The narrator of the short story feels indebted to her mother, who was a trapeze artist and is now a blind, elderly woman. They live together. At the beginning of the story, the narrator mentions that she owes her existence three times to her mother, beginning on the day her mother saved herself during a terrible trapeze accident. The narrator's mother, Anna, performed for the Flying Avalons alongside her husband, Harry Avalon.
One fateful day, Anna was performing in front of a large crowd when a bolt of lightning struck the main pole while she was swinging towards her husband high above the ground. Anna was seven months pregnant at the time but managed to twist her body and hold onto a heavy metal wire to avoid falling to her death. Unfortunately, an overeager rescuer ended up breaking Anna's arm while pulling her from the collapsed tent.
In the hospital, Anna met the narrator's father, who was her doctor. The narrator's father developed a close relationship with Anna and enjoyed listening to her describe the foreign countries she visited while performing with the Flying Avalons. Anna was also illiterate, and the narrator's father taught her to read and write during her stay at the hospital as a way of overcoming boredom and depression. In exchange for reading lessons, Anna would tell the narrator's father stories about her travels.