Johnny Hangtimeby Dan Gutman
It's a bird, It's a planeno, It's Johnny Hangtime!
Jumping off the Empire State Building, fighting on the wing of a biplane, and parachuting onto the back of a horse are all in a day's work for 13-year-old Johnny Thyme, a stunt kid known in the movie business as Johnny Hangtime. But Johnny's phenomenal feats are a movie industry secret. Ricky Corvette, the… See more details below
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It's a bird, It's a planeno, It's Johnny Hangtime!
Jumping off the Empire State Building, fighting on the wing of a biplane, and parachuting onto the back of a horse are all in a day's work for 13-year-old Johnny Thyme, a stunt kid known in the movie business as Johnny Hangtime. But Johnny's phenomenal feats are a movie industry secret. Ricky Corvette, the superstar teen for whom Johnny doubles, wants his fans to think he does his own stunts. Johnny's devoted to repeating the career of his legendary stuntman father, but what's he going to do when his favorite director asks him to perform the super-dangerous stunt that killed his father? Will following in his daredevil; dad's footsteps take him over the edge?
Read an Excerpt
Johnny Hangtime SNY
Fall in New York
The Empire State Building points skyward, like a gigantic pencil, 1,454 feet over the island of Manhattan. It was built with sixty thousand tons of steel, I've been told. That's enough to lay down railroad tracks from New York to Baltimore. The building has 60 miles of water pipe and 3,500 miles of telephone wire. There are seventy-three elevators inside. On the outside, 6,500 windows need to be washed continually. The eighty-sixth floor observatory sits 1,050 feet above street level.
And I'm about to jump off it.
It's a clear day, just a few minutes after sunrise. New York City is spread out, waking up before me. I can look down on the Chrysler Building and the United Nations. There are three bridges in the distance stretching across the East River. The ships plowing through the early morning waters look like toys in a bathtub. The cars below don't look like Fords or Toyotas. They look like Hot Wheels and Matchbox. People...well, they're so tiny I can barely see them at all.
Looking out at the horizon, I estimate that visibility must be eighty miles or more. New Jersey lies across the Hudson River. I bet I can see all the way to Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts too. It occurs to me that alarm clocks must be going off up and down the East Coast right now. People are waking up groggily after a long night's sleep, putting their feet on solid ground.
Looking straight down past the tips of my sneakers, I can look down the eighty-six stories stretching toward Fifth Avenue below. The Empire State Building hasn't been the tallest building in the world for years, butit's still the most beautiful, if you ask me. I remember reading that they built the whole thing in just twenty-five weeks. Fourteen men were killed during the construction. But none of them jumped off.
I have been planning to do this for months. Thought about it over and over in my mind. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. Finally, I'm ready. I'm nervous. I'm scared. But I feel like King Kong.
They say a penny dropped from this height would go through a skull like a knife through Jell-O. What would happen to a human body that fell so far?
I would be killed, of course. No question about that. But would there be anything left of me? Any remains for Mom to identify? Or would some sanitation crew simply scrape me off the pavement like an egg off a skillet, and then continue on down the street picking up trash? If I think too much about that, I'll chicken out, I know.
The shadow of the sun is creeping across the city, one avenue at a time. The air is thin, and it's cold up here. Wind coming off the river makes the building sway back and forth slightly. Maybe it's just an optical illusion. I slide my sneakers forward a couple of inches, so the toes hang over the edge and my heels rest on brick.
My hands are behind my back, grasping the iron rails tightly. I can feel my heart beating. Maybe even hear it. Or is that a guy with a jackhammer fixing a pothole down below?
There's no turning back now. I bend my knees, let go of the iron bars, and push off, hard, stretching my arms out in front of me. For a moment, I feel like I'm suspended in the air, like a cartoon character who doesn't fall because he hasn't yet noticed he's run off a cliff.
And then, the inevitable. Gravity reaches up and grabs at me. I start to fall, first slowly. You pick up speed so fast in free fall. The wind rushes by my face, ripping at my hair. It turns me around. My clothes are flapping. It's dizzying.
I'm powerless now. It's out of my control. When you jump, it's the only time no part of your body is touching anything. There's nothing for your muscles to push against. It would be an incredibly relaxing experience, if only we could relax in this situation. Nobody can.
And it's over so quickly. In the movies, things like this go on forever. But real life doesn't happen in slo-mo.
It's over much more quickly than I expect. I don't have the chance to enjoy it. All too soon, my body hits bottom.Johnny Hangtime SNY. Copyright © by Dan Gutman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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