About a month ago, I was just piddling along, minding my own business, when all of a sudden it hit me.

An itch.

Not a spend money itch, not a seven-year-itch, not even a palm-itch, which tends to indicate youíre going to get money. I never get palm itches, dangit. No, I got an itch on my back.

I tend to have itchy skin in the winter anyway, particularly on my back. So when this one came on, it didnít phase me much. I found a likely corner in the house, scratched, and went about my business.

Well, it didnít go away.

The days that followed resulted in an increase in itches. Within a week, I was pretty much itching over every square inch of my body.

Not constantly, mind you, but when it flared up it was unbearable. I have a bamboo back scratcher my girl gave me, but of course I couldnít carry that around in a holster all the time when I go to work and such.

It was quite miserable. Iíd be sitting in a restaurant for lunch, and my heel would start itching like crazy. Itís hard to inconspicuously take off your shoe, vigorously scratch your heel on the table leg, and get your shoe back on and not let any of the other diners notice, who might complain and get you kicked out on your ear. Which, by the way, was also itching terribly.

I changed laundry detergents and fabric softener sheets, to no avail. Meanwhile, itís just getting worse. I itch almost all the time. I changed up my meals routine, thinking it was a food allergy, but nope, no relief.

It got so crazy I had every place I regularly go to mapped out for back-scratching facilities. I know, for instance, that the corner of the brickwork in the advertising room at the Banner is the single most effective back scratching device in the whole building. I knew what door frames in the house had just enough of an "edge" on the molding to suffice.

Meanwhile, I tried allergy medicines, which provided some relief but put me to sleep, so they were useless in the daytime. I tried to teach Patches to use her claws to scratch my back, but she refused. She will invariably leap onto my lap and sink them into my belly, though. Single-minded feline, that.

Sometimes Iíd wake up in the middle of the night and be itching so horribly Iíd literally leap out of the sack and scratch wildly like some sort of crazed lunatic whose psychosis has him believing he has ants crawling all over him. The cat thought this was terribly disturbing, too, and went to hide in her secret places during these episodes.

Eventually it got to the point my skin was getting sore from all the scratching. I was no closer to finding out what was going on than when I started. I began to notice, though, that now and then Iíd go half a day or so without itching too badly. This intrigued me. More intriguing was that it was usually in the afternoon.

So I considered lunch. But my lunch menu varies greatly and from various sources. I couldnít figure it.

Meanwhile, I did all that attic work I told you about last weekend, and folks, the addition of fiberglass insulation to my skin didnít help matters at all. Little pieces of that stuff imbed in your pores, and it takes a long or a lot of showers to get them out. I was beyond miserable by then, I was starting to worry about my sanity, and eyeing the cat suspiciously, wondering if I had suddenly developed allergies to her. That would not have been good.

What would I do if I was allergic to Patches? I couldnít find a foster home for her. Whoíd put up with her psychosis? Her paranoia, her bipolar disorder and her occasional unexpected outbursts of pure unadulterated sweetness?

Desperately I searched for cures. I dismissed calamine lotion and other such total-body remedies as too time-consuming and sticky. I briefly considered eye of newt and hair of bat, but there were none available at the local pharmacy.

Perhaps I could hermetically seal myself in my room away from the cat? Of course not, I still have to work. Maybe I could hermetically seal up the cat? Eh, probably not, SPCA might get upset about that.

I mean, it was getting to the point that the soles of my feet were itching like mad. Scratching the soles of your feet is a troublesome task especially if youíre ticklish, and I am. My scalp was itching so bad I couldnít keep my ponytail straight, and never mind the unmentionable regions that one does not scratch in polite company. You just kinda squirm when those itch you. Throughout all of this my palm stubbornly refused to itch at all, and I remain penniless.

One afternoon I was about to write a classifieds ad:

Free to a good home

Tortoise-shell calico cat, about eight years old. Answers to the name of Patches when she darn well feels like it. Litter-box trained, good with children provided they are wearing Kevlar body armor. Will require Mutual of Omahaís Wild Kingdom truck to transport to new home, buyerís expense.

When all of a sudden, I noticed, Iím not itching too badly.

I thought and I thought and I thought, trying to figure out what the devil I had done differently. It was only then I noticed the heartburn creeping into my esophagus, and it hit me like a ton of ants crawling over my skin:

Acid reflux medicine.

As in, having forgotten to take it.

I changed my medicine a month or so ago to another brand with another active drug. I take one in the morning with breakfast and one Ė you guessed it Ė after lunch. Yes, and sometimes Iíd come back to work after lunch and have stuff going on, so I would forget to take it. Those were the afternoons I didnít itch so bad.

Been off it two days now, and Iím doing, much, much better, and the cat has not had to be relocated to a wildlife preserve; the brick corner in the advertising room is no longer my best friend in the world, and I squirm a lot less.

So let this freshly coined albeit paraphrased adage be a lesson to you:

"No itch just in time saves the feline!"