I remember my mother holding me as I cried while my father was taken off.
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing,” she whispered and kissed me, then said as if to be clear, “It’s nothing you can understand.”
The first time I heard of Yuri Exelrod I was on the subway with my father. We were standing in the center of a half-empty car while two men next to us argued the virtues of Exelrod’s work. One of the men had a near dwarf-like defect, was bird-rail small, with a Jew’s nose and arms so thin I could not quite understand how his flesh contained bone and muscle. The other man was three times as large, his body bloated, his black shoes clown-size with long twiny laces.
“Listen to me,” the big man’s accent was Slavic. His head was bald on top with a wreath of brown hair. He wore an overcoat even though it was summer, the side pockets containing a rolled up newspaper and a dog-eared copy of Exelrod’s most recent novel.
Three weeks earlier my mother and I had gone to Saddlebrooke Prison to b…