The Java Finch and the SpiderA Story by Kevin Anthony
A short story about a java finch and a spider. Intended to be read aloud to young children.
There once was a java finch that lived in a cage - a simple cage made of thin bars of stainless steel. Now, java finches come from a very hot, tropical part of the world, a place renowned for its bright and exotic flowers, and its rich variety of wildlife, such as the mischievous lemur, and the tired giant turtle. In this land, the java finches live freely with their fellow java finches, and can fly from tree to tree and flower to flower, sipping cool water from fresh springs and eating the most delicious kinds of rice, which the honest farmers who reside there grow in plentiful supply. But this particular java finch did not live in his natural home, he lived in a stainless steel cage, and he had no other java finches to play with, or cool water from fresh springs to sip, or even a single kind of delicious rice to eat, and so all of this made him feel very sad indeed. In fact, he felt so sad that he didn’t even have the heart to sing, and if you don’t know then java finches are known all over the world for their beautiful song, which has ended wars and called forth the sun when he was hidden behind rainclouds.
“Little java finch, oh, little java finch,” enquired a young boy one rainy afternoon.
“You were given to me as a gift on my birthday, and I was promised that your sweet song was so beautiful that it could end wars, and call forth the sun when he is hidden behind rainclouds, but alas! I have owned you for many days now and not one note has there been from your bosom. Please, little java finch, won’t you give me a song?”
“I cannot, child,” mourned the java finch.
“For my heart aches with loneliness, and has not the fortitude for my song.”
But the young boy could not understand the java finch, for he had learned only the tongue of man, and so he left, crying, for he thought that he would never hear his little java finch sing.
“He does not know why I cannot sing,” said the java finch quietly.
“He does not know that my poor heart yearns for the warmth of my true homeland, for its crystal clear waters, its rich variety of rice, and, most of all, for the company of my fellows as we glide in bliss through the shade of the albizia trees.
And with that, a single tear rolled from his left eye down his feathery cheek, and the java finch hung his head in sorrow, and began to weep.
The java finch wept for many hours, until eventually the sound of his anguish caught the attention of a spider who was busily building her web in the uppermost corner of the ceiling, directly above the java finch’s metal prison. So profound was the sound of the java finch’s sorrow that the spider stopped spinning her web in order to listen to his weeping. She gazed down at the poor creature below her.
“Well, by my word!” remarked the spider to herself.
“What circumstances could possibly be afflicting this poor bird as to cause such enormous grief?”
And so, overcome with curiosity, she descended most elegantly on a silver strand of web until she landed gracefully on one of the many thin bars of stainless steel that made up the java finch’s cage. The java finch, not quite so absorbed in his own misery as to be oblivious of his surroundings, noticed the spider’s arrival at once, and was so taken aback by her appearance that he stopped his weeping and stared at her, open-beaked.
“Oh!” cried the java finch.
“You gave me quite a start! However, I admit that I have never before laid eyes on a fascinating little creature such as you. Pray tell, what are you?”
“I do apologise for giving you such a start,” replied the spider, for she (along with her two dozen brothers and sisters) had been taught by her mother at a young age that one should always treat a new acquaintance with courtesy.
“However, I could not help but overhear your desperate grieving, and because I was wondering what tragedy could possibly cause such sorrow in a fine bird such as yourself, I decided to drop by and say good day. As for what I am… why, I am a spider of course!”
“A spider…” repeated the java finch in wonderment, and for a moment he forgot all about sadness. But then he imagined sunshine, and the feeling of another java finch’s wings against his own, and was reminded anew of his longing for happiness.
“Alas, spider!” he proclaimed.
“It is most decent of you to drop by and say good day, but I fear that it will not cure me of this sickness of the heart. For I long for the warm embrace of my natural homeland, where I may frolic with my fellow java finches, eating rice and sipping cool crystal-clear water, and gaze down from the albizia trees upon the mischievous lemur, as he playfully torments the tired giant turtle. But instead, here I sit, in this tiny cage, in a land where it rains without stop, and where my only company is a sweet but misguided young boy who does not understand why I cannot sing.”
“Oh, you are a java finch who cannot sing!” cried the spider.
“That is indeed tragic, for I have heard tales of your kind from my neighbour the merry moth, and he informs me that the song of the java finch is so rich and so joyous, that it has ended wars and called forth the sun when he was hidden behind rainclouds.”
But the java finch shook his head sadly, and said,
“That is indeed true, spider. But alas, I will never sing while I remain imprisoned here, for I am overwhelmed with loneliness and despair, and yearn for my homeland, where I may embrace my fellow java finches, and find a mate to whom I may give all of my heart, all the while drinking fresh water from springs and enjoying the widest selection of rice. Instead, I am here in this cage, in this land where it rains without stop, and where no other java finches to keep me warm exist, and so I weep.”
And with that, hot tears of pure sorrow formed in the java finch’s delicate black eyes, and he began to cry afresh. The spider, who had been listening patiently as the java finch was explaining his predicament, was so moved by the sensitivity of the java finch that she felt an instant devotion to him, and she vowed in that instant to help him in any way she could.
In the time that followed, as the days turned to weeks, and the weeks in turn grew to months, the rain outside became heavier, the young boy continued to plea in vain for his bird’s song, and the java finch continued to weep for his sadness, all the while unable to sing a single note. The spider’s web had by now been built, and a fine web indeed it was, for it was strong and intricate, and caught many flies which the spider ate for breakfast, lunch and supper. When she was not sleeping or eating, the spider would listen sadly to the cries of the java finch, for they were unending. And though she visited him often, the java finch remained terribly sad.
“Oh, if only there was some way that I could help him!” cried the spider one day, as she stared unhappily at the weeping java finch directly below her.
“For by now I care deeply for this java finch, and it hurts me to hear him weep so pitifully. But alas, what can I do? He longs for the warmth of his homeland, and the exotic taste of countless varieties of rice, and the loving embrace of his fellow java finches. But what have I to offer? Only the cold and damp of this land where it rains without stop, and the bitter taste of the meagre flies which I trap in my web, and, of course, the embrace of a spider isn’t nearly so comfortable as the embrace of a bird! For after all, what is the worth of my love when he seeks only the love of his brethren?”
“Fool indeed,” said a hushed voice from nearby.
“To love a java finch so tenderly is indeed foolish, for your love will never suffice, and bears no worth to him.”
The spider was surprised to discover that she was not alone, and looked fearfully about her for the speaker. She found to her astonishment that it was a trapped fly - caught only that moment in her own web - which had spoken. The fly snickered, for it knew that its end was near, and had thrown caution to the winds.
“However, spider, there is nonetheless one way that you may grant your precious java finch his heart’s deepest desire.”
Upon hearing this, all eight of the spider’s eyes widened with amazement, and she drew closer to the fly, and said breathlessly,
“Oh, fly! Do you simply jest to torment me, or could there truly be a way to help this poor java finch? For, I will do anything!”
“Anything…?” asked the fly, for he was crafty.
“Yes, oh yes!” cried the spider.
“Why, I would fast for fifty days and fifty nights! I would spin a web to span the very breadth of Bermuda! I would lay down my own life, if it meant that my dear java finch would find relief from his misery. Fly - I will do anything!”
“Would you then, oh virtuous spider, consider releasing me? For, I cannot tell you my secret while suffering such discomfort as this web inflicts.”
The spider laughed in disbelief, and declared,
“Release you? My good fly, I will release you from my web this very instant, if only you will tell me how to grant my beloved java finch that thing which he sobs for.”
And with that, the spider scuttled over to the trapped fly, and, using her sharp fangs, she gently severed the webbing that bound him. The fly buzzed his small pale wings at once, and hovered gleefully before the spider. He snickered happily. The spider, anxious now that the fly may depart without first telling her his secret, said desperately,
“Oh, fly. I have freed you from your fate. I beg of you now, keep your promise, and tell me that vital thing which will grant my java finch his heart’s deepest desire, and end his sorrow, and allow him to sing forever more in joy!”
The fly snickered triumphantly, and hovered close to the spider, his wings’ beating as rapid as the spider’s own heart’s.
“As I have said to you, there is one way that you may demonstrate your love for this bird, and grant him his heart’s desire. But I fear that the burden of the act may prove too terrible for you to bear.”
“I implore you, tell me!” cried the spider.
“For, as I have said, I will do anything!”
“Well then, spider,” declared the fly.
“If you wish to grant this bird his heart’s desire, then you must perform an act most terrible indeed… You must wound your beloved java finch on his throat, with your own sharp fangs.”
“Oh, my!” cried the spider in horror, for she knew that such a wound would surely kill the java finch who mattered so much to her.
“Please, fly, I beg of you. Is there no other way?”
“There is no other way, spider,” said the fly. And before the spider could respond, the fly turned from her and buzzed out the window, which was ajar, snickering at his newfound freedom, and leaving the spider alone in black dejection. The spider thought about what she had to do, and felt horrified at the idea of harming the beautiful java finch, for she loved him deeply. But then, she gazed sadly down upon the java finch, whose head hung in wretchedness. His once vivid and smooth plumage was now dull and matted, and as she listened to the heart-rending sound of his sobs, which echoed pathetically off the thin bars of stainless steel that made up his cage, the spider knew that there was indeed no other way. Self-sacrifice is, after all, the very essence of true love. The spider was aware of this, and so, with the deepest sigh that ever a spider uttered on heaven or earth, she made her decision.
Without hesitating a moment longer, the spider weaved a fine, silver strand of web, and descended not quite so elegantly until she landed not quite so gracefully on one of the many thin bars of stainless steel that made up the java finch’s cage. The java finch noticed the spider’s arrival at once, but was not taken aback by her appearance, for he was by now long accustomed to the spider’s company.
“Good day, dear spider, my only friend…” said the java finch sorrowfully, through tears that rushed like rain down his feathery cheeks.
“It is good to see you again.”
“And you, my dear, dear java finch,” choked the spider, for she was finding it most difficult to hold back tears of her own. But she understood that it was selfishness that made her weep, and so she shook herself, and smiled bravely. Then she said,
“I have brought good news to you this day, which I feel will finally cure you of your suffering.”
The java finch looked at the spider, and said,
“No news, no matter how wonderful, could cure me of my suffering, spider. For only the warm embrace of my homeland and the soft embrace of my brethren could possibly provide comfort.”
“But what of the embrace of a spider?” replied the spider quietly. Then she looked deeply into the tearful eyes of the java finch, and he too met the spider’s gaze.
“Will you embrace me, my sweet java finch? For I love thee.”
“Dear spider, in the midst of my wretchedness, over all the many months of my tears, your presence is the only thing to have ever given my tortured soul respite. Yes. I will embrace thee.”
And so, the spider spun her final strand of silver webbing, and descended through the thin bars of stainless steel that made up the java finch’s cage, and landed on its floor. And the java finch leapt down from his simple perch so that he was now alongside the spider. The java finch then spread his grey wings wide, and the spider mounted the java finch’s pink and scaly feet, and crawled up his pink belly, and past the grey breast, and all the way up until she rested at his throat. Then, the java finch slowly, gently, enfolded his wings. And there they stayed, united. And they remained united in that way for many moments - the java finch and the spider, embracing, and their hearts beating as one. The java finch was not even weeping.
“My dear java finch,” whispered the spider eventually.
“Here is the good news which I brought you this day.”
And the spider pierced the throat of the java finch with her sharp fangs. The java finch gasped, and his body juddered, but the spider, through selflessness, did not withdraw her fangs. The java finch’s body continued to shudder as the spider’s venom entered his veins, and as it circulated, spreading its terrible influence, the java finch gasped a second time, louder than before. But this was not a gasp of pain as with the first. No, this was an utterance of sheer awe, of the sort experienced when witnessing beauty so immeasurable that to attempt to describe it with mere words would be to undermine its enormous power.
“Oh!” exclaimed the java finch in pure joy.
“Spider! Spider, can you see? It is my homeland! I can feel its warmth filling my very soul. I can see my fellow java finches at last, tumbling among the albizia trees, beckoning to me. I am home, spider. I am home!”
And it was then, when overwhelmed with happiness, that the java finch began to sing at last. He whistled and chirruped, and sounded a dozen different notes at once, and harmonised with ease. His song was strong, like the Antarctic wind, but sweet, like the legendary Stradivarius violin. His song echoed all around and filled the room with the most glorious music. But it did not stop there, no, for the walls of man can never contain something as powerful as nature’s song. The music rushed outdoors and washed through the land like a great wave. The java finch’s song was so beautiful that it awakened the sun from his slumber, and he waved away the rainclouds so that he could better listen, and so, for the first time in months, the sun blazed across the land and filled every corner of it with light and warmth. The java finch’s song was so rich that it resonated among the soldiers of the north, as they readied for battle, and stirred their hearts so much with its beauty that they hung their heads in shame at the thought that they should seek to spill their brothers’ blood when such beauty existed in the world, and they immediately surrendered their weapons and made peace with their foe. And the java finch’s song was so joyous, that the poor spider had to resist every urge in her soul to withdraw her fangs from the throat of the java finch, for her heart was breaking that she was harming the only creature that she truly loved, and tears seeped at last from each of her eight eyes, and mingled with the venom as it coursed through the java finch’s veins. But then, the java finch’s song faltered, and became faint. Fainter and fainter it became, until finally it ceased. And his delicate black eyes filmed over, and his heartbeat grew weak.
“I am home, sweet spider…” whispered the java finch. Then his eyes closed, and his heart stopped beating.
Moments later, there came the sound of hurried footsteps fast approaching, and in ran the young boy. He was smiling widely, for he too had heard the enchanting song of the java finch, and was glad that his birthday gift had at last sung for him. But on reaching the cage of stainless steel, the little boy broke into tears, for his bird was lying motionless on the cage floor, and the child knew that it was dead.
Later that day, as the young boy’s father was removing the bird from its cage, he wondered at the peculiar position that the bird’s form was in. Why, it looked almost as if it were embracing something! The young boy’s father narrowed his eyes, and leaned his head in close to inspect the thing that the java finch clutched so tightly to its breast. The young boy’s father was puzzled however, for all he discovered there was a dead spider.
“How very odd!” he remarked. But then he shrugged, and turned to his son, and smiled warmly.
“Do not be sad, my son,” he said.
"For it was only a bird, and can be easily replaced. I will get you another one for your next birthday, one that is twice the price of a java finch, and that will sing without stop.”
Then the boy’s father opened the dustbin, and swept the java finch and the spider inside.
© 2012 Kevin Anthony
AboutI'm currently 18 years old and a student. I love reading and writing, it's been my passion since early childhood. While writing is for now merely a serious hobby, I've always been drawn to it as a p.. more..