Twenty-three scraps of time, and lives-containing-death, taking place at the beginning and in the aftermath of the Holocaust in Poland. Each brief story is crystallized around moments when quietly ordinary people, living secure and ordered existences, enter nightmare. In the title tale, a May morning, in memory, was a ""grainy, golden mist with red spheres of apples hanging in it""; it is on this day that one boy did not take the chance to escape the killing field. It was, perhaps, the burden of isolation that led to his extermination: ""not to be alone; to be together with everyone."" And guilt clings to survivors: a young man remembers how his doomed mother saved him, and aches now for the suicidal gesture he could have made; a Polish woman recollects that she once stole a precious moment of love and happiness from death-marked teen-agers; a mad father tells how he allowed his children to ride to their deaths. Parents mourn not only the deaths, but the very births of their children--bewildered, grieving and heroic. A cartful of children, looking like ""little grey mice,"" will not identify their parents, and perish. A child is trained to identify his father as ""dead,"" which, in a sense, he already is. Postwar episodes involving non-Jews are death-tainted. A peasant pair, greeting the couple they'd saved during the war, proudly present them with a handsome new shelter, ""just in case something happens"" again. A considerate American soldier suggests to the Jewish girl he intends to marry that a name change could be ""easier."" There is a tale of the supernatural involving a huge dark angel of a dog; and another dog is hanged by the S.S. for its simple loyalty. The last story is in the form of a dialogue, in which witnesses to a mass murder, recalling the day, swing wildly from the meaningless minutiae of investigators to the essence of terror and horror. Poignant, wrenching tales, told with skill and unwavering focus.