Jimmy Johnson

Katherine R., Writer

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Let me tell you the story of Jimmy Johnson. He was a great man who definitely did exist and I definitely did not make up. We begin our story on a sad summer day when Jimmy learned that his mother had fallen ill. You see, Jimmy had a very rough childhood. His father left when he was a kid, and his younger brother died in infancy. His mother had to work very hard to keep them off the streets.  Even with Jimmy’s assistance, she could barely keep food on the table. Her type of illness required a very difficult to make, and thus very expensive medicine.  Jimmy had decided that he only one option: Join the armed forces of the United States. Jimmy figured that the income received from the military would aid in the purchase of his mother’s desperately needed medicine.

So, Jimmy was sent to serve in the army. It was around the time of the Vietnam War, and Jimmy was sent to a small village on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. He was sent to protect the citizens there along with about 8 other soldiers. While he was on his patrol, he met a girl named Sally. Sally and Jimmy hit it off right away, spending time together during his patrols, and visiting each other during hours they both had free.

Jimmy was only supposed to be in this village for two years. He received the news about a week before he was supposed to leave, so he thought to himself, “You know what? I´m going to tell Sally that I love her! What have I got to lose?” He spends the next week trying to work up the courage to tell her, but never is able to. He tries and tries again, but to no avail. On the day he had to leave, he hands her a letter that contains all that he wanted to tell her but never could. He told her to read it when she gets home, and they give their tearful goodbyes.

Jimmy gets sent to a few other villages in Vietnam, and he travels around meeting people and making friends. After the war ends on April 30, 1975, he gets sent back home. He discovers that his mother had died while he was overseas, and they were unable to tell him until he had seen her grave with his own eyes. While he was gone, his land had been sold, along with all of his belongings. He had no money and no source of income.

He found his way underneath a bridge in D.C. This bridge was eight feet high from the water to the top, and the water was about 15 feet deep, and below freezing in the winter. There were two platforms on either side of the bridge within jumping distance elevated a few feet above the water. Jimmy made his home there and managed to find a sleeping bag in a trashcan, and an old coat in a tree. Every night he would start a little fire to keep him warm, and say a prayer for all of his friends who survived the war, that his mother would make it safely to heaven, and for Sally to live a prosperous life.

On February 8, 1976, he is sitting under his bridge praying, when he hears footsteps above him. This is normal of course since this bridge had traffic occasionally. He paid no mind to them since this was a normal occurrence, but suddenly he hears a loud scream. Jimmy quickly looks up and runs to the edge of his platform. He sees three people up on the bridge, looking down below him.

A man is holding back a woman trying to leap into the water, screaming, “LILLIAN! LILLIAN,” with tears in her eyes. The man has a worried look on his face and is trying to calm down the panicked woman. The third was also a man, dressed in a professional-grade tight polyester suit, and is looking down at the water as well. Jimmy quickly figures out what is going on and dives headfirst into the freezing cold water.

It hits him like an iceberg, waves of freezing cold pulsating through him turning his entire body into ice. However, he quickly recovers thanks to his training in the army. He opens his eyes to the musky gray water and swims down as far as he can. He finally sees a little girl, about 8 with cute pigtails and an orange dress with pink flowers embroidered onto it… Jimmy swims toward her but sees that her dress is caught on an old fishing boat with a rusty nail sticking out the edge. By now his vision is blurring, and he is running out of breath. Instead of untangling her like a normal human being, he punches through the boat and pulls the dress out that way. He swims up as fast as he can, breaks the surface, and pulls her to shore. The people on the bridge quickly make their way down to them, and the ambulances arrive.

When Jimmy leaves the hospital, the doctors tell him that his hospital bills were already paid. He asks who paid them, but no one can tell him. He makes his way down to his little bridge and settles down in his now familiar sleeping bag. He wakes up several times that night, tossing and turning. When the sun finally comes up, Jimmy gets up and packs up his sleeping bag, until he feels someone watching him.

He quickly turns around and sees the family from the night before. The little girl is there, shyly looking out from behind her mother’s dress. The family thanks him, and offers him some food and a few blankets. “We weren’t using them anymore, so you can have them. I hope they help you during the cold season.” The man walked over to him and gave him the blankets and food. Jimmy thanks them profusely, but when they offered him some money, he declined it.

A few other people came down that day and the next, for quite a while. They came with blankets, food, and other items that he could use. However, every time someone would offer him money, he would refuse it. One day, he is sitting down and eating some bread when a man comes up to him. Jimmy looks up at him and realizes, “It’s that man from before!” The man from that night was here before him, and he recognized him because of his well taken care of suit.

He introduces himself as Phil and he says, “I was there that night when you saved the little girl from drowning. I’ve been thinking and… I would like to offer you a job.”

Jimmy was taken aback at this. “A job? What for?”

“Well,” Phil replied, “I work for a producing company that makes movies. I think that you would make a good stuntman.”

Jimmy was now completely perplexed. “A stuntman? But, why me?”

“Well for one,” he smiled, “that jump you made was pretty impressive. You were able to handle those rough conditions very well. The other is because you were quick to jump in to save that little girl, with almost no hesitation. That either makes you very brave or very stupid. Good for you, both qualities are enough to qualify you.”

Jimmy had no response.

“Well, think it over.” Phil handed him a business card. “Call me if you decide to take it.”

Jimmy mulls it over for a couple weeks and eventually comes to a decision. “You know what? What have I got to lose?” He scavenges around for awhile, and eventually finds a quarter to use in a payphone. He calls up the number Phil gave him and tells him the news. A few weeks later, he is living in an apartment with a good job and has a pet dog named Holly. Things are going pretty well for him, and he lives for the next few months perfectly happy.

Its early March, and Phil calls a meeting with all the departments in the company. He says, “You all have been doing a really great job with all the work we’ve been doing, but recently we have had fewer opportunities to make movies. Business has gone down, and we have been struggling with money. However, I’ve come up with an idea that will fix our financial problems. I want each of the departments to come up with a stunt that they can do to gain more publicity, and I will choose which one is best.” Jimmy thinks about this and realizes, “This is my chance to reunite with Sally! If he is able to pull off a huge stunt, my name and face will be everywhere, so much so that Sally will surely see it!”

Jimmy comes up with a crazy idea that he takes to Phil. Phil agrees that they would get a lot of donations part of them to pay for your hospital bills no doubt, but it was a crazy enough idea to work. They use a boat from the Vietnam War and hollow it out completely. They fill it with water and put it below a few hundred feet tall bridge. The water is about 50 feet deep, and there are all kinds of rescue boats and helicopters there to video the stunt and get Jimmy safely to shore. The plan was to have him jump from the top of the bridge down into the boat.

As he stood at the top of the bridge, he started getting flashbacks from the war, but he thinks to himself, “You know what? I wasn’t brave enough to tell Sally how I felt, but I am not going to make the same mistake as before.” He braces himself, and leaps from the top of the bridge, hitting the water hard enough it might as well have been made of concrete. He was in pain everywhere, and all of his instincts were telling to get out of the water. As he swims up, he was met with resistance and he felt himself being pulled down. As he tried to swim up, he realizes the only way out is to swim down. The water was pulling him down to the bottom of the boat, so he went along with the current, going as fast as possible. When he reached the bottom, almost out of breath, he started slamming his side up against the bottom of the boat, trying to break a hole big enough to climb through. He succeeds in doing this and barely is able to make it, when he passes out.

The lifeboats saw what happened, and rush to his side. He is rushed to the hospital, and the doctors diagnose him with a concussion, a few cracked ribs, and a dislocated shoulder. He spends a couple months healing, and a few more in rehab, but in early 1978, he is finally able to face the public. He is taken to an interview, and they ask him a couple questions.

“Everyone is dying to know, why did you decide to jump off the bridge?”

“Well, I wanted to get publicity for my company, but there was another reason. When I served in the war, I met a woman named Sally. I haven’t seen her since, but I was hoping we could reconnect.”

“The War?” she replied, “ Did you serve in the Vietnam war? What was that like?”

“Well Martha, I’ve been through a lot of hard-ships.