The Secrets on the Family Farm

Meet the Characters in
Secrets on the Family Farm

Learn about Nick's other published books!
A Desperate Decision the sequal to Secrets ...,
Murder in the Mountains,
The Long Road to Mount Kailash and
Garden of Kathmandu Trilogy
and Nick's first foray into children's literature
Elmer the Octopus
and Nick's wife's new children's book
Hester the Weird Witch

The Setting

Chapter Previews

Adam Montanya - Main Character

The ten-year-old boy hated to see Uncle Pete's new Hudson Hornet swerve into their driveway. Adam fled into the garden, hiding behind the elephant ears of the rhubarb patch. Pretending he was a soldier in Korea , he left his foxhole to face the enemy. As he marched between the rows of cabbage, he caught sight of a garter snake. It slithered onto the grassy path leading to the garden gate. The boy stepped on its tail with a worn sneaker.

"This farm ain't no Garden of Eden," muttered Adam, wiping the perspiration from his brow with his forearm. He didn't like his name because his classmates at Whittier School made fun of him.

© 2008 by Nick Cibrario

"Doesn't Adam look like Mickey Rooney in Huckleberry Finn", commented his uncle "The only thing he's missing is a fishing pole and a straw hat."

Aunt Clara

"Peter, do you have to drive like a maniac?" stammered Aunt Clara, straightening her black hat decorated with a tiny red feather. She peeled back the fishnet covering her face as she got out of the convertible. Slamming the door, she smoothed her gray skirt with a gloved hand.

Aunt Clara's whining reminded Adam of Katherine Hepburn, the old-maid missionary, in the African Queen. He wished he were on that boat, going downstream away from these relatives. She stared at her chapped hands and then at the limp white gloves, hanging like a shriveled cow's udder. Opening her purse, she dropped them inside.

Aunt Clara high heeled toward the house. She shouted to her nephew "Adam, your father ought to fix this driveway! I almost twisted my ankle on the loose gravel among all those ruts!"

© 2008 by Nick Cibrario

Uncle Pete

"You heard your mother, Kevin. Clean up those goddamn potato chips! They're all over the leather upholstery," shouted his father, slamming the door. Pete removed his brimmed hat, flipping it with a spin onto the vacant front seat. His tie flapped in the July breeze like a red wing blackbird, trying to escape from the snare of his starched shirt.

Uncle Pete tried unsuccessfully to light his pipe in the hot wind. He removed the stem from his mouth and headed back to the car. Adam thought that his uncle looked like Ed Sullivan with his horse-face and sad eyes. He certainly wasn't happy being married to a high-strung wife with such a "perfect" son.

His father called Kevin a devil in disguise. He blamed the parochial school system, claiming they produced the worst-behaved kids in the city.

Kevin - Cousin

She admired Kevin's flawless complexion and was enchanted by his blue eyes and flowing blonde hair. His features reminded her of Christ in Salvador Dali's painting of The Last Supper, hanging in the rectory at St. George's Parish.

Kevin stood up wearing black slacks, a white shirt, and a red tie. Aunt Clara always bragged about how he served mass every day at their parish church ever since he was in fourth grade, including two masses every Sunday. All the sisters at St. George's admired Kevin's good behavior and straight A report cards.

"What the hell do you think you're doing standing up in the backseat like that?" shouted Uncle Pete. "Clara, I gave you money so Kevin could get a haircut! Just look at him. His hair's so goddamn long he looks like a girl!"

He then leapt from the car as if he were Michael, the Archangel , descending from heaven to do battle with the devil. The fourteen-year-old landed on the gravel. Dusting himself off, he fled down the driveway, his blonde hair flowing behind him.

It's not normal for a kid his age to be serving mass every day. Those nuns and priests are trying to make a saint out of him and so is his mother.

"You've never smoked before, have you?" questioned Kevin, shrouding them with a cloud of smoke. The older boy laughed again at his coughing cousin. "If you're going to learn to smoke, you've got to practice"

Giovanni Montanya - Adam and Karl's Father

Adam's father emerged from the garage naked to the waist, wiping his greasy hands on a rag. He had just finished changing the oil on the Allis-Chalmers. Giovanni Montanya had a massive, hairy chest, a square face, and heavy beard, resembling Anthony Quinn.

"Multo grazie, mio buono filio," responded Giovanni, picking up his son under the arms and swinging him around."I said thank you very much, my good son," bellowed Giovanni, setting Adam down. The boy stumbled from dizziness.

"I grew up in the Italian Alps. We used to get three meters of snow there every winter. My father used to say it was as cold as hell in the mountains."

© 2008 by Nick Cibrario

"Your uncle and I worked on the assembly line. We made 5000 of those Nash 600's, but then production stopped right after Pearl Harbor was bombed. You were just a baby, only a couple of months old when it happened," mentioned Giovanni, reaching into the back pocket of his jeans. He removed a crumpled packet of Lucky Strikes.

Father Furstenberg - Older priest at St. George's Parish

"Father Furstenberg replaced me. He's more of a father to Kevin than I'll ever be. He's just like Bing Crosby who played the part of a priest in that film. What's the name of it?"

He felt terrified about going to confession at St. George's Church . He didn't mind the young priest, Father Fortmann, but if he got Father Furstenberg, he'd be trapped in that confessional for half an hour. That old priest would ask so many questions from behind that purple curtain that he would break into a cold sweat just thinking about it. What would he tell the priest?

Gertrude Montanya - Adam and Karl's mother

"Gertrude still reminds me that I left her on the farm with our two sons and the cows. She went to work in the factory on the assembly line. My wife blames me for abandoning her and is resentful about what happened in the past. She can't understand that I didn't volunteer to go to that war. I was drafted by the government."

Adam noticed his mother was wearing her floral housedress that she sewed from feed sacks, purchased from the warehouse at the mill on Highway 50. She hurried past him, leaving a lingering scent of Chanel No 5 that she applied before leaving for the 10:00 o'clock mass at St. George's.

His mother was always going into that gloomy old rectory to talk things over with that handsome young priest Father Fortmann instead of creepy Father Furstenberg that Aunt Clara liked more than her own husband.

"I grew up in the city. My parents had a Victorian house with sixteen rooms, clean radiator heat, and plenty of hot water. After my father died my mother almost sold our house on 45th Street, but she decided to stay. It's such a beautiful place. I wish I never came out here to this godforsaken place. You and your brother are becoming savages out here in the wilderness."

All heads turned toward Gertrude, emerging from the kitchen like a movie star. She dramatically stood in the doorway, having changed into her green silk dress with a red scarf around her neck. Her hands were holding a platter of German chocolate cake with glistening white frosting. Everyone admired her new outfit and her freshly baked cake with oohs and aahs.

"Gertie, I just love your hair style. I can't believe you fixed it that way all by yourself. You look just like Vivien Leigh in Streetcar Named Desire . She won an academy award for her performance with Marlon Brando."

© 2008 by Nick Cibrario

Karl Montanya - Adam's brother

He waved to his older son, Karl, who was entering the barn with a wheelbarrow. The twelve-year-old resembled Ricky Nelson. He was tall, thin, and muscular from doing daily chores on the family farm.

"Hey! That's enough," shouted Karl, pulling his cousin away from Adam. "Leave my brother alone! He didn't mean you any harm. You got any more of those dirty comics to look at?"

Grandma - Sophia Montanya

"Adam, you come on and help me. First you give-a-the bull some water. He needs to drink a-the water on such a hot day like this. Then you come and help me kill a-the chicken for supper," ordered his grandmother, wiping her brow with her apron.

"Sure, Grandma," he agreed, deciding not to correct her broken English. She never paid attention to his corrections anyway. He thought she looked like Marjorie Main in those Ma and Pa Kettle movies, where they raised sixteen children on their farm. The difference was that Grandma only had one son and that was his father, Giovanni.

"Dio mio! What happened to my grandson?" blurted Grandmother, gasping at the sight of Adam, who was lying in the oats sobbing.

Grandma tried to comfort Adam by sitting down next to him and cradling the distressed boy. For a few moments she was the Madonna in the stable at Bethlehem with the Christ Child prior to their Flight to Egypt . She glanced around the dusty oat bin as if anticipating the arrival of Herod's soldiers to slaughter the innocent babies.

"My poor boy!" she moaned looking toward the wooden ladder leading to the hayloft.

"Adam, I only go to the fifth class in Italy . They don't teach us a-the English in a-the school." Grandma told her grandson his corrections made her so nervous she left the house without the butcher knife and the kettle to catch the blood.

Father Mark Fortmann - Younger Priest at St. George's Parish

"Why, Mark.I mean Father Fortmann! What are you doing here?" she asked thinking how much he resembled Randolph Scott.

"You're a handsome man, but you should get married. A priest shouldn't live alone without a woman, unless he's a saint," advised Mrs. Solinski.

"I'm married to the Church. I took my vows several years ago," defended Mark, averting his eyes, which were fixed upon .

She wished that Mark had never come back to Kenosha . He requested St. George's Parish after his ordination so that he could be near her. There was no doubt in her mind, she loved Mark. Maybe she could find a way to go to New York with him. She couldn't keep pretending that everything was all right when it wasn't. She had been living a lie for years.

"Mark was irritated that his Roman collar didn't admit him into the boy's room. He was used to preferential treatment and always went to the front of the line at the train station. Mark used his collar to avoid waiting in line with everyone else. He always got first class seating on the plane by regularly informing the clerk that he was leaving town because of an emergency.

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