in case she comes here, and he sits on her committee, or even chairs it, and she needs him to think that she's smart and articulate and committed and knowledgeable.

"I've been thinking about designing a mixed–methods study of a newly developed writing program. Now that writing studies have been an established field for a number of decades, we can investigate the relationship between theory and practice in both a synchronic and diachronic fashion." Beth swallows the next sentence, not wanting to ramble.

Dr. McDonald leans forward. No expression. He asks, "You would study an entire program?"

Beth nods once. This isn't going as she anticipated. Other faculty at other campuses have asked about methods or specific research questions. She's not sure where this is headed.

"Oh, no," says Dr. McDonald. "I'm doing an ethnographic study of a small writing support group...it's what my sabbatical is for this year." He peers at her sharply. "You know I only came in today to meet with you. Good I was in town." He turns to a shelf, pulls down a book, holds it just over his desk. "You should read some of my earlier work, it might help you get perspective on appropriate scope. An ethnography of just a few writers in a new writing program...we could do that."

He keeps talking, but there's no point in listening. He has decided what she should do. Were she to accept the admissions offer and work with him, he would tell her again. But she won't.