Guided from behind, she sees the world approach then pass her. It is warm in the rays of a midnight sun that resists the urge to set. Canals, on either side of a winding path through the downtown park, are bustling. She can hear resounding slaps as houseboats bob on an evening tide. She can feel vibrations from her stroller's plastic wheels when a change of surface means they have reached an ancient cobblestone bridge. They cross to the other side, as rush-hour traffic noise competes with massive flocks of cooing pigeons. Wing flaps rise, with surround-sound frenzy. Spooked by her stroller's sudden speed, birds fly all which-way.

Mother laughs.

It must be she who looks at Vina with that special fondness parents heap on their precious only-child... so fresh, so pretty in an Indonesian scarf, her face exotic. Like an orchid, in this land of tulips, Mrs. Windmollen beams... proceeds to steer a playful zigzag through the plaza.

Statues loom.

Saint George does battle, cast in bronze, at the far-side exit.
Paced more leisurely, streets grown narrower, the chaotic hubbub ebbs, on their progression down a sidewalk lined with lampposts, bicycles, elm trees, then a stretch of high-rise condos city-block long and canyon-sheer.

A light turns red; they halt.

They wait.

A cat, in a windowsill far above them, rubs its ribs against a milk bottle and upsets it.

Red turns green; the light (like always) signals "WALK," which she who pushes does... or would do, undistracted by a frisky squirrel appearing at her feet (from whence occurrences, ever-after, are foregone).

Overhead, from its lethal height, the bottle falls unstoppably.
With a forward tilt, the stroller lets its pint-size passenger peer:

at mother squatting
with a peanut in her palm
toward which the rodent,
having lost its fear of people,
inches near enough to snatch

(at which point Vina wants to waken, has awakened since transforming, to avoid the reenactment of this early childhood scene, prevent the overlap of memory and reality, but... cannot. As though her eyelids are glued open, she is forced to watch a sequence that, in retrospect, determines who - and what - she soon will be, if past and future are the present's kissing cousins, intersecting, each dependent on the other, leaving all and none to chance, implying outcomes that are preordained are not and are coequally, in that one small change can rearrange ones youth-onto-old-age life).

The squirrel, responding to an instinct, dashes off.
Mrs. W. sneezes...

(Vina blinks; this never happened.)

... and, in doing so, recoils
- the way a well-bred woman does
by bringing hand to face politely -
thereby shifting her position
from the object's


the squirrel turns white with spattered milk
the pavement glints with glass in shatters

Vina's mother
although shocked
is not the least bit harmed

the bottle
upon impact
in fact