Every Anxious Wave: A Novel

Every Anxious Wave: A Novel

by Mo Daviau


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A high-spirited and engaging novel, Mo Daviau's EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE plays ball with the big questions of where we would go and who we would become if we could rewrite our pasts, as well as how to hold on to love across time.

Good guy Karl Bender is a thirty-something bar owner whose life lacks love and meaning. When he stumbles upon a time-travelling worm hole in his closet, Karl and his best friend Wayne develop a side business selling access to people who want to travel back in time to listen to their favorite bands. It's a pretty ingenious plan, until Karl, intending to send Wayne to 1980, transports him back to 980 instead. Though Wayne sends texts extolling the quality of life in tenth century "Mannahatta," Karl is distraught that he can't bring his friend back.

Enter brilliant, prickly, overweight astrophysicist, Lena Geduldig. Karl and Lena's connection is immediate. While they work on getting Wayne back, Karl and Lena fall in love — with time travel, and each other. Unable to resist meddling with the past, Karl and Lena bounce around time. When Lena ultimately prevents her own long-ago rape, she alters the course of her life and threatens her future with Karl.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250116345
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/22/2016
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 956,113
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

MO DAVIAU was born in Fresno, California and proclaimed her life goal of publishing a novel at the age of eight. Mo is also a solo performer, having performed at storytelling shows such as Bedpost Confessions and The Soundtrack Series. She is a graduate of Smith College and the Helen Zell Writers' Program at the University of Michigan where Every Anxious Wave won a Hopwood Award. Mo lives in Portland, Oregon. Every Anxious Wave is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Every Anxious Wave

By Mo Daviau

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Monique Daviau
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-7586-9


ABOUT A YEAR before the time traveling began, before I lost Wayne and found Lena, Wayne DeMint stumbled into my bar for the first time. He figured out I was the guitarist from the Axis and affixed his khaki-clad keister to my barstool. Night after night, beer after beer, he shared with me and whoever else showed up the content of his dreams: crying kittens, bukkake, broken-toothed pirates with bloody bayonets, his dead mother chopped into bits. When closing time came he always wanted to stay, like a kid who didn't want to turn off the TV and go to bed. "I'll mop!" he'd offer, so most nights I sat up with Wayne as he sloshed mop water across my wooden floor. We'd crank up the jukebox and talk about bands, true love, failure, and the past. Mostly the past.

A bar is not a mental health facility, but I never had a dog growing up, and so I listened to Wayne. Wholesome, Midwestern Wayne, computer scientist, he of the kindest smile and most generous bar tips.

Wayne and I shared that common affliction plaguing single men with limited prospects and self-destructive tendencies: we regarded our pasts with such love and loss that every day forward was a butter knife to the gut. Our twenties had been full of rock music and courage. The future made us older, but our wisdom was dubious. Wayne and I avoided the pain of tomorrow with alcohol and old rock bands. Pavement on the jukebox, the heavenly reddish glow of neon signs, and sentences that started with "Remember when ..."

* * *

THE TIME TRAVEL business had started by accident.

One stupid afternoon a month ago, I couldn't find one of the prized army boots that I had bought from an army–navy surplus store in Boston for sixteen dollars in 1991, when I was twenty-one. The red laces that I'd put in them, due to vague anarchist leanings, were still intact, and even though time had worn away all the tread, those boots were both comfortable and comforting. They represented the very best parts of my life, and having one go missing was more than I could bear on a Sunday afternoon fifteen minutes before I needed to open my bar. Crawling around on the floor of my closet, pushing aside piles of dirty clothes and old magazines, I found myself falling feetfirst through a hole in the floor. Falling and cold. I thought it was from mixing bourbon with cold medicine, but then I landed with a thud on a familiar wooden floor. I had landed at the Empty Bottle, a rock club near my bar. The stack of Chicago Readers by the door bore a cover from months earlier. A look out the window revealed barren trees and cars dusted in snow.

When the band took the stage, I realized that I'd been at this show three months ago, in February. A pack of talentless teenagers who played covers of Liz Phair songs like they meant nothing began to tune their guitars, looking for all the world like the smug bastards my friends and I were in the early 1990s.

The real kicker of this experience, the one that makes me clench my ass cheeks together and cry for my mother, happened when I saw myself leaning against the bar, tipping a can of PBR toward my mouth, glaring at the band with eyes of white-hot contempt. The blood rushed to my face. For the first time in my life, I could really see myself. All of myself. I saw what a bitter, pathetic sad-sack Karl Bender had become. Even at the ripe old age of forty, I still hadn't mastered the art of shaving; I had whisker skid marks on my face like a teenager. Had Meredith, the woman I was attached to for most of my twenties, known what I would turn into when she dumped me like a bag of trash back in '96? I took the hardest look I could: the stained teeth, the gut, the whole ugly package. I'm prone to self-loathing, but I had never hated myself with more fire and sorrow than I did standing there in the Empty Bottle. I longed to yell at Past Karl's face and break my own jaw. We deserved it.

"Hey, Karl," I said. "Karl? Yo, Bender, what's up?"


I tapped myself on the shoulder. The man before me, myself, Past Karl, did not respond.

I tried to punch my other in the stomach but I felt nothing. Not on my hand or my belly. I tried again. No sensation, no reaction. When I was a child, I wanted to walk into the television. This is what the past looked and felt like. I could take in the colors, smell the faint sweetness of whiskey and cigarettes, and watch as music fans younger and better looking than me took up floor space with the confidence of kings. I could not, however, kick my own ass.

Nor could I take those boots, which I had so loved and now lost, from my old self's feet.

You can't hold onto the past, asshole, I thought as I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes because I didn't want to be the bastard crying during a shitty band.

The ring of my cell phone pulled me back to the present. I was slurped back to the closet in my bedroom, as if my body were an ice cube sucked through a straw. I was prone on the wooden floor, my face in a cluster of dust bunnies. My head throbbed and I was shivering cold, even though it was warm and sunny and my apartment didn't have air-conditioning and I'd been too lazy to buy a fan.

I told Wayne. He was the only person in my life that I could trust with information regarding the viability of time travel. "You're chosen!" he exclaimed, his blue eyes sparkling so bright over the dark comfort of my bar that my first instinct was to kick him out, lest he ruin what I'd spent years cultivating: a poorly lit drinking hole for the remorseful, aging, and alone.

He went home to his fifteen computers and wrote the software program, an astonishing time-bending navigational system that harnesses the directional pulls of the wormhole and allows you to choose when and where you'd like to land. Two laptops, three generators, and a series of wires now occupy the desk next to my closet. On the laptop screen there is a Google map with a grid over it. You type in the coordinates of where you want to go, physically. A black binder full of laminated sheets, modeled after the ones found in our nation's finer karaoke bars, features a convenient list of bands, venues, and locations that you can choose from. (The binder was my nonscientific music geek contribution to the business. Savvy travelers/music fans will note a heavy bias toward certain indie-oriented clubs, such as my beloved T.T.'s in Cambridge or Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina.) If you insist, you can do your own research into the performance history of your favorite band and we'll custom calibrate the controls just for you.

If pressed to explain his scientific understanding of our portal to the past, Wayne would describe Carl Sagan's theory of the wormhole: that it is totally possible to travel from point A to point B on an unseen plane C. "Technically that only works for going into the future, though," Wayne would say. On the fact that point A happened to be the bedroom closet in my apartment on the top floor of a narrow brick building in Wicker Park, Chicago, which also housed a subpar Chinese takeout place called Ming's Panda, Wayne said, "Well, Karl, you just wanted it bad enough." That's Wayne's other theory: the theory of desire. Through my own deep desire, and because of that nasty word regret, the universe chose me to be the custodian of a portal to the past.

The number one house rule: the wormhole was only to be used to attend rock concerts of the past. It kept the experience pure and free from the temptation to try to game yourself a better life. Besides, why would we need music if our lives were exactly as we wanted them to be?

Other house rules: no bringing back souvenirs. Do not talk to anyone in the past. Don't touch anything. Do not drink or take drugs. No photographs. No audio recording. No staying in the past longer than the length of the show. No wandering out of the music venue. I know you want to see the old cars and the out-of-style clothes and the date on the cover of the newspaper in the newspaper box and the newspaper box itself, but no.

House rules.

I told three old music friends about the portal, and instructed them to keep it on the down-low. I didn't want just anyone off the street coming over to experience this miracle. My indie rock ethics, left over from the nineties, dictated that we keep things small and special. My band, the Axis, was part of an indie scene that attracted clean, artistic children who got good grades, not guys who looked like me — a bulldog-faced pugilist with tattoo sleeves and a broken, badly reset nose. My shoulders were too broad to look good in a cardigan (Axis fans always mistook me for the bouncer), but the twee-kitty cuteness and clubhouse-guarding business model had seeped into my subconscious, so the wormhole was kept quiet and exclusive, the way the Axis's former indie label, Frederica Records, once was.

I warned my patrons that, while in the tunnel, your body U-turns onto the unseen plane — a jolt akin to the spasms of a wooden roller coaster. Most passengers feel like they're going to toss their cookies.

Then you land, with a thud. It hurts. But not for long.

* * *

AT LEAST THIRTY interested friends of friends called me or came by the bar to ask a series of questions that always began with "This is a joke right?" and ended with "If you're fucking with me, I will end you." Patrons of my wormhole paid me hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to take a trip down memory lane. I explained to them how to come back to the present — you typed a code into your cell phone, which reversed the wormhole's directional pull and slurped you back home. Wayne printed up little cards with the return instructions, just to be safe.

Ahoy, time adventurer! When the show is over, YOU MUST COME HOME!!!


1. Open the Web app.

2. Select RETURN.

3. The DATE, TIME, and LOCATION of your return should automatically appear (example: 06/01/2010 19:30 CDT WESTERN AND MILWAUKEE, CHICAGO IL USA)

4. Press the red button! ZOOM! You'll be home in no time!

All I had to do was ask, "If you could go back in time and see any band play, what would you choose?" It's a great conversation starter, decent-enough bar banter, something a man more ambitious than me might keep in his pocket for parties full of beautiful strangers. (Especially if asked in such a way as to build a bridge between the lonely islands of age and regret.)

They came back cold and shaken. I gave them what they wanted but thought they couldn't have. Most hugged me. A few kneed me in the groin; a few more threatened to. All of them, to a person, have come back with cheeks wet with tears. When I return from the past, I sit alone with a notebook and write out the lyrics to songs I'd just heard performed. Song lyrics are a particular type of poetry, laying bare your bones and helping you feel something other than sorrow and failure. Song lyrics reminded me that I may be so lucky as to fall in love again someday. Song lyrics are scripture for guys like me and Wayne.

What I don't tell my time travel customers is that the experience is rather short. Time goes by more quickly in the past. An hour is a minute. A minute is a microsecond. You might see the whole show, you might not, but it will be over before the first tear you shed reaches your chin. The experience is only slightly more soul- shaking than watching concert footage on YouTube. The music is strangely softer — at an eardrum-ripping Megadeth show I strained to hear anything besides the bass. Traveling is cold. Damn cold. And you can't bring back souvenirs.

The sorrow you feel when you come back sits deep in your gut. It presses against your head and your heart. Readjusting to the reality of the present hurts like hell; it's a dull, shameful ache that lingers. The world feels different. Your eyes change. Your heart changes. Those same dull walls you've been staring at in the present grow sinister in their sameness. You are left with the horror of yourself. I'm not the only one who has sobbed like a child upon reentry.

I can't help you with that.

* * *

ROCK SHOWS I have traveled back in time to see:

Galaxie 500, 1990, Boston

Unrest, 1993, Arlington, VA

Stereolab, 1998, Chicago

Altamont (with too much time spent lingering over an antique Pepsi bottle lying in the dirt next to a heap of wriggling blankets)

The Traveling Wilburys, NYC, 1990

The Cure, 1989, stadium show in New Jersey

Elvis Costello, 1991, NYC (I've been to this one three times)

Miaow/Durutti Column, the Haçienda, Manchester

The Magnetic Fields, first 69 Love Songs show, Knitting Factory, 1999

Shows that Wayne has traveled back in time to see:

The Rat Pack, live at the Sands, 1963
They Might Be Giants in a NYC basement, 1986
The first Sex Pistols show, 1976 (as seen in the film 24 Hour Party People)
Bruce Springsteen at the Stone Pony, 1975
Uncle Dumpster (Wayne's high school garage band), Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1991
Some street musician in Madison that Wayne remembered from his
college days, 1995

Rock shows that friends/customers seem to like that make me judge them harshly — like, we have access to time travel and you want to see what?:

Woodstock (American rock history's most polished turd)
The Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels Tour
Woodstock 1994
The Axis

Popular selections that friends/customers seem to like, whose appeal I completely get:

Beat Happening and Black Flag in Olympia, Washington, 1984
The Smiths, London, 1985
Frank Zappa Halloween show, 1977
The Johnny Cash Show, Johnny performing with Glen
Campbell (Wichita Lineman), 1969
The Last Waltz, San Francisco, 1976
Rolling Stones in the UK, 1967–69
REM in Athens, 1980–83

I'm a quiet guy. I live in three places: my bar, my apartment, and the cheap Mediterranean place on the corner that keeps me well fed with my daily portion of hummus and chicken shawarma. But Wayne had a car, thousands in the bank, and a hole in his heart, so he did crazy stuff like trading his truck's spare tire for a pet scorpion in the parking lot of a Wisconsin casino, because maybe the scorpion would love him, and he knew that the tire wouldn't. I told him that no part of a scorpion's brain was capable of loving anything, much less the human with the sweaty hand that was holding him nine billion scorpion-feet off the ground, but that he was probably right about the tire. Wayne told me I had no right to speak for tires or scorpions.

Wayne recounted to me what he had seen on his trips: the music, the air white and heavy with cigarette smoke, the terrible ways men once wore baseball caps, and the way fluorescent T-shirt paint was abused by our generation once upon a time. Holding court while the jukebox screeched some old Melvins track I'd put in there to make sure only people just like me came into my bar, Wayne melted into Little Boy Wayne, pliant and eager to do another tequila shot and repeat back to me and everyone at the bar his special list of things that made him happy: Lemon bars. Driving to Florida in his pickup truck. Cleaning dirt out from under his nails. Sunflower seeds. Basset hounds. Checking tire pressure. By closing time, Wayne returned to some level of normalcy, but the next night it was the same emotional circus.

I'm not saying I plumbed the depths of his psyche, nor was this the limit of our interactions. I merely allowed myself to act as his unlicensed therapist, an occupational hazard. But we were also buddies. After I told him he wasn't allowed to mop anymore, Wayne would draw monsters in his notebook as I tried to woo the honeys under the reddish neon light of the Pabst sign, with my sparkling wit and straight teeth. I had gotten some cash from an out-of-court settlement of a rights dispute with my band's old manager, who had swindled us. What did I do with that money? I got braces at the age of thirty-four. Wayne liked to leap across the bar to point this out to women. He said it made me seem responsible.

* * *

OUR FREQUENT TIME-TRAVELING to rock shows only hastened Wayne's descent into madness. While I was in my office negotiating an online pint glass order, I got a call from Wayne. Wayne's normal telephone greeting makes a bubbly sales manager from the local Chevy dealer sound sedate, so it didn't immediately register that the slurring, babbling guy on the other end of the call was my friend. I invited him over to my apartment. He clearly needed to talk. Wayne arrived wearing his puffy blue winter coat, even though it was May; he had in his trembling hand a Mad Dog in a paper sack. Apparently the management at his job had threatened him with a layoff.


Excerpted from Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau. Copyright © 2016 Monique Daviau. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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