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The two central characters in this story are the narrator and the narrator's mother, who, as the story opens, is blind and old. However, in spite of her blindness, she is able to negotiate her way around her house incredibly well:
She has never upset an object or as much as brushed a magazine onto the floor. She has never lost her balance or bumped into a closet door left carelessly open.
We discover that this "catlike precision of her movements" is a result of her former career as a trapeze artist. As the narrator tells the story of her mother, we realise that Anna is an incredibly brave and committed individual who is completely at ease with risking her life to save the life of her daughter, which, the narrator tells us, she has done three times in her life. However, Anna is also very lithe and flexible, which has also helped her to save the life of her daughter.
We are given less information about the narrator herself, whose main role seems to be to describe her mother, but we are given indications about her character, and in particular the very close bond that exists between herself and her mother. This bond is best described in the final paragraph of the story, where the daughter remembers being saved from her burning house by her mother and jumping with her into the firefighter's net:
Curled as I was, against her stomach, I was not startled by the cries of the crowd or the looming faces. The wind roared and beat its hot breath at our back, and flames whistled. I slowly wondered what would happen if we missed the circle or bounced out of it. Then I wrapped my hands around my mother's hands. I felt the brush of her lips and heard the beat of her heart in my ears, loud as thunder, long as the roll of drums.
This last paragraph of the story presents us with a very intimate and close image of the narrator and her mother together, and the way that the presence of her mother calms the narrator in what would otherwise be a terrifying situation.
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