The Cave Time – Tribe Asks: What Good is an Itch, Anyway?


NEANDERVILLE – On a rare day off from hunting and gathering, Dwellers today pondered the purpose of the itch. Enveloped, as always, by mosquitoes, fleas, lice and other itch-inducing pests – and with one of the children overcome with yet another case of poison ivy — they did not need much imagination.

“An itch is a prerequisite of one of the most satisfying human activities — namely, scratching,” said Tribe Shaman Kari. “Who does not enjoy a long, soothing, scratch?”

“Me,” said Tribe Jester Griff. “The more you scratch, the more you itch. It’s like that novel by Joseph Heller.”

“More correctly, an endless cycle,” said Vlad, Assembly president, always a stickler for detail.

Tribe Asks: What Good is an Itch, Anyway?

Friends help friends itch

“An itch is necessary for the saying ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,’ ” said one Dweller.”

“Get your metaphors straight: That’s only for apes,” said another Dweller. “An itch is actually a clever early-warning system of trouble ahead for a human.”

“Nonsense,” said Tribe guru Astrid. “By the time the itch arises, the mosquito is long gone or the poison ivy leaves are back there in the woods where you stupidly used them to wipe your, well, your you-know-what.”

“You’re confusing that with hemorrhoids,” said Jester Griff.

Tribe shrink Sig ventured that itching lies somewhere between pain and tickling on the Tactile Sensation Scale, or TSS.

“What the hell’s the TSS?” asked Griff.

“I made it up. But it sounds scientific. Acronyms always make science seem more legitimate. Even when you have pseudo-science or no science at all.”

One Dweller who had a leg ripped off by a saber-tooth tiger said she still feels a persistent itch in her toes.

“Athlete’s foot,” said a sullen teenage Dweller. “Like, who doesn’t get that. You are so, like, ridonculous.”

“I don’t have that foot.”

“Phantom athlete’s foot, then,” said another Dweller. “Can you wiggle those imaginary toes, by the way?”

“Yes. Even hold a pencil in them.”

“You should do Vegas.”

“What’s Vegas?”

“Ask Putin.” The Russian leader recently visited the Tribe, offering a strategy for evolution, and then returned to 2014 to open his Las Vegas magic act, in which conservative columnist Anne Coulter was gravely injured when Putin’s saw-through-the-box trick went awry.

“Back to the itch,” said Mystic Bob, whose frequent time travel to 2014 both amuses and baffles Dwellers, who’d like to know his secret. “The itch is a complex physiological reaction that scientists of the future still do not fully understand. Let me quote Wikipedia, which devotes a dozen pages with innumerable links to itching:

“Pain and itch have very different behavioral response patterns. Pain evokes a withdrawal reflex, which leads to retraction and therefore a reaction trying to protect an endangered part of the body. Itch in contrast creates a scratch reflex, which draws one to the affected skin site. For example, responding to a local itch sensation is an effective way to remove insects on one’s skin.”

“Good luck removing a tick,” said Astrid. “The head always stays buried. You can’t even dig them out with a flint. My head alone is supporting a thriving metropolis of tick heads, I’m sure.”

“A tick is not an insect,” said Bob.

“There you go again with the semantics. Cooties are cooties are cooties. Anything you have not specifically invited to live on your body is gross. That means pretty much everything but a parrot.”

“Anyway,” Bob said, “I did find one good use for itch. It’s an excellent base for rhyming. As in witch, bitch, hitch, snitch, ditch, glitch, hitch and pitch.”

“You forgot ‘twitch,’ ” said Vlad. “Which, I would note, is the lingering aftermath of an unceasing itch.”

“As in Seven Year Itch,” said Griff, “maybe the best Marilyn Monroe movie. It’s the one with her skirt flying up in the air.”

“We don’t have movies,” Vlad reminded him. “Only shadow puppets on the cave wall. No skirts, either, but once we invent fabric, that’s first on my list.”

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