Short fiction

Issue #8

Deborah Meaden

“Martin Keown is why I went into business” – Ben Taylor chats to Dragon’s Den stalwart Deborah Meaden about life, love, and everything in between.

Deborah Meaden is every bit as fierce in person as she is on the television screen. Sitting across from me at an upmarket Chesterfield cafe and wearing a pink chamois gown with a peacock hat, her arms folded sternly over her bosom, she looks every inch the ruthless businesswoman. I shiver as she sips her tea, my eyes irresistibly drawn towards those pursed lips and her throat’s gulping motions.

Attempting to ingratiate myself with Deborah gets me nowhere – I receive a series of grunts in response to my polite inquiries after her health – so I decide to forego social niceties in favour of hard-hitting questions concerning the state of Britain’s economy.

“The Government needs to help British businesses, big and small. Cut taxes!” she barks, her eyes burning with passion. But she softens soon after, revealing an as yet unseen facet of the enigma that is Deborah Meaden.

“I remember the first time I experienced love. I was fifteen and working in a cinema when the man who would become my husband walked in. I was smitten!” Her cackle rings out in the cafe. This bold and brassy lady fizzes with energy as she recounts the story of her courtship with the future Mr Meaden, all girlish giggles and blushes.

But her face darkens as I ask why she became a businesswoman. She seems to retreat into herself – literally.

Her eyes, which just a few minutes ago were so animated, roll up into their sockets, and she falls off her chair and begins to convulse on the floor. She curls up into a foetal ball no bigger than a 24 pack of crisps. Unsure what to do, I look around the cafe for help. None is forthcoming – everyone has left. But by now, Debbie Meaden is up on her feet, smoothing down her ruffled chamois frock and taking a seat once more.

Once again, she is all charm: “My apologies for that little episode,” she says with a wry smile on her face. “The legendary man-marker Martin Keown is why I went into business.” Reluctantly, she elaborates on this rather vague statement. “As a little girl, he captured my imagination. Never before had I seen such prowess and grace in a man of his size.” I recognise the same flickers of excitement that were visible in her eyes just a few minutes ago as she spoke of her love for Mr Meaden.

“From the moment I first lay eyes on Keown in his favoured centre-back position, I knew that my calling in life was to genetically engineer a race of 10 ft Keowns that would live on my own isolated island in the South Pacific. This paradise would be called the Garden of Meaden,” she explains. “Of course, to achieve this would require astronomical sums of money – hence my tireless efforts to make cash.”

Deborah studies her fingernails for a few moments, the look on her face one of intense scrutiny. I feel a chill on the back of my neck. She smiles: “At the moment, my grand project is in an embryonic state. But in a few years it shall be open to the public – the Garden of Meaden will become a Mecca for footie fans from across the globe!”

Ben Taylor