I am translating an excerpt of a Chinese short story. In general, do any indicators in Chinese grammar exist that would require the usage of past tense (in English) instead of present tense? In this particular story, there are paragraphs which reflect on the past and contain 以前 and other adverbs etc. But it makes me wonder if there are less obvious indicators governing the intended tense for translation.
Edit: Abbreviated example, can't copy and paste from the book, but it illustrates my problem well. These sentence are in one paragraph in this order, padded out by filler information I removed. 车来了。我坐车回家。我父母已经回来。一看到他们的目光，就退软了。喇叭开始播报当天的消息。
The rest lends itself easily to present tense, but such sequential descriptions making up a large part of the story sound weird to me. No 了 in the third sentence, so it is not "They are already at home"? I would translate the fourth sentence as something like "One glance at their expressions and I get weak at the knees", but the 了 throws me off. As for the fifth sentence, I associate 当天 with past tense, could it also be "of the (respective) day" instead of "of that (past) day?
I usually don't have trouble with aspect, it's just that here the aspects conveyed feel "mixed".
Another example, from 韓松：乘客與創造者 - "三十一B的睡姿有些奇怪。我碰碰他。[...] 我随手按了呼叫钮。一个苗条的身影飘过来。乘务员由经济舱的女乘客轮流担任。她淡淡地看了一眼三十一B，又叫来另一个乘务员。两人交换了一个冷静的眼色，架上三十一B便走掉了。" More sequential description in the whole story, similar use of 了. The translation by Nathaniel Isaacson renders it all present tense.