“The United States has detected what it says is a Chinese surveillance balloon that has been hovering over the northwestern United States.” — New York Times, 2/3/23

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For more than sixty years after I floated away over the grey Paris cityscape, dangling from a cluster of balloons, I have been biding time at high altitudes. My singular mission: to exact revenge on the boy who shot down my red balloon with a slingshot.

The good thing about commandeering a squadron of floating balloons for decades is you learn to keep tabs on people. After the red balloon incident, slingshot boy left France and spent many years in California—tech, I think—and recently relocated to Montana (cost of living). He bought a Toyota Tacoma, took up skate skiing, and now runs a kombucha shop in Missoula.

You might think kombucha wouldn’t do well in Montana, but au contraire.

Anyway, the last thing on my mind while plotting my revenge was igniting a diplomatic row. I don’t follow the geopolitical drama between the U.S. and China. I’m just learning, with the rest of you, about these intercontinental ballistic silos in Montana.

No, this was supposed to be purely a personal vendetta situation.

But now my cover is blown. I suppose I should be happy the Pentagon decided shooting me down wasn’t worth it. (I appreciate the restraint).

So it’s back to the drawing board. No more sneaking up on the person who, five decades ago, terrorized me and my red balloon with a winding (and picturesque) chase through the streets and alleyways of Paris. The man who, as a boy, saw fit to launch a rock into my red balloon and then stomp on it after it hit the ground.

Oh well. C’est la vie. Vengeance can wait. It will only be sweeter.

Meanwhile, the Chinese have reached out with a generous consulting offer on best practices for collecting information via high-altitude balloons. Put that in your Montana kombucha, slingshot boy.