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Authors: Dan Gutman

Getting Air

BOOK: Getting Air
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GETTING AIR
Also by DAN GUTMAN

The Homework Machine

Race for the Sky

Back in Time with Benjamin Franklin

Back in Time with Thomas Edison

SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2007 by Dan Gutman
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
S
IMON
& S
CHUSTER
B
OOKS FOR
Y
OUNG
R
EADERS
is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Gutman, Dan. Getting air / Dan Gutman.—1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: After foiling a terrorist hijacking aboard their plane, fourteen-year-old Jimmy, his younger sister, and two skateboarding friends crash-land the plane and try to survive in a forest wilderness until help arrives.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-7947-0
ISBN-10: 1-4169-7947-6
[1. Wilderness survival—Fiction. 2. Survival—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.G9846Gh 2007
[Fic]—dc22
2006032690
Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

To my son, Sam, who inspired my whole career.
Thanks to Bill Freeman and Dick Barton, and to
Gary Paulsen for writing
Hatchet
.

I never wanted to be a hero. All I ever wanted to be
was a Woodpusher.

—Jimmy Zimmerman

CHAPTER 1:
The First 1080

This is my ultimate fantasy…

I hear the crowd starting to buzz and clap and stamp their feet as I climb the inside steps to the fourteen-foot halfpipe. It’s a long way up. I give my helmet and elbow pads one last tug, mostly for good luck.

It’s the X Games and the whole world is watching. Or the whole skateboarding world, anyway. Dozens of other kids have had their turn and I go last. Because I’m the best, right? I’m the one they all came to see. Finally I reach the top of the halfpipe just as the announcer yells…

“…and last but not least, from Livingston, New Jersey, the thirteen-year-old phenom who has taken the extreme sports world by storm, Jimmy…Zimmerman!”

The crowd goes wild, of course. My sister, Julia, and my lifelong friends, Henry and David, are there, shouting encouragement and telling me how awesome I am.

I look around Madison Square Garden and wave. A thousand flashes blind me momentarily. But I know why I’m there. I know what I have to do to win this thing. I have to land the first 1080.

Nobody ever did three complete revolutions in the air before and came down with both feet on their board.
Ever
. Some big shot scientists claimed it wasn’t possible. Even I, the incredible Jimmy Zimmerman, never landed a 1080. Not even in practice. But I was going to go for it here. Because that’s the kind of skater I am. Go for broke. Risk it all. Second place isn’t good enough.

The crowd quiets to a hush as I hang most of my board off the edge of the coping. I put one foot on the tail to steady the board.

“I love you, Jimmy!” shouts a voice in the crowd.

I look around until I spot her, supermodel Victoria Ashley, my girlfriend and quite possibly the most gorgeous girl in the world. I flip her a wink and throw a thumbs up. Like it’s no sweat.

I take a peek down. It looks like forever. There are about three feet of straight vert before the halfpipe begins curving out. It’s even scarier when you’re standing at the edge. You feel like you’re about to jump off the ledge of a building. But I’ve dropped into hundreds of halfpipes. This is a piece of cake to me.

I take a few deep breaths, put my other foot on the front of the board and lean forward. Just about anybody who’s crazy enough can drop into a fourteen-foot halfpipe. It’s what you do once you’re in there that matters.

I slide down smoothly and bend my knees to roll up the opposite wall almost to the top. Then I turn and do it again, pumping my legs to get air on the other side. As I pop over the coping, I spin one revolution, just to tease the crowd.

“Three-sixty!” they scream.

I come down fakie and shoot up the other side, spinning two revolutions in the air. I can fly.

“Seven-twenty!” they scream.

That was easy. I slide down again and now I’m a few feet over the top. There’s time for two-and-a-half revolutions, and then I roll down.

“Nine hundred!” they scream.

But the nine hundred has been done before. I know everyone is moving to the edge of their seat now. They want to watch history being made. They want to be able to tell their children and their grandchildren they were there when Jimmy Zimmerman landed the first 1080. Or when I busted my head trying.

I’m focused. I’m in the zone. It feels like I’m moving in slow motion. I do a couple more back and forths to work up my air and work up my courage. I throw in a kickflip-indy and a tailgrab to build a little tension with the crowd. To show ’em what else I’ve got.

In order to complete three revolutions, I’m going to need to spin early, fast, and tight. As I roll up the wall, I launch myself, holding one arm against my body and holding my board below me with the other hand.

One…

Two…

Two and a half…

Three!

And I stick it, both feet on the board. I steady myself, then throw my arms in the air and the crowd is nuts. Camera flashes light up the Garden like lightning.

“He did it!” the announcer booms. “For the first time in history, a human being has spun three complete revolutions in the air and landed on a skateboard! Let’s hear it for Jimmy Zimmerman!”

When I come out of the halfpipe, kids are swarming all over me for autographs. I take off one sneaker, throw it into the crowd, and a bunch of fans climb all over each other to get it. I step up on the podium with the two guys who came in second and third. Somebody gives me my first-place trophy and a big check. I’m surrounded by reporters and guys in suits who were sent by skateboard companies to sign me to multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals.

But there will be plenty of time for that later. Right now, Victoria is coming over to give me a kiss.

Here she is. I open my arms.

And then, my ultimate fantasy comes to an end when my brand-new titanium skateboard falls on my head.

CHAPTER 2:
Boarding

“Oh my gosh! Are you okay? Your skateboard doesn’t seem to fit in the overhead bin. If it doesn’t fit under the seat in front of you, I guess you’ll have to hold it on your lap. Do you need some ice for your head?”

I looked up at the flight attendant. It was like I was in a different fantasy. She was tall, with wavy blond hair and green eyes. She spoke with a gentle Southern accent. At first I thought she was part of a video game. Nobody in the real world could look that beautiful. The little pin on her uniform said
ARCADIA
. There was another flight attendant on the other side of the plane, but she was closer to my mom’s age. Me and the guys lucked out. I memorized the pretty flight attendant’s name.
Arcadia Maisonette
.

“I’m okay,” I replied, rubbing my head.

“Skateboarding really
is
dangerous!” Arcadia said before walking past me to the back of the plane. I wasn’t sure if she was joking or not.

“I think I’m in love,” I whispered to my little sister Julia, who was sitting next to me, her head stuck in a book, like always. She’s eleven. I gave Julia the window seat so I wouldn’t have to look out of it. But I claimed the middle armrest, because I’m older. She didn’t fight me for it, because she knows I can take her, easy.

“The minimum age to be a flight attendant is eighteen,” Julia said, without taking her eyes off the page. “That would make her at least five years older than you.”

“I don’t care,” I insisted. “When we’re sitting on the porch in our retirement community fifty years from now, it won’t matter. What difference does age make when you’re in love?”

Julia rolled her eyes and returned to her book. It was called
Hatchet.
I read that book a few years ago in school. It’s about some kid who’s in a plane crash. Good airplane reading.

I looked out the window. We were in one of those small jets with an engine mounted on either side in the back by the tail, not on the wing. I never trusted those planes with the engines hanging off the wings. What if the engines fall off?

“Hey, Zimmerman, you should ask that stewardess out on a date,” whispered my friend Henry, who was sitting in the seat behind me. “She’s hot!”

“Are you crazy?” I replied. “She’s probably five years older than me.”

Henry and David were in 17A and B, right near that place where they keep the drinks and snacks. What’s it called? The galley? I don’t like sitting in the back row, because you can’t lean your seat back.

I turned around to check on Henry. He had never even been away from home before and I was afraid he might freak out on the plane or something. He seemed to be doing fine. Sitting by the window and next to Henry, David was chewing gum. He was wearing one of those funny-looking eye masks. How can anyone sleep on an airplane? There’s so much to worry about.

Arcadia and the other flight attendant had moved to the front, and they were pointing out the location of the emergency exits. I wondered if you have a better chance of surviving a crash in the back of the plane or the front? I mean, if the plane hits something, the people in the front are sure to get crushed right away. But the people in the back will probably be burned alive or die from smoke inhalation.

This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head when I’m flying. Why couldn’t they have put us on one of those jumbo jets? This thing couldn’t hold more than sixty or seventy passengers. I wondered if the jumbos were safer than these little jets.

“I wish we were driving,” I said to nobody in particular, knowing full well that none of us was old enough to get a license. It would take weeks to drive cross-country anyway.

“Do you know how many Americans die every year in car accidents?” Julia asked me.

“How many?”

“Forty thousand, on average,” she said. “And do you how many die in plane crashes?”

“I give up.”

“Two hundred,” she said.

How does she know stuff like that? My kid sister has probably read the whole library. She needs to get a life. Julia is the queen of useless information. At her school, kids call her TP, for “Trivial Pursuit.”

Those statistics can’t be right. Nobody can tell me that being in a car on the ground is more dangerous than being 30,000 feet up in the air in a giant aluminum tube weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds that’s moving 500 miles an hour. I’ll never figure out how they get the thing off the ground. It’s like magic.

At least I have a seat belt. I chuckled to myself. Yeah, like a seat belt is gonna do any good if we go down.

We would be making a connection in Chicago, and then out to California for two weeks. Julia and I have cousins who live in Newport Beach. They promised to take us to the X Games, which are in Los Angeles this year. Henry and David talked their folks into letting them come with us.

The three of us started a skateboard club back in third grade. Most of the kids in our class were into the traditional team sports, but after watching the X Games on TV one day, we were hooked. We went out and bought skateboards right away, those cheap ones they sell at Toys “R” Us. We practiced constantly, and as we got better we got better equipment. We got to be pretty good.

New Jersey is not exactly what you’d call a hotbed of skateboarding. We discovered right away that the in-line skaters and BMX bikers didn’t like us, for no particular reason. It was like they were prejudiced because we rode skateboards. Henry started making fun of them by calling them “fruit booters” and “seat humpers.” We were equally hated by the football players (“brain bashers”), the baseball players (“bat whackers”), and the hockey players (“puck junkies”).

They had a name to make fun of us too.
Woodpushers
. At first we were insulted. It was sort of like a racial slur. But after a while the name sort of grew on us. Woodpushers. We started liking it. So when we decided to form the club, there was only one name we considered—the Woodpushers.

Our plan was to try and get sponsored while we were in L.A. Every skateboard company would be at the X Games, and they’re always looking for fresh talent, new faces. It was a long shot, of course. We all knew that. There are a million skateboarders out there who were just as good as us. Probably better. But you know what they say—you gotta be in it to win it. Me and Henry and David are the All-American boys. We’re not punks. We’re not into piercing and death metal and all that. Skateboard companies should love us. If nothing else, maybe they’d give us some free T-shirts and decks and stuff. We’ll take anything.

It’s hard to get sponsored when you live in New Jersey and all the action is on the West Coast. Last year we borrowed a video camera from David’s dad and made a cool skate video
(Woodpushers Gone Wild)
but it didn’t get us anywhere. And we sent that DVD to
ten
skateboard companies. Nobody was interested in the Woodpushers. They probably get DVDs and tapes in the mail every day. I’ll bet they never even look at them. You’ve got to be either really good or really lucky to get sponsored.

My head was still throbbing from the skateboard hitting me. It was brand new. I built the thing myself. Well, my dad actually did most of the work. He used to work for a company that makes lawn furniture. Before they laid him off, Dad brought home an extra piece of titanium alloy to fool around with. We cut it into the shape of a skateboard deck, then we welded trucks on and attached wheels and bearings. With grip tape glued to the top and some stickers on the bottom, it looked just like any ordinary wooden skateboard. Until it slams you on the head, of course.

I hadn’t even tried out the new board yet. But it should be awesome because it’s just as flexible as wood, but much stronger and lighter. So you should be able to do more tricks with it and beat it up without worrying about it breaking. The thing is virtually indestructible. I told my dad that if he licensed it to one of the big skateboard companies, they’d probably pay him a million dollars. But he said that’s crazy talk and he needed to focus on getting a new job. The guys even talked about kicking me out of the Woodpushers because I wasn’t pushing wood anymore. Nothing ever came of that.

Julia doesn’t skateboard. She’s more into Girl Scouts and reading. Me and Henry and David live to skate. We even built a halfpipe in David’s backyard. Henry downloaded the plans off the Internet and we all chipped in to buy the wood at Home Depot. It was a small halfpipe, but pretty cool. At least it was until it rained a few times and the wood got warped and ruined. I guess we should have covered it or shellacked it or something. But after we finished building it, all we wanted to do was skate. Anyway, we got a few good months out of the halfpipe before the boards started to pop up and it became unskateable.

The plane wasn’t close to being full, but I figured all the passengers were on because that cute flight attendant, Arcadia, was closing the door. Soon we’d be taking off.

“Young man, can you help me for a moment?”

It was a little old lady who was sitting in Row 15 in front of me. She looked like my grandmother and she talked with a British accent.

“Sure.”

“I need to put my sweater in the overhead bin but I can’t quite reach that high.”

As I got up to help the lady, I looked around. There were a few other guys on the plane. But besides them, and me, Julia, Henry, and David, the plane was just about filled with old ladies. I had never seen so much gray hair in one place at one time. A few of them looked like they had
blue
hair. Or maybe it was purple. It was definitely not a color found in nature. Henry calls old ladies “Mildreds” because it seems like all of them are named Mildred.

I helped the lady put her sweater away. The Mildred sitting next to her was knitting. Knitting? I thought that was just something old ladies did in the movies. I didn’t think anyone actually did it in real life. I wondered how they got their knitting needles past security. I didn’t even bring my nail clipper on board with me because I was afraid it would be confiscated. I guess when you’re an old lady, you can get away with more stuff.

“Thank you very much, young man,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Jimmy Zimmerman.”

“Mildred Herschel,” she said, sticking out a bony hand.

Figured. Man, it must have been confusing back when those old ladies were young and all the girls were named Mildred.

I shook Mrs. Herschel’s hand. I figured that would be the end of it, but she didn’t let go of my hand. So I had to say something.

“Do you like to knit?” I asked. What a stupid thing to say. I never know what to say to old ladies.

“Oh, yes!” Mrs. Herschel said. “My group and I are going to a knitting convention in California. We go every year.”

They actually have knitting conventions? I guess old ladies have to do
something
to pass the time. She
still
wouldn’t let go of my hand.

“Me and my friends are skateboarders,” I told her. “We’re going to L.A. to get sponsored.”

“Sponsored?” Mrs. Herschel asked. “What does that mean?”

“Well,” I told her, “if you’re really good, the skateboard companies give you free stuff and sometimes even pay you to use their equipment. I guess they figure kids will see you using the equipment and they’ll buy it hoping it will make them good.”

“I should jolly well think so,” Mrs. Herschel said. “Sometimes the yarn companies give away samples of their products to the top knitters.”

“Maybe you’ll get sponsored too,” I told her.

“That would be smashing!” she said. “Well, good luck to you, Jimmy. You seem to be a fine young man.”

“Zimmerman is into
extreme
knitting,” Henry piped up from behind me. “A bunch of knitters skydive out of an airplane and they knit a parachute on the way down. They have to work really
fast
.”

Henry is such a dork.

Mrs. Herschel laughed and said Henry was cheeky, whatever that means. I sat back down and told Henry what a moron he is.

“Hey, I was trying to do you a favor,” Henry whispered. “Maybe
she’ll
go out with you. I know how you go for older women.”

“Very funny.”

Arcadia and the other flight attendant were demonstrating how to buckle the seat belt—as if none of us had ever been in a car before!

“Excuse me,” Henry called out. “Can you demonstrate that one more time? My friend Zimmerman here is a little slow. I don’t think he quite understands how the locking mechanism works.”

I called Henry a dork again. Arcadia smiled in our direction and my heart melted.

“In case of emergency,” the other flight attendant announced, “an oxygen mask will drop down over your head. In the unlikely event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device.”

Water landing? We’d be flying over Kansas!

“If this thing lands on anything but a runway, we can kiss our butts good-bye,” David said behind me. “Because we’ll all be dead.”

I searched around in the seat pocket in front of me until I found a set of earphones. Maybe a little music would relax me. I plugged the earphones into the jack on the side of my armrest.

BOOK: Getting Air
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