The following should be filed under "dream sequence": it is obviously fictional, yet there seems to be a connection to Real Life. Explanation afterwards.

Count the antique shops in Vermont? You might as well try to count the trees. Okay, the trees don't have parking lots, but frankly, I'd hate to count either of them, and after so many you just don't notice them anymore.

Then I rounded a bend and saw a neat wooden sign with the outline of an empty dress and the words "The Invisible Woman," and of course I had to see, or not see, for myself. I got out of the car, I took a picture of the sign for the archives, and I opened the door, to the accompaniment of the usual bell.

"May I help you?" said a young, pleasant voice.

I turned toward the source, and there was an empty dress: a green peasant number that would have extended to about mid-calf, were there any calves below it, and a pair of ersatz Birkenstocks on the floor below. A thin braided bracelet hung above the right shoe.

I thought it over for a very long moment. Obviously there had been no time to implant some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion, unless there was something behind those radio talk shows I hadn't been noticing before, and my vision didn't seem any worse than usual. When in doubt, play it straight, I always say, so I swallowed whatever it was had risen up into my throat and said, as teasingly as I could, "Truth in advertising, then?"

The dress shifted slightly. "Truth... Oh! You can't see me?"

"I see a very nice dress wrapped around a cloud formation, or something, but that's it."

Silence for a moment. Then:

"Then maybe it was true all along," said the voice, though not apparently to me.

"Do your customers run screaming from the store when they see you, or, um, fail to see you?" I asked.

"They always see me. It's nothing unusual for them."

The dress floated over to the door, and a "Back Soon" sign slid off a hanger and onto the door glass. "Perhaps you should sit down."

"I'm always leery of sitting in antique chairs," I said. "They're not designed for modern-day Fatso-Americans. Besides, I've been driving for two hours. Standing will probably do me some good."

"You do want to take care of yourself," said the voice, and I imagined it was slightly softer than before.

The dress wafted its way to one of the chairs and assumed exactly the position it would were it being worn by a woman with her legs crossed. "You're the first person who hasn't seen me," she — I'd decided that there was a "she" involved somewhere — said.

"Is that good?"

"I hope so."

"Might I ask what it means?"

She paused for a mome