When my daughter Mary was little I used to tell her an ongoing bedtime story about the adventures of two little girls, Molly and Jenny. They lived in the forest with their parents and were always going off on their own to explore, which usually led to them getting into trouble of one kind or another. Fortunately they were good friends with a flying horse who would come rescue whenever they called him with a magic whistle. Usually they would call for their friend the flying horse right about the time that I, the one telling the story, had gotten them into some fix and had no idea how to get them out of it again.
The challenge was to come up with a new adventure for Molly and Jenny every night, and often I’d get a story going and find myself in the middle of it with no idea where things were going to go from here or what to tell next. It was complete story improv. My daughter didn’t seem to notice or care that the plots of the Molly and Jenny stories were contrived and cobbled together from lots of other stories. She loved them, and that was good enough for the both of us. During the telling we entered that timeless time of story. The years have flown by, but Molly and Jenny are still two little girls having adventures.
Mary’s favourite Molly and Jenny story, the one she asked me to tell many times, was about how the girls went to visit their reclusive old grandpa, who lived in a shack on the very top of a mountain peak. The peak was so sharp that the house balanced, teetering, on the very tip of it. The fun of the story was how Molly and Jenny would have to be very careful moving around their Grandpa’s house so it wouldn’t tip too far one way or the other and come crashing down the mountain. I probably got the idea from the Chaplin film The Gold Rush where something similar happens to a trapper’s cabin on the edge of a precipice (a visual gag imitated many times, for example in the Looney Tunes cartoon in which Bugs Bunny accompanies Christopher Columbus and the two of them share a bowl of soup which slides across the table between them with each rise and fall of the waves).
I never wrote down any of the Molly and Jenny stories, and I’m sorry for that. It would have been great fun to have them on paper so we could read them again after all these years.