At first I thought it was another fantastic idea from Ipswich’s Recreation Director, Kerrie Foley Bates. The night before the lighting up of Ipswich Illuminated, wouldn’t it be just like her to use lights and smoke and mirrors to conjure up ethereal images of Ipswich icons from days gone by? Maybe each figure from the past interviewed by town historian Gordon Harris?
But no, this wasn’t a Kerrie Bates hologram, with thanks to our generous sponsor, Institution for Savings. This appeared to be the real thing.
“Bill?” I asked timidly. “Bill Wasserman? Is that really you?”
“Hi, Doug,” Bill replied with a smile. “Yes, it’s me.”
“Wow! But I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess. You were always known as an indomitable spirit.”
“Eh, you know, I’ve never had much use for flattery. I believe in facts. So of course I’m back! I’m an indomitable spirit!”
“Terrific, Bill. I’m happy to see you. But I gotta say, I’m surprised you’re back so soon. You only passed over a couple days ago.”
“I couldn’t wait any more. I left the day before that damn movie started shooting downtown. Big mistake, I guess.”
“You don’t approve of the movie shoot?”
“On the contrary, Doug. You know I’m always in favor of anything that helps Ipswich. And as far as I’ve been able to determine, shooting a movie helps a community.”
“Actually, Bill, to be honest, I’ve heard quite a few people here in Ipswich complaining about the inconvenience.”
“Nonsense! The money the movie business brings into town more than compensates for any minor, temporary logistical hassles.”
“Then I’m confused, Bill. What’s your problem with the movie?”
“The plot, my friend, the plot!” he replied.
“It’s a Stephen King story, Bill. I don’t think even the legendary Bill Wasserman can question a Stephen King story.”
“Doug, I spent my entire life questioning stories. A newspaper man knows that the story is everything. You don’t build a newspaper empire by shying away from questioning stories.”
“But the movie is ’Salem’s Lot,” I insisted. “It’s fiction.”
“That’s the problem,” Bill answered, a chuckle in his voice.
“You know Stephen King is a horror writer, right?” I persisted. “’Salem’s Lot isn’t a documentary. A guy returns to his hometown after years away and finds that all the people are turning into vampires.”
“Not believable. But it could be, with a minor adjustment. Sometimes a minor adjustment is all an editor needs to suggest to make a story great.”
“Golly, Bill. What do you have in mind?”
“It’s a simple fix. The guy returns to his hometown after years away and finds that all the people are turning into journalists.”
“Reporters, with ominous-looking notepads, and frighteningly sharp pencils, descending on anyone and everyone, investigating the facts! Discovering the truth!”
“Frighteningly sharp pencils?”
“And in the epidemic of fake news, the tide begins to turn.” Bill’s eyes were twinkling. “It’s not just more believable — because journalists are real, vampires aren’t — it’s also hopeful. It’s inspiring! It’s the restoration of the American dream! The lies and propaganda are finally washed away. Truth in media returns!”
“I don’t know if a director will be open to rewriting a script when the movie is already shooting,” I said. “But I guess it’s worth a try. What steps will you take?”
“A spirit doesn’t take steps,” Bill replied. “I’m going to float over there to the director’s place in the middle of the night and have a few words with him.”
Bill began to glide off into the darkness.
“Farewell, great man!” I cried after him.
“No flattery!” I heard him call back. “Just facts!”
Duly noted, Bill. So here’s a fact:
You’re an indomitable spirit.
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, next door to a cemetery, where he keeps tabs on those who have gone before. Follow Doug’s adventures, mostly among the living, at DougBrendel.com.