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Frame of Mind

Sometimes my father scares me. He can tackle something he knows nothing about, and nine times out of ten, it will come out all right. It’s pure luck, of course, but try convincing him. “Frame of Mind,” he says. “Just believe you can do a thing, and you’ll do it.” “Anything?” I asked. “Some day your luck will run out. Then see what good your Frame of Mind will do,” I said.

Believe me, I am not just being a smart alec. It so happens that I have actually tried Frame of Mind myself. The first time was the year I went all out to pass the civics final. I had to go all out, on account of I had not cracked a book all year. I really crammed, and all the time I was cramming I was concentrating on Frame of Mind. Just believe you can do a thing – sure. I made the lowest score in the history of Franklin High. “Thirty-three percent,” I said, showing my father the report card. “There’s your Frame of Mind for you.” He put it on the table without looking at it. “You have to reach a certain age and understanding,” he explained. “That’s the key to Frame of Mind.” “Yeah? What does a guy do in the meantime?” “Maybe you should study. Some kids learn a lot that way.”

That was my first experience with Frame of Mind. My latest one was for a promotion at the Austin Clothing Store. Jim Watson had a slightly better sales record and was more knowledgeable and skillful. Me, I had Frame of Mind. Jim Watson got the job. Did this convince my father? It did not. To convince him, something had to happen. To him, I mean. Something did happen, too, at the Austin Clothing Store. My father works there, too. What happened was that Mr Austin paid good money for a clever Easter window display. It’s all set up and we’re about to draw the curtain when we discover the display lights won’t work. I can see Mr Austin growing pale. He is thinking of the customers that could go right by his store in the time it will take him to get hold of an electrician.

This is when my father comes on the scene. “Is something the matter?” he says. “Oh, hello, Louis,” Mr Austin says. He calls my father “Louis,” Me, Joe Conklin – one of his best salesmen – he hardly knows. My father, a stock clerk, he calls “Louis.” Life isn’t always fair. “These darned lights won’t work.” “H’mm, I see,” my father says. “Maybe I can be of service.” From inside his pocket comes a screwdriver. Mr Austin looks at him. “Can you help us, Louis?” “No, he cannot,” I volunteer. “You think he’s Thomas Edison?” I don’t intend to say that. It just slips out. “Young man, I was addressing your father,” Mr Austin says, giving me a cold hard look. My father touches something with his screwdriver and the display lights go on.

What happened next was that the big safe in Mr Austin’s office got jammed shut with all our paychecks in it. From nowhere comes my father. “Is something the matter?” he says. “The safe, Louis,” Mr Austin is saying. “It won’t open, I was going to send for you.” “H’mm, I see,” my father says. “Gan you help us, Louis?” Mr Austin inquires. I start to say he cannot, but I stop myself. If my father wants to be a clown, that’s his business. “What is the combination of this safe?” my father says. Mr Austin whispers the combination in my father’s ear. Armed with the combination, he starts twirling the knob. I can’t believe it: grown men and women standing hypnotized, expecting that safe door to open. And while they stand there, the safe door opens.

“Go ahead, say it was luck, my opening the safe today,” my father says. “OK,” I reply. Then I tell him what I saw in the faces of those people in Mr Austin’s office: confidence and trust and respect. “The key to Frame of Mind is you have to use it to give support to those who need it when there’s no one else to save the situation. Otherwise it will not work.”

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