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By Tom Palen 

Ken Identity


November 18, 2023

Frankly, the woman scared me, and I don't know why. She was an older lady with gray hair and glasses. Her heels clicked with rhythm as she walked swiftly over the terrazzo floor. There was always a scratchy, shuffling sound, too. (Nylon stockings rubbing together.)

My fear was based on stories I'd heard on the playground at Frank Allis Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin. Kids said Mrs. Puffenbarger, my fourth-grade teacher, was mean. But she never did anything mean to me. Well, not very mean.

One day, the bell rang when recess was over. Children formed lines on the playground to return to...

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