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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: We have a summer house on an island. For a number of years, we have employed a local woman, "Trudy," as our housekeeper. She does a fantastic job and has always been friendly, reliable and trustworthy.

A friend I'll call Madge has also used Trudy. At the end of last summer, she fired Trudy, insisting she had stolen clothes from a "third party," trespassed in their home during the winter, had been seen drunk, etc. Madge is now urging me to fire Trudy, even though the "third party" neighbor has not said a word to me about her. Madge has succeeded in convincing two other families to fire Trudy. The island is a very small community, and Madge is ruining Trudy's livelihood.

I don't believe what Madge is saying and feel pressured and bothered by her accusations. So far I am shrugging off her rabid ramblings. I plan to use Trudy again this summer, but Madge insists I am a fool ever to use her again.

Madge bad-mouthed the golf pro two years ago, saying how incompetent he was. I now hear he has been fired. I assume this gives Madge a feeling of power, but I feel sorry for her victims -- and I don't want to be her next one.

I want to help Trudy. What would you suggest I do about this very sticky situation? -- PART-TIME ISLAND DWELLER

DEAR PART-TIME DWELLER: Avoid Madge. She is a troubled and vindictive bully. Help Trudy to find a lawyer who can put a stop to this woman's character assassination before it completely destroys her business.

DEAR ABBY: We've been sent an invitation to our nephew "Marshall's" high school graduation. Last night we found out he won't be graduating because he failed a couple of classes. Marshall's school allows all seniors to "walk across the stage" at the graduation ceremony, even though some of them may not be actually receiving a diploma.

When I asked Marshall's mother, my sister, whether he should receive graduation gifts and have a family party, she gave me a firm "no." His grandmother is upset and insists we still have a graduation party with presents. Personally, I don't think there should be a party with presents since Marshall is not really graduating. Who knows if he will ever graduate? What are we celebrating -- his high school failure? What do you think? -- DISGUSTED AUNT IN FLORIDA

DEAR DISGUSTED AUNT: It's too early to brand anyone a failure. Your nephew has only a few credits to make up. If Grandma wants to give him a gift, she should do so. However, since the young man's mother has vetoed a party, her wishes should be respected.

DEAR ABBY: Please settle a difference of opinion between my wife and me.

My wife is a wonderful housekeeper. We have a dishwasher -- me. I claim that rinsing the dishes in hot water and air-drying them is preferable to wiping them with a dish towel, which is usually damp after use and therefore a source of bacteria.

We will abide by your decision. -- ROBERT IN ORLANDO

DEAR ROBERT: It may be that your wife -- the perfect housekeeper -- finds the sight of air-drying dishes on the counter objectionable. However, I see nothing wrong with air-drying dishes after they have been washed. And there are some elegant chrome baskets for that purpose that are meant to be displayed. But once dry, the dishes and flatware should be promptly put away.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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