From The Convictions of Leonard McKinley, winner of the 29th Annual International 3-Day Novel Contest and published by 3-Day Books in 2007.
As his father drives him to the dance, Leonard thinks that his father has a lot to worry about. God is probably going to have Leonard stabbed at a urinal tonight, which will probably lead to his whole family suffering from depression. Nick and Steve will doubtless give up on their dreams and their mother will work even longer to avoid the stress. Then his parents will get divorced and his brothers will become drug addicts, so his father should stop acting so proud of him.
On the pretence of buying chewing gum, Leonard asks to be let off at the store nearest his school so that none of the kids get a good look at his father’s fat. After Leonard gets out of the car he looks up at the thin sheet of his father’s smile and wonders if he is dishonouring him with his shame, and if so that will be one more reason he will be on the Lord’s hit list.
“Knock ’em dead!” his father calls out the window, and Leonard is left alone.
Inside, all the boys have come wearing their best button-up T-shirts. The girls are adorned in dresses and are dancing to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC , which everyone agrees is awesome.
Leonard rationalizes that it will be harder for the Lord to strike him down if he is with a valorous person, so he seeks out Ron, who is at the very least studious because his parents are already putting pressure on him to graduate from dental school at McGill. But Ron is hanging out with a few others from his computer class, who also have moustaches, and Leonard thinks it is better to face God’s wrath alone than to be seen in such company.
“Seleena is looking for you,” Ron says.
Leonard does not want to see Seleena because she will want to dance with him during the slow songs and everyone will think they’re dating, but she spots him immediately.
“I have to talk to you,” she says.
“What is it?”
“I have to talk to you.”
She drags him outside by the hand, which Leonard tries his best to avoid because it looks like they are leaving to go make out by the back steps near the smoke pit.
They get to the cafeteria and Seleena wheels around to tell him that Samantha has the hugest crush on him.
She says that Samantha heard how good Leonard is at basketball and she thinks he’s cute, especially when he wears his Hypercolor T-shirt. Leonard doesn’t know what to do, although he is now incensed that he had decided against his Hypercolor in favour of the more traditional Ocean Pacific.
“Well?” asks Seleena.
Samantha is a new transfer from Cave Springs who takes Leonard’s bus and is forced to sit up near the front even though she’s in grade eight because all the seats have already been assigned. Every day she gets off at 7-Eleven and smokes while leaning against a pole with her head tilted to the side so that everyone can see all three of the piercings in her right ear.
The first day she had taken their bus, Ron had pointed at the back of her head for two minutes.
“Holy crap,” he whispered, which were Leonard’s feelings precisely. Leonard had thought about murdering Ron so that the seat beside him would be free, and if that was too evil, then maybe just breaking his finger so that he’d have to take a week off school.
Leonard says that of course he likes Samantha, and tells Seleena to march back onto the dance floor and tell her so. Seleena nods and as she leaves Leonard experiences a great swell of freedom in knowing that it no longer matters if people see the two of them together because soon he’ll be dating one of the hottest chicks in the school who is also a year older than him.
While Leonard waits for his big news he goes back into the gym to hang around near Mark. Mark’s a great dancer and everyone is jealous of how good he is at doing the worm, but Leonard could now care less if Mark could do the Moonwalk because it’s not like he’s the one dating Samantha from grade eight.
“Just wait till Kriss Kross comes on,” Mark tells someone. Then he bobs his head like a duck and John tells him he’s awesome.
Seleena returns again to give Leonard his coordinates. “Samantha will be waiting under that basketball hoop,” she says, pointing upwards to their left.
Leonard thinks that if God really wanted to harm him he would destroy him right now with a heart attack. He watches the hoop thinking about how this is like a litmus test of God’s approval because if he is really going to get to date Samantha, Samantha from grade eight, then the Lord must favour him regardless of his sins and approve of all of his honourable attempts in the past few weeks.
But then Leonard’s heart sinks as he recalls the earlier promise he made to God—that if he were blessed with a girlfriend he would allow two weeks to pass before he tried to kiss her.
At first, Leonard tries to escape on a technicality. He argues that this was a promise made regarding Angela Watson, not Samantha. But he knows that the principles remain the same and that God is very much interested in principles, and plus, Samantha is even hotter than Angela Watson, so this is probably another test from the Lord to measure his piety.
It is a considerable trial. When at last “More than Words” plays out of the speakers and Leonard walks towards the basketball hoop he can feel his heart in his knees. Samantha sidles up to him and he is suddenly closer to a girl than he ever has been before. He can feel the bulbs of her breasts pull back and push out against his ribcage as her hot breath floats in and out over his shoulder. He wants to bottle it and save it for later.
“Thank you,” says Samantha, after the slow dance has ended.
“Yeah,” says Leonard. “Do you want to go out with me?”