Lunch at the Round Table: A Scene From “Rocketman”

Day 11

A gentle pang of hunger awakened her from her scuffing, and the thought of dinner came to mind. I wonder what Ilsa will have prepared for dinner? she thought. Ilsa was one of her family’s house maids, responsible for preparing family meals and dressing Marlien and her baby sister. Mother cooked, sometimes, but almost always on weekend afternoons, when she would lay out delicate sandwiches, the thin slices of roast beef or ham folded neatly between two soft squares of white bread.

Marlien liked weekend lunch, because it was less formal; she could help herself to the little square sandwiches instead of waiting for Ilsa to serve her. Instead of sitting at the big, dark dining room table, the family would assemble around the low circular sitting room table and make themselves comfortable. Talking was not expected at lunch, so mother would take up her needles, father would sit back and unfold his paper and smoke contentedly at his pipe, and Marlien would gaze out the large bay windows and watch the tops of the trees sway in the afternoon breeze.

She wondered, quite innocently, if Ilsa would set out trays of white sandwiches for dinner, and if they would eat at the round table, so she could watch the sun sink low across the park. She usually played on the third floor veranda in the late afternoon, sometimes with the neighbor boy, but usually alone. Often, she would walk across the quiet street and meet her friends in the park, where they would play hide-and-seek among the stout boles of the old trees. It often got so dark that they would take to hiding in plain sight, pressed tightly up against the dark bark of the trees, stifling giggles as the seeker wandered near without seeing them.

This is a writing exercise in which I work on a potential scene from my novel Rocketman. It is the story of my grandmother’s childhood experiences in World War II Germany. Her father — my great-grandfather — spent most of the war evading capture by the Nazis, who wanted him to work on their top secret V2 rocket program.

Originally published at on March 26, 2017