An excerpt from Michael Stewart’s upcoming novel, THE ASSOCIATIVE METHOD:
At University I roomed with Andrew Lowdosky and while our peers were making names for themselves in sports or the classroom, Andrew had found a different niche. He had it turns out a certain magnetism that the local girls could not ignore. This coupled with his generous nature—he would no more turn out an older woman with a threadbare dress than he would a young actress with perfectly painted lips—made him a bit of a legend. Half of my nights I was sent from the dorm room by a tie looped over the doorknob.
After a successful conquest Andrew would, like a perfect gentleman, let her lounge in the bed while he went about, stubble and oily hair, and collected her things. Once he had them in a bundle, he would, with a subtle but quick jerk, remove one of the buttons from her blouse or jacket. He kept these trophies in a cigar box beneath his bed. Once he took them out for us; we sat like children over pirate's treasure, they were more beautiful than gold doubloons for what they represented: a little brown button, from a serving girl's skirt, a horn button from a wealthy girl's Barbour jacket, a navy button from some girl with a man in the service. We tried not to count them.
One day, when he was out, I took a button from my sports jacket and traded it for one of those in his cigar box. I threaded it quickly and a little imperfectly, it was always a little loose when I buttoned up. Nonetheless, it was my prized possession, like a schoolboy's rabbit foot. And although it was not my trophy—I had no trophies from school: I was an unremarkable student and not much of an athlete; I did not have Andrew's way with woman and my family did not make enough money to give me any pedigree—it was a trophy, a physical sign of a great achievement, an object that had meaning. By wearing the button I became like one of those American Indians who eats the heart of his opponent to gain his power. The button gave me a small part of Andrew's prowess: it made it easier for me to talk with girls, to talk back to my professors, to assume an adult air at the bar. I still have it somewhere—in my cufflinks box, I think—a black, plastic button with a thick lip, shiny despite years of use.
Michael Stewart is currently the Rhode Island Council for the Arts Fellow in both fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Conjunctions, DENVER QUARTERLY, and American Letters & Commentary. He is the author of A Brief Encyclopedia of Modern Magic (The Cupboard), Almost Perfect Forms (Ugly Duckling Presse), THE HIEROGLYPHICS (Mud Luscious Press), and Sebastian, an illustrated book for adults (Hello Martha Press). He lectures at Brown University. And he will be reading with Cousins on June 5th at ABE's BAR, Wickenden Street, Providence.