Palo Alto Weekly 19th Annual Short Story
Child Second Place
Taré the Short-Tailed Quetzal
by Alexi Kenney
| About Alexi Kenney
Kenney, 10, got the idea for "Taré the Short-Tailed
Quetzal" from his favorite animal.
"It just kind of popped into my head because it's beautiful and cute," Kenney
said about the Central American bird, which is known for its decorative tail
The sixth-grader at Jordan Middle School has been writing since early elementary
school, when his class learned to write short stories. Kenney said he initially
wrote the award-winning story about two years ago, and just recently did a lot
"I'd been thinking about entering the contest for a few years but wasn't
old enough until now," he said.
In his free time the Palo Alto native likes to play the violin, fold origami,
read, and write
Kenney may even have a future as a writer.
"I just want to do a lot more free writing because it's fun and I like it," he
"He's very at ease writing and reads a lot of folk tales, which may have
inspired him with this story," said his mother Laura Kenney.
-- Erin Pursell
Not so many sunsets ago, there lived a quetzal named Taré.
He played with all the other little quetzals and had a good time,
but as he grew older, his tail began to be a problem. It was short!!
Now, listen closely, and I will tell you the tale of Taré the
Taré was a tropical bird with long beautiful wings the
color of an emerald glistening in the sun. You knew he was happy
when his beak turned up into a slinky smile, and his twinkling
eyes looked as if they were made of rubies. A ribbon of milky white
feathers protruded out of the bottom of his back like crystals
sticking out of a rock. From all his amazing complexions, the tail
was surely the oddest of them all.
Taré's home was of a hollow tree, and at the bottom of it straw, twigs,
and quetzal down. And the surroundings-pink orchids with dark maroon spots, puddles
of water that poison-dart frogs bathed in, tall swaying coconut trees, short
papaya bushes, yellow-green bananas, bubbling hot springs, and miniature olive
trees. Towering above them all lay beautiful waterfalls, crashing down like thunder
in a gloomy sky. The rainforest was Taré's home, and Taré loved
Everyone avoided Taré, though, and as hard as he tried,
they either ignored him or laughed at him. Many times, other quetzals
would use harsh words
him with olives.
Taré's family was helpful, but not very. All day long they would sit around
at the olive tree where he lived and try to make him feel better about his amazingly
short tail, asking him if he wanted to eat olives with them. But he always said
no. To try to cheer himself up, he took a trip through the jungle to the Mayan
mesas. It was a sight to behold, but it did not cheer him up one bit. He usually
felt like the sky on a rainy day. But as he watched the mesas in gloomy awe,
someone behind him said, "Hey."
Swiveling around, Taré was surprised to see his best and
only friend, Oaxaca, a scissor-tailed flycatcher. He had a broad,
eyes the color of a ripe plum on the inside, and a smart, turned-up beak
a branch on a redwood tree. Below a peach-white breast were two tiny
brown feet that he used for picking up fish the size of chestnuts.
A huge forked
color of marble sprawled out from his bottom, looking unmistakably like
a scissor. This bird had a funny appearance.
"Oaxaca, what are you doing here?" shouted Taré.
They hadn't seen each other since they were little.
"Just wanted to see how you were doing!" laughed Oaxaca.
"Oh, Oaxaca, you're a real friend, but I'm not doing very well. As you can
see, my tail . . . " started Taré. Just then Oaxaca looked and gasped. "Taré!" he
shrieked. "Oh Taré, now I see why you are so sad! Your tail never
grew! I will help you!" Oaxaca was screaming now.
"Oh thank you, thank you!" Now Taré was the one screaming. "You
really will? Woohoo!" Suddenly Taré slipped off the branch. "Aaah!" screeched
Taré. He hit the ground with a wham!
"Oh no!" said Oaxaca. He lifted Taré off the ground and onto
the branch again. Taré gave Oaxaca a broad, relieved smile. "But-" asked
Taré, "what will you do?" "Okay. Meet you here tomorrow
morning at the Rainbow Waterfall," said Oaxaca. "There I will tell
you the secret." Taré was so anxious after that talk
that he speedily flew to the Rainbow Waterfall, waited till dusk,
Taré woke up to the sound of rushing water. Without opening his eyes,
Taré guessed in his head: 'Sea! Am I drifting out to sea?'
"Helpppp!!!" shouted Taré.
"Sit back and relax. It's not a feather salon or anything," a voice
laughed behind him. (A trip to the feather salon was Taré's worst nightmare.) "You're
at the Rainbow Waterfall, of course!"
"Oaxaca!" gasped Taré.
"That's my name," said Oaxaca. "Ready to get started?"
"I'm ready when you are," said Taré excitedly.
"OK," started Oaxaca. "The Rainbow Waterfall is magic. You have
to dip your 'tail' in it. Then, wait for thirty seconds exactly. You must then
rush to your favorite tree, take some bark off it, fly back here hastily, and
put your tail back in with the bark pressed tightly to it. But it must be your
favorite tree, or the magic won't work. Count to forty, and last, pull your tail
out and voil‡! You'll have a bee-yoo-tee-full tail!"
So Taré followed Oaxaca's instructions. He went to the waterfall's pool,
dipped his soon-to-be-tail-with-lots-of-plumage in, waited for thirty seconds
exactly, and yanked his tail out. He then flew to his favorite tree-one so secluded
that no one but Taré knew about it. When he approached, he knew he was
wrong. As he flew into the clearing, a cluster of motmots were chatting on the
tree that Taré wanted! This was not good. Motmots
were quetzals' worst enemies. Not only that, but they were
they got into other
By now, Taré had an idea. He raced to his family's tree (where many quetzals
usually hung out), got a bunch of them to come over to his clearing, and told
them to make any kind of boisterous, loud noise. "1, 2, 3!" Taré counted,
and the forest was astir with noises, loud and sweet, carrying off into the far
horizon. He then grabbed bark before the motmots could protest, turned, and headed
back. Then Taré stuck his tail in the clear water,
waited impatiently for forty seconds, and pulled his tail
What he saw was an extremely elegant, silky, magnificent
tail looking up at him with feathers the pleasant hue of
glint of crimson
out from underneath the green wonder, and suddenly Taré was jolted from
his trance. "OOEEEE!" he shouted so that everybody in the forest could
"Thank you, Oaxaca! Thank you! Can you meet
me here at dusk today?"
"For what?" interrogated Oaxaca.
"It's a surprise! See you!" shouted Taré, taking
off in the pale blue sky.
Then Taré raced to Crystal Cave and came back with an amethyst. At dusk,
Taré and Oaxaca met at the Rainbow Waterfall. Taré brought
a package wrapped in a banana leaf. Oaxaca opened it
eagerly yet gingerly. When
unwrapping it, he gasped. Inside was the amethyst, the
most beautiful amethyst you ever saw.
"A thank-you gift!" Taré said.
"Way too much of a thank-you gift!" said Oaxaca amazedly.
"You're welcome," said Taré.
Then Taré went home happily and showed his family his tail.
"Oh, my gosh!" exclaimed his brothers and sisters. "Oh, honey," said
his mother and father. "How did you do it?" they
So Taré told them the tale of the short-tailed