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The Itch

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.


Del Lucian felt the piercing sensation in the middle of his back. He awoke as it, the itch, crawled further upon his back, forcing him to arch and flail in his bed. He stretched one hand as far as he could to dispose of this pest. But, it was of no avail. It planted itself near an impossibly, inaccessible portion of his skin.

He tossed and turned, rubbing his back against the sheets in hopes that it will extinguish the encroaching wildfire that the itch was creating. The friction provided some relief. But the moment didn’t last long. He tried it again; it resulted in the same brief sensation...and his own desperation to thwart it.

In the pitch-black room, Del kicked off the blankets. Beside the itch, he felt his perspiration. This was something he dreaded; the clamminess only added to his misery.

He opened his eyes, only to be met by a world devoid of light.

Not fair, he thought. He gritted his teeth as he attempted to get at the itch. This was where the divorce mattered the most. His ex-wife would’ve been able to apply the lotion and prevent such things happening (even if he had to force her to do it). Now, he had to do this alone.

He opened his eyes, only to be met by a world devoid of light. It was a realization of how squalid this dumpy apartment -- and the how small, box-like bedroom -- he was in. He steamed at the thought. He snorted loudly exposing himself as the ever-agitated beast.

It attacked with a quick jab. He twisted himself like a pretzel to defend and counter strike it. But the action was no easy matter. He stretched until he felt the sinew was at its limit. After several agonizing seconds, he got it with his middle finger, but he couldn’t hold it long enough to finish the task. The pain for this act became difficult to endure, and momentarily rivaled the itch’s effect.

The tingling persisted….and it tortured Del with delight. He panted after every attempt. In addition, his hope waned every time he stretched his fingers to its extant in a vain attempt to ease the irritation.


Still, he persisted, even as it felt like a life or death situation.

Del gritted his teeth. The itch wasn’t waning. Instead, it was moving. It migrated from his back to his shoulder. He scratched it there, only to have it jump to his belly. Del tried to quell it there. Instead, it moved to other parts of this body. And, in doing so, created more sensations in multiple places. Soon, his skin erupted with this unwanted invader.

He shot up from the bed, gasping. The mere act of scratching became an Olympic sport. It also became a perverse dance in which Del flailed his arms to the nether reaches of his body.

“Damnit!” he hissed, “go away!”

But the itch, seemingly on a mission to destroy Del’s wellbeing, did not heed his plea. Instead, it canvassed his body, sparking a flame of irritation across it.

The would-be savor was a wooden 12-inch ruler.

In his bizarre dance, Del’s hip smacked the side of his cluttered desk. The family portrait he cherished (and the only one he had after the divorce) fell from the top shelf and into a dark crevice between it and the nightstand. Del wasn’t aware of it. The attack on his body took up his attention.

He felt the slight pain in his hip. But, this didn’t add to his misery. Instead, it gave him a revelation; the desk had something he desperately needed.

Despite the dark he sank his hand into the clutter, frantically pulling and brushing it aside in search of the device he believed would be his savior.

The would-be savor was a wooden 12-inch ruler. It was the type that was found in classrooms. Something, he surmised, left behind his son when he and his wife moved out of the house he once owned. The ruler had a copper-colored metal edge that was often used to help draw straight lines on paper. It was dependable. And, possibly, it would do the job of getting those itches.

Items crashed onto the floor and walls, falling somewhere unseen in the dark. Only the clamber it created was an indication of Del’s action, in search for the ruler.

Del’s hand hit the metal edge of the ruler. Momentarily, he jumped. But, the shock of its slight cut was deadened, once he realized what he had found. Frantically, he grabbed it, and with the wooden side, he shoved it down the back of his shirt and started working one of the itch’s off-springs.

Relief! Sweet relief. He worked the ruler up and down his back until the itch and its children were extinguished. Afterward, he moved to another part of his back -- a place he struggled to reach. The ruler found and dispatched it. More relief.


Now came his shoulders, the nape of neck, belly, thighs, arms and chin. Ecstasy took over. Still he kept at it until the mere act exhausted him. He laughed as he sank back onto his bed. The feeling he had was like no other. And it stayed that way for the time being.

But the victory was short. Sweat on his body and the frigid blast of the air conditioner conspired, and Del didn’t stand a chance. The itch returned with a vengeance and soon inundated poor Del.

Immediately, Del turned to his savior. But, when he tried, he discovered to his dismay that the wooden side of the ruler lost its magic. Del barely concealed his screams of frustration.

Still, he wasn’t going to be defeated. No itch, he declared, was going to get the best of him.

As he did so, droplets could be heard, hitting the discarded papers on the floor.

He flipped the ruler to its cruelest edge and went to work on his nemesis. Del dragged the metal edge on his back. The sensation of relief returned and it emboldened him to keep going. It seemed to work, thus he moved it across his skin and pressed hard in the process. The cuts ran deep, but the battle against the itch had to be won.

Frantically, he slashed at the itch as it popped up on his body. Legs, arms, back, chest, neck, everywhere; he left no skin unblemished.

Finally, it stopped. Exhausted by the action and the self-infliction, Del dropped the ruler and crumpled to the ground. The itch were replaced by a new sensation; the stings of the numerous cuts all over his body. He was now on his knees, in the inky black darkness. He felt something warm and liquid flow from his forehead. The tiny stream found its way to his eyes. He wiped it away. But, not before he felt more streams fall from his skin.

The sting of the infliction made itself known as the AC began to cool the place withs blast of air. This sensation didn’t bother Del as much as the itching. Instead, it made him euphoric and relieved.

An elation passed through him as he struggled to get up. As he did so, droplets could be heard, hitting the discarded papers on the floor. However, after standing, he began to feel lightheaded. The sleep that the itch had robbed had returned.

He stumbled to his bed. All the while, the flow of blood from the hundreds of wounds -- from head to toe -- raced down his body or stained the tee-shirt and sweats he wore.

Del climbed into bed and got under the sheets. The sting numbed him. The loss of blood brought on fatigue. Thus, as his bloodied head made a soft landing on his pillow --and as his life force stained the covers -- Del went to sleep, knowing that for the first time in a long time, he won a battle -- even if it was just a minor victory.


© 2020 Dean Traylor

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