Steve Fiffer

On Tuesday, my back felt better–good enough to Sit and Be Fit if I’d chosen to go that depressing route. Instead, I did my own stretching exercises and headed downstairs to sit at the computer. Several e-mails awaited me.

“Work From YOUR OWN HOME!!!!,” one message trumpeted. Since I do work from MY OWN HOME, I opened it. “NEVER WORRY ABOUT MONEY AGAIN!!” it began. (Capitalism has taken on a dual meaning on the Internet. Entrepreneurs rarely begin any entreaty in the lower case.) “I am looking for a special person with a good work ethic and an extraordinary desire who wants to retire in as little as two years,” the mail continued.

I think I have a good work ethic and an extraordinary desire, but I’d prefer to retire in one year, so I closed the letter and clicked on to my next e-mail. My friend Sheldon had read my first day’s diary. He wrote: “Good work. [For the rest of the week] I expect you to solve the problems in Serbia, the Chicago sports dilemma, nuclear fusion, and why you and I haven’t finished a screenplay and made a million dollars yet even though we are more clever and certainly nicer than most millionaires.”

Sheldon is a highly respected trial lawyer who in his secret life would like to work as a writer from HIS OWN HOME if he didn’t have to WORRY ABOUT MONEY. He’s wanted to write a screenplay ever since he was portrayed in Woman on the Run, a fact-based TV movie about one of his clients, a Playboy Bunny-turned-cop wrongly imprisoned for murder. We bonded immediately several years ago when our sons, then in first grade, were teammates on a soccer team. The boys have become best friends, and our families now vacation together.

When Sheldon tells me about his cases, I sometimes regret having terminated my career as a lawyer 20 years ago to write full time. When I tell him about my writing projects, he sometimes regrets not having terminated his career as a lawyer. We’ve played around with several screenplay ideas over the years. I think our latest is a winner, and in the interest of making him a millionaire and allowing me to retire in a year, I present it here for the first time (having registered it with the Writers Guild first–no dummy me).

The movie opens on the crowded oceanfront of a popular New England summer-vacation area. A mother buying a cappuccino at an upscale coffee kiosk waves to her two children as they frolic innocently in the water. Then we hear that ominous Jaws-like music that tells us something terrible is going to occur. We cut back and forth between the mother at the coffee kiosk and the kids in the water. The music builds. And suddenly disaster strikes–not the kids–but the mother, who is attacked by a swarm of flying insects. Roll title: STARBUGS.

This is the story of a group of insects from outer space who became hooked on coffee that was inadvertently jettisoned from the Mir space station. Craving caffeine, but unable to find any on their own star, the bugs come to Earth. Imagine the chaos that ensues as the bugs begin to decimate the world’s coffee supply … and coffee drinkers. Coffee houses, an integral cog in our social and financial fabric, close. People unable to get their daily fixes of coffee become grumpy, erratic, dangerous. Some are willing to go to any lengths to find the coffee that is in rare supply. Others, including political leaders, their minds impaired from caffeine deprivation, make flawed decisions. Truck drivers dependent on coffee can’t make their cross-country hauls. The futures markets face collapse.

As the bugs destroy property and attack those with caffeine in their blood, we have a disaster every bit as titanic (and cinematic) as an earthquake, volcano, towering inferno, or birds. Of course, the bugs become an even greater threat as they get higher and higher on caffeine. Enter our heroes–a beautiful entomologist and a tough army colonel (both single and unattached, coincidentally)–who assemble a Dirty Dozen-like team of specialists to win the day.

I won’t give away the ending, but I do hope this synopsis creates a buzz. It’s never too latte to become a millionaire or retire.