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.
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.