Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The narrator’s mother, the surviving half of a blindfold trapeze act, has lost her sight to cataracts. She navigates her home so gracefully, never upsetting anything or losing her balance, that the narrator realizes that the catlike precision of her movements may be the product of her early training. The narrator rarely thinks about her mother’s career in the Flying Avalons, however, because her mother preserves no keepsakes from that period of her life.
The narrator owes her mother her own existence three times. The first occurred well before she was born, when her mother, then Anna of the Flying Avalons, was performing with her first husband, Harold Avalon, in the same New Hampshire town in which she still lives. The narrator got the story from old newspapers. In contrast to the West, where the narrator has lived, New Hampshire weather can change dramatically without warning. On that pleasant June day, the local people came to the circus and enjoyed the various acts while awaiting the Flying Avalons, who gracefully dropped from nowhere, like sparkling birds. Unbeknownst to the audience that day, Anna was seven months pregnant.
The finale of the Avalons’ blindfold trapeze act always had them kiss in midair. On that fateful day, however, a powerful electrical storm arose at the very moment that they began their finale. While they were in midair, their hands about to meet, lightning struck the main tent pole and sizzled down its guy wires. As the tent buckled, Harry fell, empty-handed. Realizing that something was wrong, Anna tore off her blindfold. She had time to seize her husband’s ankle and fall with him, but she instead grabbed a guy wire, superheated by the lightning.
Anna burned her palms so badly on the wire that there were no lines on them...
(The entire section is 733 words.)
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