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by Carlos Ledson Miller

What happens when a person, who has known only acclaim and security, abruptly loses everything?

Stroke is the story of a young, world-class woman golfer, who suffers a career-ending shoulder injury, and then seeks redemption and self-renewal in the male-dominated world of professional pool.


Sedonia entered her father's paneled den to wait for the estate liquidator and a prospective buyer who were rummaging about upstairs. The room, having been closed for months, had a musty odor. She opened the heavy drapes that covered the three floor-to-ceiling windows, and midmorning sunlight, diffused through dense shade trees, illuminated the interior. In the backyard, the swing that her father had hung from a gnarled limb, twenty years earlier, oscillated in the breeze, as if still awaiting the little girl's return.

Sedonia heard a door open upstairs, and then the shuffling of the liquidator's and buyer's feet as they perused the master bedroom. Sedonia heaved a sigh; the vultures were circling.

She turned back and looked about the room, which for a quarter-century had been her father's enclave. Shadows of tree branches played across the tan protective cloth that covered the massive billiard table. His five rifles still stood behind the glass door of the oak armoire, and on the wall nearby hung a dozen photographs, depicting him with friends on deer and dove hunts. Shelves on the opposite wall displayed his numerous golf and billiard trophies.

His oak desk lay bare now, except for a gold pen and pencil set, an empty letter holder, and a small unlit lamp. Behind the desk hung his architecture diploma from the University of Houston and several photographs depicting Cougar athletic teams and individual players. Always seeming out of place in this montage of Houston red and white was a picture of quarterback Joe Montana, in his dark blue and gold Notre Dame uniform. He was crouching under center and gazing intently at the Houston defense, a moment before throwing the last-second, game-winning pass in the 1979 Cotton Bowl. "That son of a bitch broke my heart that day," her father had said on more than one occasion. But at the bottom of the picture, he'd added a caption that showed his grudging respect: "Joe Montana - The Look of Eagles."

The top of the long credenza was covered with photographs, trophies, and other memorabilia that depicted Sedonia's transition from little girl into young womanhood: Brownies, Girl Scouts, children's soccer, high school swimming and volleyball, and first place in the Women's National Collegiate Athletic Association golf tournament.

Three crystal trophies stood side by side, reflecting her championships in the last three Bay Oaks Country Club tournaments. And accorded the place of honor in the middle of the credenza was a large silver trophy. The inscription read: "U. S. Women's Amateur Golf Champion."

Shortly after her father's death, Sedonia had accepted the Bay Oaks members' invitation to play in one final amateur tournament before joining the Ladies Professional Golf Association. In prior years, her father had served as tournament committee chairman, and she knew he would have wanted her to try for a record-breaking fourth straight victory. Postponing her debut as a member of the LPGA by one month shouldn't have made a difference. But it had.

Now with a profound sense of loss, she scanned the array of photographs that covered the wall. In most, her proud father posed with her. Conspicuously absent was any sign of her mother.

The estate liquidator and the prospective buyer entered the room, snapping Sedonia out of her sad reverie. She turned and acknowledged them with a curt nod. Then she walked over and opened a window. Dust stirred on the billiard table cover.


Carlos Ledson Miller is the author of the novels BELIZE, PANAMA and, most recently, STROKE.

Carlos grew up in both the United States and in Central America. His grandfather was one of the Americans who went to Panama in the early 1900s to dig the canal. Carlos' grandmother was Panamanian, and his father was a first-generation Canal Zonian.

Carlos initially attended school in Panama. When he reached his teens, his father relocated to Belize (then called British Honduras) and his mother returned home to the United States. Carlos attended high school and college in Louisiana and spent his summers in Belize.

After a four-year stint in the Marine Corps, Carlos settled on the Texas Gulf Coast, where he now lives, writes, and shoots pool.

About his work he says:

"A Rice University writing instructor once told me that for a novel to be good, it must be both entertaining and informative. I write milieu novels. My objective is not only to entertain my readers with fast-paced stories, but also to give them an understanding of the unusual landscapes and cultures against which they are set."

Read more about Miller and his books at his web site: www.carlosledsomiller.com.

Contact him at this e-mail address: Carl9999@aol.com.


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