In the movie Cast Away (2000), the Tom Hanks character stranded on a deserted island kept his spirits up by bonding with an imaginary “friend:” a soccer ball he named “Wilson.” On his way to being rescued in mid-ocean he and Wilson were tragically parted. Here is a tale of treason, betrayal, and redemption: an adolescent girl's imaginary soulmate – a basketball -- tragically torn from her embrace by Chinese Intelligence. The voice of the girl, Uncle Melvin's fictitious niece, is in italics.
Uncle Melvin, there’s something really important I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. What? The basketball that fell out of the car when you picked us up at the airport. It broke my heart (sob!). Huh? I’ve never forgiven myself for not rescuing it. I had no idea! We were closer than Tom Hanks’ character was to “Wilson” in Cast Away. That close! And you had a name for it? “Spalding.” Mein Liebchen! (pitiful wailing).
After Spalding made its escape from the car it bounced into the terminal. “Escape”? What are you talking about? How do you know? I got a text from the authorities in Hong Kong. What? Hong Kong? Yes. Your heartthrob was a spy for China. And, of course, its feelings were hurt when you didn’t rescue it. So it was going to leave you anyway. I feel faint.
After cleverly eluding airport security your basketball made it to concourse C and boarded a flight for Singapore. That’s ridiculous! How could a basketball get past security? By impersonating Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Let them pass.” Why would my darling Spalding want to fly to Singapore? To throw off anyone following it. Your darling Spalding was summoned to report to its Chinese handlers in Hong Kong. This can’t be true! It was going to betray all your innermost secrets. My diary! It's now in the hands of Chinese intelligence (swooning).
The other passengers were annoyed when an unruly basketball in first class kept bouncing back and forth from its seat to the lavatory. But otherwise they enjoyed their basketball game. Basketball game? On a plane? Just a distraction. When the pilot came back to referee the game, Spalding snuck into the cockpit and diverted the flight to Hong Kong. How could the pilot referee a basketball game without a basketball? By then the game had degenerated into a food fight. The pilot got a pie in the face and never made it back to the cockpit.
Everyone was arrested when the plane landed. Spalding too? No. Chinese intelligence was there with a hoop. Your basketball made a perfect three-pointer from the cockpit and was spirited away. Why did its handlers tell you all this? Your diary was made in China. The first tipoff. Then Spalding told them why it contained so much sensitive information. My innermost secrets! (shriek!) You were secretly working for them.
The authorities in Hong Kong are grateful since without you and Spalding China couldn’t have humiliated our country. You and your basketball now have a prominent place in the pantheon of China’s heroes. You don’t have to feel guilty for not rescuing your friend. What a relief! I feel so much better now. Thank you!
The latest from Chinese Intelligence
The next time my beloved basketball falls out of the car at the airport we must shut it down until the poor dear is back in our loving embrace. You should know that I’ll be picking up your traitorous basketball at LAX just in time for Thanksgiving. He’s coming back? With a dossier on Xi Jinping’s scheme to take over the South Bay’s Chinese restaurants. Laundries too? He doesn’t need his clothes cleaned. He just has a big appetite. Excuse me. It’s Spalding bouncing at the door. Gotta go. Mein liebchen!