Palo Alto Weekly 19th Annual Short Story Contest
Child Second Place

Taré the Short-Tailed Quetzal

by Alexi Kenney

About Alexi Kenney

Alexi 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 feathers.

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 of re-editing.

"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 said.

"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 short-tailed quetzal.

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 it.

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 and bombard 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, oval-shaped body, eyes the color of a ripe plum on the inside, and a smart, turned-up beak looking like 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 tail the 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, and fell asleep there.

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 awfully chatty, and they got into other people's business.

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 out briskly.

What he saw was an extremely elegant, silky, magnificent tail looking up at him with feathers the pleasant hue of plantain leaves. A glint of crimson flashed out from underneath the green wonder, and suddenly Taré was jolted from his trance. "OOEEEE!" he shouted so that everybody in the forest could hear him.

"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 he finished 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 all chorused.

So Taré told them the tale of the short-tailed quetzal.