Seventy-year-old Cosimo Infante Cano dreamed rarely these days. Forty-four years ago, after the Great War he would awaken startled, perspiring and grasping at the sheets. His nightmares recalled panicked flashes of enemy-held villages, his own death or capture imminent.
On a Monday morning in April 1961, that same nightmarish anxiety overcame him. This time it wasn’t Verdun, France 1916. Nearly penniless, his luggage stolen, he stood alone on a steel bridge spanning the banks of a winding canal in an unfamiliar American city, terrifyingly wide awake.
What had happened? Five weeks ago he and his longtime lover and companion, Sara Hunter, were in Paris preparing for their temporary move to San Antonio, Texas. Because of family business responsibilities, Sara had flown ahead. Cosimo followed by boat and train to this backwater city, learning only yesterday that Sara could be dead.
His appearance in San Antonio did not go unnoticed. The theft of his luggage had left him with a Panama hat, and clothing more suitable for a Caribbean beachcomber. His arrival also coincided with the expanding Civil Rights movement. Freedom Riders tested the laws which had removed racial prohibitions from interstate transportation. Farther away on the world stage, yet incredibly close to Cuban-born Cosimo, the Bay of Pigs failed invasion occurred only days after he landed in Texas. As a short, dark man, who spoke English with a distinct accent, spoke Spanish and French perfectly, and carried French and Cuban passports, he became marked as a suspicious person.
Cosimo’s eccentric wardrobe attracted the attention of three clever college students whose life trajectories were still undetermined. Fascinated by the man in a Panama hat, they uncovered his mysterious, phenomenal past.
In what was once an outpost of the far flung Spanish empire, Cosimo discovered in San Antonio a thriving American city. Flour tortillas, a marvelous watch, a book of fables, the public library, old and new friends, and his talent for pen and ink drawings drive Odd Birds to its poignant conclusion.