Jack's father was a cabinet maker, as his father had been, and his father before him. In fact, nobody could remember a time when the Barlow men had ever done anything other than make furniture. It therefore went without saying that Jack would enter the family business. It wasn't the trade itself that Jack objected to, but the fact that he would be trapped forever in a place where the monthly cattle market was the highlight of the social calendar.
Maybe if he hadn't gone away to university, he would have been happily unaware of the limitations of his birthplace. Of course, he could view the entire world from his computer, but the experience of actually living somewhere else was completely different. He could still remember his amazement at discovering shops that never closed and nightlife that went on until the morning. His flatmates had teased him a lot about this. Now their cosy little flat in the city seemed a million miles away.
Jack made up his mind to speak to his parents that evening. He had been putting it off for far too long. He knew that his mother would understand how he felt; she had moved here from the city after marrying his father. But his father, born and bred in the small town of Tadworth and proud of it, would be a harder nut to crack. Jack practised his argument again and again in his head, trying to guess his father's objections and plan what he would say in reply.
Jack waited until his father had finished his dinner before he carefully raised the subject of his future career. "Dad, you know how much I enjoy my work," he began, "and I do think I'm quite good at it, but I just can't imagine staying here in Tadworth my entire life." There, he'd said it. It hadn't been as difficult as he'd imagined. His father looked at him. "I was wondering how long it would take you," he said. "I've been waiting since you came back from university." Suddenly, Jack didn't need his carefully rehearsed argument.
"We're going to bring the business into the 21st century!" his father proudly announced. Jack could only stand there open-mouthed as his father described his plans. These included setting up a website, expanding their product range and, the biggest challenge of all, targeting the international market as well as the UK. "You can't beat quality craftsmanship, son," his father boasted. "Plenty of people will pay extra to have a unique piece, not those flat-pack excuses for furniture."
Although they would stay in the family house and keep the existing workshop, the business headquarters would be in the city. These would include a showroom, which would be Jack's mother's responsibility. Here, their furniture would be displayed in richly decorated interiors, to emphasise the superior quality of their products. Jack would manage the marketing department where he would finally be able to use his business degree.
Two years later, Jack was relaxing in front of the television in his city centre flat when he happened to see one of the advertisements he had helped make for 'Barlow's. As the town of Tadworth came into view, Jack stared at the screen. He had seen this advertisement many times, but had always been busy examining it from a marketing point of view. Now, as he watched, the soundtrack drifted into the background and he found himself focusing on scenes from his childhood. He could make out the lane behind the school and the old mansion up on the hill — the 'Haunted House'. Now the camera was moving across the river. He remembered the days that he used to spend there, fishing with his friends. The picture changed to an advert for a mobile phone. Jack turned the television off and sat back in his chair, deep in thought.