One creative technique that Santos uses at the very beginning of the story is the setting of a pessimistic, grieving tone, that highlights the theme of his story: the loss and bereavement that occurs when somebody leaves their homeland and is forced to realise that they may never return. Note how this is achieved through the opening paragraph, which draws an analogy through examining a different kind of loss and deep sadness:
In a backyard an old man burned leaves and twigs while a gray-haired woman sat on the porch, her red hands quiet on her lap, watching the smoke rising above the elms, both of them thinking the same thought perhaps, about a tall, grinning boy with his blue eyes and flying hair, who went out to war: where could he be now this month when leaves were turning into gold and the fragrance of gathered apples was in the wind?
There are two aspects to consider in this quote. Firstly, the description of the "old man" and the "gray-haired woman" who is sitting quietly on the porch, doing nothing, that the writer assumes are thinking about their son who has gone to fight in the war has obvious connotations with loss and bereavement. Just as this couple dwell upon their son who is lost to them and the uncertainty of if he will ever come back, so this short piece is a mediation on the loss and bereavement that occurs when somebody leaves their home country, and the same uncertainty exists about if a return is possible. Secondly, the description of the "fragrance of gathered apples" is extremely poignant. Autumn has many connotations with age and approaching death and thus this descriptive detail helps to cement the theme of loss and bereavement, with the "scent of apples" becoming such a powerful image in the story that Santos chose to name his story, and the collection of short stories in which this story appeared, with this phrase.