Here is the second batch of the "Spohn Challenge" entries I wrote and posted on Facebook while I was having technical problems here:

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Five years ago, when a fellow named Jackson Talbot first moved into town and opened his Crimson Jack’s Naughty Nighties Emporium over on the west side of town, a few of the women in Jillian’s neighborhood took part in a series of demonstrations organized by a small group of well-meaning little old church ladies who had decided they didn’t want to see their community transformed into the modern equivilent of ancient Babylon. Every day for two weeks the protesters marched back and forth in front of the place, armed with bullhorns and picket signs and petitions calling for the closing of the establishment. Talbot himself never took it personally; as is usually the case, all the attention the ruckus produced actually resulted in better business for the store, so he was actually quite grateful. In time the ladies finally figured this out and went home.

Although Mrs. Fene from across the street issued an invitation, Jillian had never taken part in the protests. For one thing, she just wasn’t the sort of person who felt comfortable lugging around a heavy picket sign and making a fuss over things like that. She’d always figured most of those who did take part who just a bunch of crochety old bats who simply didn’t have anything better to do. 

Besides, they were probably jealous of the younger gals to whom store that catered. The ones who still looked good in that sort of stuff. 

Like her, for instance... 

Now here she was, standing in front of Crimson Jack’s, about to go inside and possibly purchase one of those flimsy little things that had sent her older friends into such conniptions. She couldn’t help but glance around and make certain there was nobody nearby who might recognize her…

“What’s the matter?” Julie asked.

“I don’t know…I guess I’m still feeling a little funny about all this,” Jillian admitted. “It may seem silly to you, but I’ve never done anything like this before.”

“Yeah, I know, and I’m thinking that maybe that’s part of your problem.” Julie placed a hand on each of Jillian’s shoulders and looked her in the eye. “Look, kiddo, for everything there is a season,” she philosophized. “A time for peace, a time for war, and a time for buying clothes that would get you arrested if you ever tried wearing them out in public. Now just relax already, will you? You just go in, pick out what you want, and buy it. It’s just like going to the grocery store.”

And with that she gently spun Jillian around so that she faced the store. Jillian took a deep breath and started for the door, knowing full well that if she didn’t head that way on her own Julie would damn sure well push her inside…

A large man in a well-tailored suit looked up from behind the counter as they entered the store. Jackson Talbot looked very much the way Santa Claus looked in some of those old Coca-Cola magazine ads – except that his hair was a bright fiery red rather than white, hence the nickname that adorned his business. And the smile that threatened to split his face in two had little to do with the spirit of giving, at least not in the way Santa would have intended. The sort of present he would have given the two beauties who’d just walked in wasn’t likely to be found in some old bag of toys.

The woman bringing up the rear was familiar to him; she’d been in the store many times in the past. What was her name again? Jodi, Judy, Julie…that was it, Julie. Julie Madison. Sometimes he had a little trouble with names, but he never forgot a figure…and brother, did she have a figure!

But even she couldn’t hold a candle to this exquisite creature who had accompanied her. She was new here, that much he knew at a glance. How old could she be? Twenty? Maybe twenty-five, tops? Who cares – gloriosky, what a body! A happy smile made its way across Jackson’s face. It was his great admiration of women such as this that had led him to finally leave the pulpit and sell naughty nighties for a living.

The big man stepped out from behind the counter and greeted Julie with opened arms, like a long-lost uncle greeting his favorite niece. “Ah, Miss Madison, it’s so nice to see you again. And what can I help you with on a wonderful day such as this, hmmm?”

Julie gave him a hug and a playful little tweak on the cheek. “Nothing for me today, Jack. We’re here to find a little something for my friend here. Crimson Jack Talbot, this is my very good friend Jillian Drummond. Treat her nice – she’s like a sister to me.”

Jillian reached out to shake his hand, more out of habit than anything else, and seemed genuinely surprised when Talbot took it in his own and kissed it. “It is always a pleasure to welcome a new friend into my humble emporium,” he said politely. “Especially one who was born to wear what I have to offer.”

“Thank you,” Jillian answered somewhat shyly. This Crimson Jack seemed an interesting fellow. It occurred to her that he might look more at home on the deck of a pirate ship, and yet there was a gentleness about him that was hard to resist. 

Jack noticed the expression on her face and smiled. The old Talbot charm seemed to be working again. It always did. “Now then, what is it I can get for you, my dear?” I noticed you wear a ring…a little something to please the husband perhaps?” He tugged at his mustache and playfully added, “Or perhaps something special for when the husband is away, eh?”

If Jillian heard him she didn’t answer. She was too busy looking around the store at some of the various selections Talbot had out on display. She figured there wasn’t enough material in the entire store to make one decent dress. Naughty nighties, indeed…

She seemed almost apologetic as she looked back at the proprietor. “I’m not really sure,” she told him honestly. “I’ve never been in a store quite like this one, and… well, I’m really not all that sure how things like this might look on me.” She glanced around again and shrugged. “Do you have any suggestions?”

Julie fought to repress a laugh, and Talbot arched an eyebrow but somehow managed to hold his tongue. Now there was a loaded question if ever he’d heard one… He began to circle around Jillian slowly, studying her entire body from top to bottom and back again. Oh, yes, all manner of suggestions presented themselves to him – but he was liable to get himself slapped clear into next week if he voiced any of them. So he forced himself to concentrate on business and after a moment declared, “Actually, madam, I do have a couple of ideas in mind. It all depends upon just how…willing you are to take a few chances in life.”

“Oh, she’s willing all right,” Julie interjected before Jillian had a chance to respond. “She’s got a lot of catching up to do, don’t you, honey?” Jillian shot her a look but said nothing as she nodded in agreement.

Talbot’s grin grew bigger, something Jillian would have bet good money wasn’t possible. “In that case, if you’ll just wait right here I’ll go grab a few things and bring them out to you.” He disappeared into the back room, leaving Jillian to browse about the shop a little on her own. Julie just stood there watching her for a moment, then finally asked, “Jack’s got some nice stuff in here, don’t you think?”

“You know, part of me still can’t believe I let you talk me into doing such a damn fool crazy thing.”

“Yeah, I know,” Julie shot back. “But I’ll bet the other part of you is wondering what the hell took you so long, isn’t it?” Jillian shot her that same look again, but Julie wasn’t convinced. “Come on, admit it – you like it here, don’t you?”

“No I don’t!” Jillian protested. Then, almost reluctantly, she added, “Well, yeah, I guess maybe I do.” And they laughed together.

They were still laughing when Talbot eventually returned with an armload of frilly little nothings. Setting the stack down on the counter, he took one of the items – a slinky black piece of material which Jillian thought vaguely resembled a shoestring with a gland condition – and held it up for the women to examine more closely.

“Now this,” he said, beaming with no small degree of pride, “is a little number that I actually designed myself. I call it ‘Skintillation’.” Suddenly he launched into a description of the piece, sounding for all the world like one of those used car salesmen you see on TV. 

“As you can see, the short-cropped boudoir top has spaghetti straps and ties down the front for, shall we say, easy abandonment. And the matching G-string makes it all the more tempting to the eye, don’t you think?”

“It is nice,” Jillian agreed, somewhat surprised by her own reaction. She ran her fingertips over the soft material, imagining how wonderful it must feel against her body…

Julie noticed her friend’s interest and seized the moment. “Say, Jack,” she questioned, “do you think it would be all right if Jillian tried it on? Just so she can get a proper look at it?”

Jillian snapped her head around in Julie’s direction so fast she thought it might pop off. She started to protest, but Talbot cut her off with great enthusiasm. “Mind? Madam, I insist! Come, the dressing rooms are right over here.” he took Jillian by the arm and led her – damn near dragged her, if truth be told – to the far corner of the shop. “There you are, my dear. You go right on ahead in there and examine it for yourself.”

Jillian cast a doubtful look back at Julie, who (naturally) just stood there with that stupid grin of hers and motioned for her to go on into the dressing room. Then she took the fabric from Talbot and vanished into the little room, while Talbot beamed and silently congratulated himself on having had the foresight to not put any mirrors inside the dressing rooms. That way, the customers had no choice but to step out in order to get a good look at how their selections looked on them – which in turn made Talbot’s life a hell of a lot happier.

Moments passed. When Jillian finally poked her head back out from behind the door, she still wore that same doubtful expression she had worn going into the dressing room. “I don’t know about this, Julie…”

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Julie responded. “We’ve come too far to turn back now. Now come on out and let us have a look.”

“Him too?” Jillian asked, pointing in Talbot’s direction. 

“Yes, him too. It’s all right, Jill – he’s a professional.”

Jillian made a face. “Yeah, that’s what bothers me.” If Talbot felt offense at the crack he certainly didn’t show it; no doubt he was too busy trying to imagine how his design looked on this beautiful creature…

“Oh, stop being such a tease,” Julie teased. “Get your butt out here before I go in there and drag it out. And you know I’ll do it, too.”

Jillian knew it, all right. She hesitated, made a bit of a show of bracing herself for the unavoidable, and finally stepped out of the tiny dressing room in the open. When Crimson Jack got a good look at her, dressed as she was in that marveloous little black nothing he’d designed, he thought he’d died and gone to Heaven. “Good Lord, madam,” he managed to stammer after spending a moment trying to find his voice. “You are absolurely ravishing.”

And she was, too. Drop-dead gorgeous, as a matter-of-fact. In the space of just a few moments she had been transformed from just another typical suburban housewife into the kind of woman teenage boys dream of being seduced by all the way through high school. The kind they drool over in the pages of the girlie magazines they sneak out of their fathers’ sock drawers.

This, then, was a woman. But Jillian didn’t seem quite as certain about Talbot’s appraisal, even when she noticed Julie standing there nodding her head in agreement. “He’s right,” Julie said approvingly. “You sure are a looker.”

Jillian still wasn’t convinced. “You think so?”

“Do we think so? My dear, step over here and take a look for yourself.” Talbot grabbed her by the arm again – oh, Lord, that skin! – and pulled her over to the full-length mirror on the other side of the store. Jillian clamped her eyes shut; she didn’t want to look, she didn’t want to see how silly she no doubt looked. But then she slowly opened her eyes, first one, then the other, and found herself gazing upon one of the sexiest looking women she’d ever laid eyes on. 

The realization that it was her own reflection she was gazing upon came as something of a surprise, despite the evidence right there in front of her face.

“Hey, that’s not bad,” she murmured as she admired the way Talbot’s design accentuated her figure in all the right places. She momentarily forgot that she was inside a public place of business, striking up one pose after another in front of the mirror as her doubts began to evaporate.

Julie shot a glance over in Talbot’s direction, and noticed with no small degree of satisfaction that the pour guy was all but drooling all over himself with approval. She chuckled softly to herself; the poor guy would probably have to change his shorts after they left, she figured.

She also noticed the girlish grin that had suddenly appeared on Jillian’s face. By golly, it did look fabulous on her! And if Talbot’s reaction was any indication of things still to come, then wearing this thing for James tonight couldn’t help but have the desired effect. 

Suddenly she found that she could hardly wait for tonight to get underway.

“Mr. Talbot,” she announced, “You’ve convinced me. I’ll take it.”

“She’ll take them all,” Julie corrected, indicating the other frillies Talbot had brought out with him. Jillian started to protest a second time,  but Julie interrupted just as she had before. “Hey, my treat, remember? Call it an early Christmas present… or maybe a Valentine’s Arrow from Cupid’s Little Helper. Wrap them for us, would you, Jack?”

“Absolutely, Miss Madison.”

“Oh, and jack, you wouldn’t happen to have another one of those ‘Skintillation’ designs floating around here anywhere, would you?” she asked with a smile. “One in a nice, wicked red, perhaps?”

“As a matter of fact, I made one in that color just for you, Miss Madison. I had a fgeeling you’d ask. I’ll go find it for you right now.” Talbot vanished into the back room again, leaving Jillian there to examine herself one last time. Julie was right, she’d decided. This was right. She knew that now.

“You know something?” she asked as she caught a glimpse of Julie still admiring her from behind. “All of a sudden I’m glad I let you talk me into this. I’m actually looking forward to trying this out tonight.”

Julie nodded with satisfaction – and then broke into an even wider grin as an idea elbowed its way into her imagination. “Listen, why wait until tonight?” she queried. “I just had a wild thought.”

She leaned in close and whispered that thought into Jillian’s ear. Jillian mulled it over for all of about ten seconds before breaking into a fit of giggles. “I love it,” she said. “Let’s do it…”

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It was the Friday that Leslie James, the manager of the Majestic Theatre in Eureka Creek, had been waiting for all summer: opening day for the Harry Potter And Percy Jackson Meet The Hobbits Of Alderaan, and if the size of the crowd that had turned out for the very first showing was any indication of the turnout still to come it looked as if the movie would have little trouble making good on its promise of being the biggest box office blockbuster of the year.

Leslie was standing there in the lobby, smiling at the patrons who were lining up at the concession stand and mentally dancing to the tune of the cash registers ringing in his head, when he happened to spy one young man who kept walking back and forth between the ticket counter at the front of the building and the ticket taker at the door of the auditorium. 

Leslie watched as the young man would hand his tickets to the teenager at the door, then make a face as he turned and headed back to the counter, bought another ticket and get back in line, only to do it all over again upon reaching the ticket taker the next time. 

This happened three or four more times before Leslie decided he might ought to walk over and ask the fellow why. As the patron sagged his shoulders in exasperation and turned back toward the ticket counter one more time, Leslie rushed over from behind and put a hand on the fellow's shoulder. "Excuse me, sir," he said as the customer turned to face him, "is there a problem I might be able to help you with?"

The frustrated moviegoer nodded. "Boy, I'll say there is," he responded. "You might explain to me how I'm supposed to get in to see the movie without a ticket!"

Leslie's brow furrowed in confusion. "But, sir," he responded, "I've seen you buy several of them now. You only need one to get inside."

"I know that," the patron said. "But every time I hand one to that knucklehead over there that you hired, he takes the blasted thing and tears it in half!"

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As she and her boyfriend splashed around in the pool Amy giggled and said, “Oh, Henry, isn’t it fun in the water?”

Henry grinned and replied in a lecherous tone, “It’s fun no matter where we do it...”

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Still more to follow...

(The above stories are Copyright 2014 by John Allen Small)