The Allomother

I recently entered a local screenwriting competition with the above titled piece, based in a recent babysitting experience of mine and also on the article I posted earlier called, ” In a helpless baby, the roots of our social glue” from the NY Times. The contest demanded a female protagonist or theme, so this was my take:

THE ALLOMOTHER

INT . BEDROOM- NIGHT

The sound of a baby CRYING, an alarm clock reads 2 am.

The lights turn on to reveal a half-asleep  Tessa (25ish), in pajamas.  She rises from a bed next to a crib and silently goes to pick the baby up. They pad downstairs together.

INT. KITCHEN-NIGHT

Tessa  turns the lights on. She opens the refrigerator, gets out a bottle and hands it to the baby. Then they go back up the stairs.

INT. BEDROOM- MORNING

Light shines through an opened blind onto the baby,( about 18 months), standing in a crib.

The baby is prying apart the blinds to look outside. She starts babbling. In the adjacent bed the sheets are rustling as someone tries to stay asleep.

 A tired looking Tessa gets up and begins trudging out of the bedroom in pajamas and bathrobe with the  child toddling behind. They go downstairs.

INT. KITCHEN -MORNING

She cooks breakfast with the baby in a high chair across the room.  Classical music is coming from the radio.

INT. GROCERY STORE -DAY

In the grocery store, Tessa walks down the aisle with the baby in a shopping cart, they approach the register.

CASHIER

What a cute baby. She has the most beautiful eyes. How old is she?

TESSA

Sixteen months, I think.

CASHIER

Well, she is just precious ( to child) Aren’t you? Hi there. You are just so cute. What a lucky mommy you have…Bye Bye, see you later Honey. (To Tessa) You have a good day too.

 

INT. CLASSROOM-DAY

A college classroom during a lecture by a female Professor, who is at a large chalkboard,  with writing all over it. Tessa is sitting in the front row, taking notes.

PROFESSOR

Traditionally, Academics have posited that increased competition for resources and the advances of warfare were what spurred evolution. People formed societies in order to better fight each other, they said. This new theory states rather the opposite; that we have come to be as we are due to cooperation based on trust.

 INT.  BAR/LOUNGE- EVENING

 A social mixer.  A crowd of women are standing and milling around in a  bar, talking to each other.  Tessa is dressed up more than in other scenes but not as affluently as everybody else. She is talking to a lady in a blue sweater with pearls. The lady has a glass of wine in her hand, Tessa holds a glass of water.

WOMAN

I work at a non-profit agency that does environmental consulting around water issues, mostly, and you?

TESSA 

I’m in school and then I’m a nanny.

Another woman, BABYMAMA, also in upscale cocktail gear, approaches the two of them,  with drink in hand.

BABYMAMA

Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, but do you work for the Edwards by any chance?

TESSA

Yeah, I’m their nanny.

BABYMAMA

Well, I’m not sure you really do this sort of thing, but I have a proposition for you.

 

EXT.  PARK- DAY

Tessa is alone at the park, walking with the baby.

Tessa is pushing the child in the swing.

TESSA

I’m going to eat your toes, I’m gonna get ‘em, watch out

 

 INT. RESTAURANT- MORNING

A  Busy Restaurant during a weekend brunch with lots of people eating.

Tessa walks in with baby on hip, approaches the Hostess.

HOSTESS

Table for two?

Tessa nods

HOSTESS

You want a highchair?

TESSA

Yes, please

 She leads them to a table by the window. They sit at the table, child fidgets in the highchair. A Waiter brings the food as Tessa transfers the fussy baby to her lap.

TESSA

 I think I’m going to have to take this to go. I’m sorry

WAITRESS

 It’s okay, no problem. I’ll wrap this up for you.

 

INT. CLASSROOM- DAY

Back to College classroom, the Professor is still in front of the chalkboard. Tessa is still in front row, being studious.

PROFESSOR

Instead, this theory says that what distinguishes humans initially is that shared parenting. The ability to leave your baby with another caregiver, frees up the energy of the mother to collect more resources, be it food or firewood. This other caregiver, referred to as an “Allomother” is able to be relied on because of trust, an unspoken social contract. Instead of cooperative care being explained by our good traits, our fine points as a species are owed to needing to be trustworthy caregivers. Any questions?

 

INT.  BABY’S HOME-DAY

Tessa is at home with the baby, hanging out with toys strewn around on the floor

The door is opened by a key. In through the door walks BABYMAMA. Toddler rushes towards her.

BABYMAMA

Hey, I missed you so much. C’mere, Mama loves you so ! ( to Tessa) Has it gone okay? I hope she hasn’t been too much trouble.

TESSA

No trouble at all. She woke up right when you said she would, but went right back to sleep, no problem. How’d work go?

BABYMAMA

 Oh, it was fine, flew back and forth on the Seattle /LA Route, sat by the pool in between. Almost like vacation, working is….compared to being a single mom.

Tessa smiles

BABYMAMA

I’ll let you get out of here, lemme just find my checkbook and I’ll pay you. Friday to Sunday. We said three hundred ?

Tessa nods

BABYMAMA

 Okay-Dokey ( sits down to write the check)

 

 

INT. CLASSROOM-  DAY

Return to  the Professor,  in the middle of lecturing

PROFESSOR

This social contract is what allows us to do things like ride on airplanes together. Can you imagine what would happen if fifty chimps tried to fly from New York to London? I’m pretty sure a few fingers and toes would be lost, at best. 

 

INT.  TESSA’S  BEDROOM –NIGHT

Tessa is at home, lying alone, in a different bed from the beginning with no baby in this room.

She is awake with her eyes open. She closes her eyes.

In her dream, a pair of hands whose owner is unseen, offers her a baby, which she then passes off to another pair of unattached hands. Baby after baby passes along this human assembly line.

 

END

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