In the spring and summer of 2018, an atmosphere of gloom hung over the Twin Cities like a funeral pall.

That grim, unyielding cloud first appeared in mid-April, when a pair of boys fell into the Androscoggin River but only one of them made it out. The horror of that — a 5-year-old boy lost forever to the spring-fat river — was more than enough to keep the community in a state of stunned grief for weeks. The people of Lewiston and Auburn would have welcomed a long period of calm and quiet, and maybe they even deserved it.

They did not get it, though. Often when bad news comes along, it comes in bunches, like some black cosmic rule.

In early June, a man was punched, kicked and stoned to death near Kennedy Park, and before the rattled community could brace itself for the wild unrest to follow, news sprang from a Poland beach that a 13-year-old boy had drowned during a junior high field trip.

Three people were dead, two of them children, and the summer had not even begun. The flowers were not all the way out of the ground yet, but already the summer of 2018 felt cursed. That metaphorical cloud had grown fat and black indeed, and if you lived here you had to wonder in what form the next round of ugliness would come.

Would it be revenge killings in Kennedy Park? Would there be racial unrest, chaos and uprisings at a place where mothers push strollers and dogs chase Frisbees on sunny afternoons? Or would the universe just indifferently snatch more children from the world in that sneaky, heartless way?

It came roughly a month after the field trip drowning, as it happened, and it took on a monstrous form.

Shortly before noon on Sunday, July 15, a 48-year-old mother of two was stabbed to death on a sidewalk in front of a Lewiston laundromat. The more we learned about that slaying, the more mystifying and sad it became. If the police accounts of the killing are correct, Kimberly Dobbie died in front of her children for no other reason than that some old sociopath liked her and was upset that those feelings were not returned.

The stabbing of Dobbie would come to define the term “senseless killing,” and the summer grew darker still. Again, we braced ourselves against the unknown horror of what might happen next.

Predicting local news, typically one of my favorite intellectual exercises, was a bleak endeavor in the early summer of 2018, and I more or less ignored it. As it turns out, it would have been an easy prognostication because the rest of the summer played out in a perfectly typical manner — shots fired downtown but nobody killed, maimed or even hurt badly. Just gangsters being gangsters.

There were some stabbings, some car wrecks, a few brawls and your usual array of news stories about how it was July and gosh, ain’t it hot? The consecutive gut punches of April, June and July left us bruised and aching, sure enough, but there would be no further tragedies at that level to fatten that cloud even further.

Which leads us to the spring of 2019 and the question of what news is to come as the trees grow green, the air grows hot and we move toward summer? I was hit with that question over the weekend, and I gave it more thought than maybe I should have.

Nobody wants more lost children, fallen young mothers or beatings at the city’s park. As a newsman, sort of, it occurs to me big local news does not have to be bad. We can get fat, lurid headlines and round-the-clock updates out of events that do not require so much as a stubbed toe or skinned knee.

“If it bleeds, it leads?” Who needs it. We experienced so much misery in the spring and summer and 2018 that we deserve to coast this time around, with nothing but tabloid good times.

An alien invasion would do it. Have some sparkling, plate-shaped Momship set down in Kennedy Park and watch how plump those headlines get. I will personally ride my Suzuki DR650SE straight up to the craft and ask the five-eyed beings inside, in a professional and journalistic manner, “Yo, whatchoo want?”

The discovery of a mutant creature living in the canals of Lewiston (Lake Auburn is also an option, but the canals would just be so much more convenient for me) would likewise spur giddy exclamation points above the fold in your daily newspaper. It does not have to be a man-eater or any of that noise. Just give it some gnarly tentacles, some suction cups and maybe a second or third head and we are in business. We will run contests to come up with a nickname for the creature, and we will hire wild animal control stud Rich Burton of Lewiston to scuba into the canal (he’ll do it, too) in order to determine the beast’s gender.

Now that I think of it, we should probably determine its gender before we give it a name.

A talking dog discovered in Sabattus would be big and fulfilling news for weeks. Bigfoot walking out of the Turner forests to complain about Route 4 noise would be huge — we will hire Burton to shimmy up the hairy one’s leg to determine its gender.

Give me a werewolf, a dinosaur egg, an Elvis Presley sighting (“The King spotted scratching lottery tickets at Victor News!”) or anything featuring the term “alien baby” and we will have a summer of news without any heartache.

Not much heartache, anyway. Things are probably going to stink pretty bad for Elvis now that the talking dog of Sabattus has revealed he lives in a one-room walk-up on Lisbon Street.

All shook up? Shut up, Elvis, we’ve got newspapers to sell.

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