Right now your dad and I have been married for about two years, living on Ellis Avenue; when we move out you’ll still be too young to remember the house, but we’ll show you pictures of it, tell you stories about it. I’d love to tell you the story of this evening, the night you’re conceived, but the right time to do that would be when you’re ready to have children of your own, and we’ll never get that chance.

This passage comes during the first section of the story. The unusual use of the present and future tenses indicates something equally unusual about the setting. Louise has already established that the present moment, and thus the time during which she is telling the story, is on the night her husband proposes making a baby together. This passage hints that much of the story will also be told about a future that has not yet occurred.

I know how this story ends; I think about it a lot. I also think a lot about how it began, just a few years ago, when ships appeared in orbit and artifacts appeared in meadows. The government said next to nothing about them, while the tabloids said every possible thing.

And then I got a phone call, a request for a meeting.

This passage occurs during the first section of the story and reveals further information about when the story takes place. Louise is in the present moment, thinking about the future and also the past. She begins to narrate past events and establishes that those events will lead directly to the present moment. It is clear at this point that the setting will move around between past, present, and future.

The request for that meeting was perhaps the second most momentous phone call in my life. The first, of course, will be the one from Mountain Rescue. At that point your dad and I will be speaking to each other maybe once a year, tops.

This quote occurs at the beginning of the story. Louise follows a sentence in the past tense with one in the future tense. This kind of tense usage will continue throughout the story and helps to illuminate Louise’s new perception of time. It also further establishes that Louise in narrating from a specific moment in time and the story will include the events in the past that lead up to it, as well as the events of the future that flow from it.

When you are three, you’ll pull a dishtowel off the kitchen counter and bring that salad bowl down on top of you.

I reached out and took the bowl from the shelf. The motion didn’t feel like something I was forced to do. Instead it seemed just as urgent as my rushing to catch the bowl when it falls on you: an instinct that I felt right in following.

This quote comes toward the end of the story, after Louise has gained proficiency in Heptapod B. The setting for the first paragraph is some time in the future, immediately followed by an event that takes place in the past. It is the clearest indication yet for the shifting times during which the story takes place and provides a hint as to why the story is told in this way.