President People’s Republic of China
From: Bubba Wang
Your Man in Houston
Re: Operation Burning Barrels
Comrade Xi, as you may have seen on CNN, we were given 72 hours to close down our consulate in Houston because of fake news that this installation is, in the words of Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, “a spy hub for the Chinese Communist Party.” Cruz only gave up his Canadian citizenship when he ran for the Senate, so what does he know? This sudden expulsion is odd, since the People’s Republic has five consulates in the U.S. and we were the very first one. Houston, with our help, even hosted one of your predecessors, Deng Xiaoping, in February of 1969. He was treated to a rodeo in Simonton and was given a ten-gallon cowboy hat, which he put on. We understand he wore the hat around the Forbidden City while yelling “Yee-Haw!” China is Houston’s third-largest trading partner, and our consulate oversaw diplomacy and consular affairs for eight southern states and Puerto Rico. Whoever in our foreign office thought El Paso was near San Juan needs a new map.
Anyway, we have packed up and are moving, but not as one Twitter-user posted, “The Chinese are just moving to their new consulate in Dallas.” Before leaving, I want to share with you some of our findings. Texans love to fight, mostly on Saturday nights in bars, but currently the quarrel is over masks. Some say it is to prevent the spread of what their leader calls the “Chinese flu,” or if he feels funny, “the Kung flu.” It’s what we call the “Trump flu.” Their governor keeps changing the rules, so no one knows what to do, but our agents are playing up both sides to keep the pot boiling. (We learned that from the Russian consulate.) One day it’s to wear masks, the next day it’s only wimps wear them. No one here stays 6 feet apart, especially while going 80 on the freeways. Bars and restaurants can open, maybe. Swimming pools have test-positive and test-negative sections. Schools can open sometime between last week and never. Chaos reigns. We call it “a Texas fire drill.”
We are accused of trying to steal secrets. That’s true. When we steal a secret, we bang on the side of a trash can. At the Texas Medical Center we have learned to arrive for a doctor’s appointment an hour late and thus be right on time. They claim it is the world’s largest medical center, but they haven’t seen a Shanghai clinic. (“One pandemic, one doctor.”) The medical center has an international flair. Indeed, people come from around the world to die in Houston. Texans are told, “If you want a test, you can get a test.” Some Houstonians say they have been waiting so long, their place in line is their legal voting address. Cars have been waiting until their warranty expires.
Here is something that you might find interesting on a personal level. We know that during the Cultural Revolution in 1969 your father was purged and out of favor, so you were sent to a poor, rural backwater where you worked for six years as a manual laborer on an agricultural commune. We knew just the place to see if they had made any progress since your similar slavery: Texas A&M. Aggies can grow moss on a rolling stone, but they were too busy moving statues. That visit gave us an idea to visit another school — Rice University has nothing to do with paddies — and moved on to The University of Texas in Austin. We already had inroads there: Texas is 3.8 percent Asian-American. As of fall 2019, UT’s student body was 19.5 percent Asian. The FBI has already spotted some of our work and has notified UT that they will be investigating. They will be easy to spot: They will be the only ones still singing “The Eyes of Texas.”
I gained entry to the local CIA office by posing as a tail-gunner on a truck loaded with toilet paper. We visited NASA and couldn’t find any eagles landing, but did determine the astronauts were right, Houston has a problem: Don’t drive on the West Loop during rush hour, which is from noon till noon. We looked in the city’s oil industry to see if it was still alive. It was DOA. About American reaction to the heavy-handed crack-down on demonstrators in Hong Kong. Their TV news has been filled with scenes of armed and shielded police beating peaceful demonstrators, smoke bombs and smashed store windows. Oops, that’s not Hong Kong, that’s Portland.
There are plenty of us around, thus we blend in when scaling walls and photographing labs. The number of Asian-Americans in Texas has increased by 42 percent since 2010. According to the 2010 Census there were 43,940 persons of Chinese/Taiwanese descent in Harris County. The ethnic Chinese were the second largest Asian ethnic group in Fort Bend County and Montgomery County, behind the Vietnamese. By 2013, Greater Houston had 72,320 residents of Chinese origin. The 2020 census should put that total at much more. (There are 351 restaurants in Houston serving Chinese food.)
As for our consulate, when we got word to close, we put barrels in the courtyard and burned all our documents – codes, lists of agents and our secret recipe for bat soup. Neighbors saw the smoke from the flames and called the fire department, I think mainly because they wanted to see our fire drill. While packing up, a crowd gathered to jeer us, shouting slogans like “Commies go home!”, “Spies should be shot” and, “What’s your recipe for bat soup?” After we left, a group used power tools and a crowbar to force open the rear door. They declined to identify themselves to reporters but they may have been looking for us because we hadn’t filled out our census forms. Yee-Haw!
Ashby is spying at firstname.lastname@example.org