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EXT. RURAL SURROUNDINGS – DAY
We open with a wide shot of a vehicle parked at the edge of a field. An orchestral version of a familiar song plays softly. Cut to a closer shot of the vehicle, then another cut to its interior where we see the NARRATOR (Richard Dreyfus, if available) sitting behind the wheel with a despondent expression on his face.
NARRATOR [voiceover]: I was 37 going on 38 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 2018. A long time ago…but only if you measure in terms of years.
Fade to the interior of a five-and-dime store, where a young boy (face unseen as yet) is browsing through magazine titles like “Mad Magazine” and “True Police Cases”. The boy drops a dime onto the cash register and steps outside onto the street.
NARRATOR [voiceover]: I was living in a small town in New York called New York City. There were only 8 and a half million people living there, but to me, it was the whole world.
RADIO STATION [voiceover]: HEY IT’S DJ 3000 HERE, IT’S A BEAUTIFUL FRIDAY MORNING HERE IN THE MEADOWLANDS, IT’S 90 KDFO DEGREES AND GETTING HOTTER…UP THE LADDER WITH ANOTHER PLATTER IT’S RAY ANDERSON AND THE HOME FOLKS WITH SPUTNIK AND MUTNIKS.
ELI walks down an overgrown trail and emerges at the base of a dilapidated tree fort. He climbs the ladder and knocks in a complicated pattern on the trapdoor. Another pair of boys are playing cards. One of them – the tough-looking one – takes a drag from a cigarette. ELI sits down and they deal him in.
CAM NEWTON: [draws a card] How do you know a Brown has been sneaking around your locker room?
ANTONIO BROWN: [irritated] Hey. I’m a Brown, okay?
CAM: When you walk in you are overcome by a crippling sense of depression, and the water in your toilets is on fire.
CAM: I knock. [flips cards] Twenty-nine.
ELI: [throws cards down] Piss up a rope!
CAM: Language, Eli!
ANTONIO: [cackles] Eli’s out! Eli just hurled the old meatball into triple coverage and will be going into hibernation for the winter!
ELI: [scowls, buries his nose in a comic book]
CAM: Come on, man, deal.
NARRATOR [voiceover]: Antonio Brown was the craziest guy we hung around with. He didn’t have much of a chance in life. His dad was given to fits of rage. One time he held Antonio’s head to a stove and burned off most of his hair. It never grew back quite right.
ANTONIO: I knock.
CAM: You cooler-kicking diva pile of shit.
ANTONIO: Pile of shit has a thousand yards receiving…
ELI and CAM laugh.
ANTONIO: What? What’s so funny, I’ve got thirty, what have you got?
CAM: [tosses cards down, still smiling] Sixteen.
NARRATOR [voiceover]: Cam Newton was the leader of our gang and my best friend. He came from what Colin Cowherd called an “athletic family” from “one of those thug neighborhoods that just churns out running quarterbacks” and everyone just knew Cam was going to end up as a running quarterback too. Including Cam.
The card game is interrupted by a distant calling from outside the clubhouse.
VOICE: You guys, let me in!
ELI: That’s not the secret knock…
DOUG MARTIN: This ladder’s too short! I can’t reach high enough to knock.
ANTONIO: I thought you said you were gonna extend that ladder.
CAM: Yeah, but this is more fun.
CAM pulls open the trapdoor and reaches down, pulling DOUG MARTIN up and into the clubhouse.
DOUG: Oh man you guys gotta hear about this. This is so boss…you aren’t going to believe it…
CAM: [bursting into song] ♫ Then I saw his face! ♫
ELI and ANTONIO crowd around CAM and start singing background.
CAM: ♫ Now I’m a believer! ♫
DOUG: All right. Trent Green it. I don’t have to tell you guys nothin’.
CAM: [shushes the others] Hold on you guys, hold on. What is it, man?
DOUG: Can you guys camp out tonight? I mean if you tell your folks it’s part of OTA’s?
The three boys agree that they can with a general sense of disinterest. ELI returns his attention to his comic book, CAM starts reshuffling the cards. The camera focuses tightly on DOUG’s face as all the background noise drops out.
DOUG: Do you guys want to see a dead body?
The boys fall silent and sit up, fully at attention now.
DOUG: Well I was under the bleachers, digging, you know…
Fade to an establishing shot underneath a set of bleachers.
NARRATOR [voiceover]: We all understood what Doug meant, right away. In October of 2014, the Raiders’ incoming head coach Tony Sparano had buried a football under the bleachers. He told all the players that anybody who found it would be the starter at their position for the entire season. Now Coach Sparano was long gone, and God knows that Coach Gruden wasn’t going to give a tin shit about some dirty old football that had been underground for four years, but that didn’t stop Doug from thinking if he found Sparano’s football it would secure his spot on the roster. Doug had been trying to find that football for three months. Three months, man. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Zoom in on DOUG’s face as he hears footsteps on the bleachers above. A pair of voices come into focus. DOUG stands up to his full height and tiptoes closer to where the voices are speaking.
AQIB TALIB: Jesus Christ, man, we gotta do something.
RAY LEWIS: Why? Who cares?
AQIB: We saw him.
RAY: So? It ain’t nothin’ to us. And he’s dead, so it ain’t nothin’ to him, neither. I keep tellin’ you, man, anybody asks, we didn’t see nothin’.
AQIB: Yeah, but why lie about it when all we did was find a body?
RAY: You remember who you’re talkin’ to? You think I’d be here right now, walkin’ around, and talkin’ to you, if I didn’t keep my mouth shut down in Atlanta? You never say nothing. When a police report about a dead body ends up on [NFL Security Chief] Cathy Lanier’s desk, you think she wants go all McNulty and find out who actually did it? Nah, she wants to be like Sergeant Landsman and get that shit off the books. She puts it on you, she washes her hands of it, and now it’s [NFL Disciplinary Officer] B. Todd Jones’ problem. In the meantime everybody in the press thinks you did it, and you gotta pay out the ass for a lawyer…
RAY: Besides, you wanna tell a couple of the NFL’s boys in black what we were doing inside Janoris Jenkins’ basement anyways, when he’s been down in Florida this whole time?
AQIB: Of course not. I just wish that Richie had been with us…
RAY: Well he wasn’t.
AQIB: We gonna tell him?
RAY: We’re not gonna tell nobody. Nobody, never. You dig me?
Cut back to the clubhouse.
ELI: I know Janoris Jenkins’ place! He’s my teammate. He had a barbecue there last summer.
CAM: You’ve been there?
ELI: Well, no. I heard about it later. But I know where it is!
CAM: [experiencing a revelation] Hey. I bet you guys anything that if we report the body we’ll be on ESPN!
ANTONIO: [absorbing his enthusiasm] Yeah! Maybe even in Sports Illustrated!
DOUG: And Peter King will want to interview us!
CAM: Fuck that guy. But yeah, he probably would! So I could tell him that right to his stupid fat face!
ELI: Okay. Let’s do it. [starts getting excited] We can walk along the train tracks through Hackensack, that will take us right there! Doug, you tell your folks that you’re sleeping over at my place. Cam, you tell…
ELI: …your folks that we’re all going to be camping out in Doug’s yard. Doug, you tell…
ELI: …your parents that Antonio’s family is going to Cape Cod, and that…
ELI: [stops short] What?
CAM: The fuck is wrong with you, man? We’re adults. We don’t have to make up no bullshit story to tell nobody about where we’re going. We just go.
ELI: Oh. Yeah. Yeah, okay.
CAM: And we don’t have to hike along no damned train tracks in the middle of the goddamned summer. [shakes head] Jesus. I’ll just drive.
ELI: Yeah, I guess. Sure.
CAM: [to the group] So…a dead body. Wow. Here we go.
— [to be continued…] —