EXT. SOUTH CAROLINA BADLANDS. MORNING.
Blonde blades of desert grass lean in the wind on a cool spring morning. The breeze whispers its secrets through a field; we see a plain, open stretch of dying crop, a skinny toad licking at the sun, a burnt out car on the shoulder of a highway – everything out here is forgotten by the world. In contrast to the burnt blondes and grey sky, a blue plastic bag dances over the field, flirting with every few hundred blades before lifting again.
Henry’s voice is soft in tone and southern in rhythm.
The first murder in America – by which I mean the first white man killed by a white man – was committed by a man called John Billington. In 1630, following an argument, he waylaid a man in the woods and shot ‘im in the shoulder. John Newcommen was the man he shot, and he survived his wound only to die from a cold shortly afterwards.
Billington was hung on the last day of September.
My momma taught me about the two Johns; about the settlement and the killin' that came after. She taught history and American literature when she were a younger woman, before I were born. When she spoke of our history – America’s history, she would get a spark in her eye like she were a proud mother, even on the subject a' murder. As if America were one a' her own children, and I surmise if I had murdered a man while she were alive, she woulda’ told it as some kind a' pretty yarn.
EXT. FARMHOUSE, SOUTH CAROLINA BADLANDS. AFTERNOON.
HENRY; 19 and skinny, just coming into his looks but caught between school boy and young man, comes down his dirt drive.