Mudbath (Part 4)
Two days after the concert they were heading home in the minibus. Claude picked his guitar and tried some chords. After watching Hendrix, he began to play something strange from your land to Voodoo Child. He caught something missing in his fingering; patience.
“What was your favourite gig?” he asked.
“Ten Years After,” replied Noel in the driver’s seat.
He paused for a moment, “I missed that.”
They talked about Woodstock and all that they experienced. Besides, Claude made money and sold his artefacts.
At one point he thought, “I think I should form a band.”
“And what are you going to call it?” asked Noel, “a Mudbath?”
“That sounds sweet. Maybe I call Max Yasgur’s Mudbath…”
Noel cried, “That’s an insult.”
“You mean to me?”
“No, no. There’s something to remember.”
Noel laughed, “Jamie, he didn’t want to step in mud. I saw him covered in it from head to heels.”
On 24th Sunday they arrived at Salt Lake City and spent the night at a hotel. Claude began to think about reporting to duty and flying back to Newport in Rhode Island. He put those thoughts aside and bought some maps.
They left Salt Lake City next day and continued with the trip. They were only 30 km to Las Vegas when Claude turned into the Great Basin and climbed off the freeway.
“Which way are we going?” asked Noel.
“Right ahead,” replied Claude.
“We’re going to Vegas, right?”
“No. We’re going to Reno.”
“Reno?” cried Noel, “Crazy! I’m not going.”
“This is my trip. You’ve got to come.”
“Why are we going to Reno?” joined Jamie, “I want to go home.”
“Hey! I don’t have much time, honey. I have to fly to Newport. This is my only chance.”
“Coz I have to.”
“Then you fly or leave us here,” Noel said.
“I need you, guys. It will only take a week.”
“Stop the bus!”
“No. We are going to Reno.”
“I will only come if you’d pay me.”
“Pay you?” cried Claude, “I’m paying this whole trip. You don’t make a dime.”
“Yeah, Now I’m going to make a buck. Give me two grand or drop me now.”
Noel grabbed the wheel and the vehicle skid. It went rough for a moment. “Put me down!”
“Okay! I’ll pay you,” Claude agreed.
“Okay, three in Reno.”
“Half here, half there.”
Claude sighed. Finally he paid his brother and mood changed. They stopped briefly at Alamo to fill up and by sunset climbed an endless highway crossing the great state of Nevada. It felt like a seaside rather than a desert.
As the sun hid behind the mountains in a red sky, a silver moon in full phase climbed from the other side of the horizon. This sparkling view captured in the eight panoramic windows of the Samba van and the sky caught in the sunroof. They were on LSD, playing songs on compact cassette; Touch Me of The Doors, Somebody Groovy of The Mamas and The Papas. Noel came to his last frames of the Kodak.
Suddenly, Claude caught sight of a ball of light suspended over the highway in the headlong distance less than half a kilometre away. “What the hell?” Music rolled to The Beatles.
“Holy Smoke!” cried Noel. He took some quick shots and ran out of film. “Shit! I have no cartridge left.”
“I’ve got one in my guitar case.”
Noel grabbed it just in time music opened the chorus ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds…’ And nothing could go more psychedelic than that.
“Stop that music!” cried Claude.
They were all eyes focused on the globe of light hanging there. It seemed they were approaching closer but on the other hand the ball of light wasn’t growing bigger. In other words, it was travelling at the speed of the bus. Claude brought the vehicle to a halt.
Noel opened the door.
Jamie cried, “Don’t go out! Stay inside and close the door.”
And then there was another light, a smaller ball of light, little brighter, circling the one on the highway. Then another and yet another; in total six balls of light rotated around the big one with an anomaly observable in the pattern of speed. These balls revolved like a solar system placed on the desert. They were able to count the balls and speed variation because it took a vast area over the desert to orbit around the nucleus. Yet it didn’t come close to the van.
“Goodness!” cried Noel, “We are on the Extraterrestrial Highway. See! Route 375…” he showed on the map.
“Take some pictures of those flying saucers…” those balls switched into three balls of light and still.
“It’s a phenomenon,” said Jamie, “they’re balls of cloud…”
Noel was able to take some pictures. The balls levitated and took flight in a whiz over the mountains beyond and disappeared.
“Did you get them?”
“I did. I caught twelve frames.”
Claude started the heated engine and headed right ahead. Nobody said a word. They swept the night peacefully under the moon.