Between the Seventh Step and the Eighth

Just like that, in the middle of Tel Aviv, not in the remote north, not in the dunes of the south - a snake was spotted.

The dream was to live at 7 Vitek Street. Even though there were a diagnosed hypochondriac, a gray market banker, a woman who talked to plants and a compulsive smoker in the building, they really were "near and dear," as in the classic Israeli sitcom "Krovim, Krovim." I would have been ready to compromise on the Australian version of show, "Neighbors," even without the divine Kylie Minogue, or even Educational Television's "Neighbors," including Mr. Kashtan's store and the requirement to say everything in song and in English. Or as Makram Khoury summed up as a TV series character: Better a close neighbor than a distant brother.

It isn't easy to find a good neighbor. The building can be handsome in your opinion, and also the neighborhood, the apartment and the rooms, but the thing that really ensures quality of life is the neighbors. Inevitably, the chances for good neighborliness are zero. Look at your surroundings for a moment, and you will see that you are living in a minefield. There are house committee dues, clotheslines, a noisy air-conditioner, parking problems, endless series of renovations, visitors who are convinced that their every sentence is brilliant but at midnight all they do is wake up the children, a freebie newspaper called Yisrael Hayom that knows that this is a two-family home but nonetheless leaves only one copy every morning, and even greenery that gives the neighbor the dreamy feeling of living in the Amazon Basin and costs you your health. Why? Because this week, for example, a snake was spotted there.

Just like that, in the middle of Tel Aviv, not in the remote north, not in the dunes of the south. Okay, it isn't entirely clear that it was a snake, but the neighbor sounded the alarm. And then she immediately barricaded herself in her home on the ground floor with her granddaughter. No one comes out, no one goes in. Attempts to get her talking about exactly where it was spotted, or about how she would have to participate in the cost of the snake catcher, were to no avail. It is still not clear what frightened her more: the reptile's fangs or our knock on her door.

It is possible that this story, as is usual in our part of the world, is a territorial issue. Where your home ends and your neighbor's begins. Who is responsible for keeping the entrance clean, who decides whether the gate will be replaced, how many times the lawn will benefit from watering and who will pay for this, what the creeping potential of the serpent is and how high it aims to reach. Will it be content with the neighbor's ground-floor apartment or will it challenge God and risk historic punishment and soar to the floor above? It is scary to think what will happen if the villain decides to settle on the middle landing.

Naturally, the rebellious reptilian troublemaker has not yet been found nor even identified. The details that have been extricated from the enigmatic neighbor suggest something 60 centimeters long and very narrow and that was seen recently between the seventh step and the eighth. The snake catcher showed up with nothing apart from grapes that he looted from another neighbor and a bill for NIS 400. He did ask that, as soon as possible, we get rid of the bougainvillea, sweep up the leaves, change the structure of the greenery and fill in cracks. Taking into account his recommendations and the fraught relationship with the neighbor, it's hard to figure which is more dangerous: the snake catcher or the snake.

One could become embittered, but there's hope in an item in the newspaper. Amazingly, it turns out that someone is vacating an attractive apartment in the Akirov Towers.