Schneiderman, L.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jan-30-1997


This story is told by Tillie's grandfather. Tillie's parents were killed in a plane crash and she now lives with her paternal grandfather, a man who (in a sense) has never really grown up. "Retirement" has always been his natural lifestyle. He says that he never "amounted to anything." The grandfather enjoys story-telling and fantasy. In his stories for Tillie, he invents the character Joey Moxey, a clown whose life-events just happen to mirror the daily events in Tillie's life.

Joey Moxey always overcomes adversity. His story is full of hairbrained schemes, breathtaking escapes, and the loving support of friends, like Tina the cat, Oogak the jungle boy, and Sadie Donut the policewoman. These stories provide a way for Tillie to understand her own world.

Finally, the grandfather discovers that he has inoperable cancer. Shortly thereafter, Joey Moxey develops a terrible runny nose and "to everyone's disappointment" dies. However, his friends, led by Sadie Donut, gather and agree to continue their friendship and their adventures together.


When Tillie tries to ask her grandfather serious questions, like "Tell me about Joey Moxey flying a plane" [her parents died in a plane crash], he avoids the issue and tells her another marvelous and funny tale. Tillie responds, "You're never serious." Is the bald grandfather really the embodiment of bald Joey Moxey the clown? Tillie is silent, serious, musical, and "alienated" from her school mates.

While she is very close to her grandfather, she appears to be asking that he be more honest with her, that he speak in his own voice, not just in the voice of a clown. Tillie, too, has trouble at times distinguishing the real from the imaginary [cf. the episode of girls' beards]. With the tale of Joey Moxey's death, the grandfather acknowledges mortality. He becomes "serious" and in a sense passes the torch of creativity (life, youth, spontaneity) to Tillie. "The next night, Tillie (begins) the saga of Sadie Donut."

Primary Source

Confrontation 20 (Spring/Summer):60-67 (1980)


Long Island Univ.

Place Published

Southampton, N.Y.