What does Anna decide to do when the circus tent pole is struck by lightning?

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When the circus tent pole is struck by lightning, Anna decides to change direction in midair so that she can grasp a heavy, braided wire within her reach.

Accordingly, while performing a specialized trapeze act, Anna and her husband, Harry, fall victim to a random lightning strike. Because the lightning...

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When the circus tent pole is struck by lightning, Anna decides to change direction in midair so that she can grasp a heavy, braided wire within her reach.

Accordingly, while performing a specialized trapeze act, Anna and her husband, Harry, fall victim to a random lightning strike. Because the lightning strikes the main pole of the circus tent, it causes the tent to buckle and Harry to topple forward. Unable to grasp Anna's hand as well as to maintain a hold on his swing, Harry falls to his death.

Meanwhile, after Anna realizes that she has missed her husband's hands, she tears off her blindfold and makes a split-second decision to twist her body towards a heavy, braided wire. Even though the wire is still hot from the lightning strike, Anna holds onto it faithfully. She is eventually lowered gently "to the sawdust ring just underneath the dome of the canvas roof." Anna is then taken to the hospital, where she is confined to bed-rest for a month and a half before she gives birth to her stillborn baby.

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Anna, the mother of the narrator in Louise Erdrich's short story "The Leap," is a trapeze artist. Part of her act, as part of The Flying Avalons, is to swing from the trapeze, meet her husband in the air between each of their trapezes, and kiss. Wanting to bring more excitement, the couple (Anna and her husband) decide that they should add blindfolds to the act. 

The couple goes to their trapezes, wave to the crowd, and leap towards one another. Suddenly, lightening strikes the main tent pole. Midair, Anna tears off her blindfold and reaches for the braided wires of the tent (which were still hot from the lightening strike). The wires burned Anna's hands so horribly that her palms, once healed, were only scar tissue. Therefore, as the tent and her husband came falling in around her, Anna reached for a wire that would save her life. 

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Anna is the mother of the narrator in this story, a former trapeze artist who is now an older lady, but who still moves carefully, using skills she learned in her former life. With her first husband, Anna was part of the Flying Avalons, and the two were famed for their circus act in which they appeared to fly like birds.

On one occasion, when Anna was seven months pregnant, she was flying through the air toward her husband Harry when "lightning struck the main pole and sizzled down the guy wires." Harry was meant to catch his wife, but now he hurtled to the ground. Anna tore off her blindfold and, instead, of grasping at her husband, twisted her body to deliberately change direction, aiming her hands towards a heavy wire. This wire was, of course, red-hot from the lightning strike and when Anna grasped it, she burned her hands badly. However, she managed to hang on until she could be rescued. She had her arm broken in the chaos, and then had a miscarriage later at the hospital, but she had succeeded in saving her own life.

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In "The Leap," the circus tent pole is struck by lightning during a trapeze performance by the Flying Avalons. Anna, who makes up half of this double act, is in midair when the lightning strikes, but even in this moment, she is able to think quickly and respond appropriately.

Firstly, Anna tears off her blindfold. Secondly, she changes the direction of her body, and this enables Anna to grab hold of a piece of braided metal, instead of plummeting to the ground. Her hands, however, are horribly burned by the red-hot metal which was scorched by the lightning.

Finally, Anna gently lowers herself onto a "sawdust ring," which is just strong enough to take her weight, though parts of it are on fire. She is rescued from the ring, but an "overeager" rescuer accidentally breaks her arm. She is also knocked unconscious by a falling tent buckle.

By reacting quickly to the lightning, Anna is able to save her own life, but neither her husband nor her unborn child are so lucky. Anna spends the next couple of months recovering in a hospital, where she meets and falls in love with a doctor. This ensures that her daughter, the narrator, will be born.

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