Louise Erdrich's short story, "The Leap," tells the story of an aging former blindfold trapeze performer, Anna Avalon--now blind--through the eyes of her daughter. The narrator daughter recounts three stories in which she feels indebted to her mother.
While a member of the Flying Avalons, the pregnant Anna survives a performance accident that claims the life of her husband. During the midde of a stunt, lightning strikes the tent, which buckles. Anna removes her blindfold in mid-swing and has just enough time to decide whether to snatch her husband's ankle and plunge to her death along with him; or to grab hold of a dangling guy wire and save herself (and her unborn child). Anna chooses the latter. The child is stillborn, but Anna will live on.
The narrator tells how her mother meets her second husband, a doctor who helps to rehabilitate Anna following the accident and who fathers Anna's second child (the narrator). He also teaches Anna to read, fostering a love of books that ends only because of her blindness.
When the daughter is seven years old, the family's home catches fire, which traps her in an upstairs bedroom. To save her child, Anna climbs a nearby tree and crawls to the end of a tiny branch that stretches to the roof. She stands and leaps from the branch, which cracks and falls; but Anna manages to cling to a rain gutter, rescuing her daughter and carrying her to safety.
These acts convince the daughter to return home where she can now read to her mother for whom she owes her existene.