In "The Leap," what does Anna decide to do when the circus tent pole is struck by lightning?
In "The Leap," the circus tent pole is struck by lightning during a performance by the Flying Avalons. In fact, the lightning strikes at the exact moment that Anna and her husband are mid-air, their hands about to meet.
Realizing the danger, Anna acts quickly to save her own life. Firstly, she does not grab Harry as he falls to the ground. Instead, she changes the direction of her body, twisting her body towards a wire made of braided metal. This enables Anna to make her second move: she grabs hold of the braided metal, but she burns her hands because it is still hot from the sizzle of the lightning. Finally, from the metal, she is lowered down onto the sawdust ring of the circus tent and down to safety on the ground.
What is really striking about this moment is Anna's sense of clarity and purpose. Instead of panicking or dashing to save Harry as he falls, she acts quickly and sensibly, therefore saving her own life and that of her unborn child. (The baby is later stillborn, but this should not detract from Anna's attempt to save it).
In the final act of each performance, Anna would kiss her husband, Harry Avalon, in mid-air as they 'swooped past one another.' One afternoon, while they are about to perform the flying kiss, a freak lightning strike hits the main pole of the tent, and its electrical energy sizzles down the guy wires. The tent buckles and Harry never manages to grab on to his wife's hands in mid-air. Instead, he falls to his death.
Meanwhile, when Anna finds that her hands do not meet her husband's, she tears off her blindfold and proceeds to twist her body towards a heavy wire, which she grabs on to. The wire is still hot from the effects of the lightning strike. The narrator tells us that Anna's hands were burned so badly that her hands healed with no lines on them. Anna is subsequently taken to the hospital where her baby is still-born a month and a half later.