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This is a true story, dear reader. Or nearly true. Only the names of the protagonists, Martens and Peter are fictitious.

Read and you will understand why!

Martens is a great champion. Especially on the nationals he is often really super.

In other races he is just average or even less.

And do you know who are also average?

Fanciers who bought his birds.

But Martens intrigued me.

So I asked Peter, a comrade of mine, "you feel like meeting a pigeon legend? "
"Does he bite?" he asked. (Peter has always been on the cautious side).
"On Saturday, not" I said.
Of course he had already heard about Martens. A man who is brilliant when he is at his best and on bad days he is still better than the average champion.
So to Martens we went.

A metal pigeon on the chimney betrayed where he lived. When we stood at the door we knew for sure. "Martin M Martens" we read. I rang the bell. A man"s voice, deep and roaring: "Go away you."
"But Mr. Martens ....."
"I have no interest in what you"re selling."
"Come on, we"re not ... "
"Even the grace from above I am not interested in."
"We are not Jehovah"s Witnesses, sir. We are from the press. Schaerlaeckens. "
"Hey, that is a good one. Schaerlaeckens, he. They all say that. "
"But it"s really me."
"And should I be impressed? Give me your home phone so that I can call your wife. "
"I have a secret number."
"It is one thing or the other."

"A moment later: "Damn, you"re really you?"
"Very true," I said.
"What is this about?"
"We will explain inside."

We entered a small room. On the TV were naked and half naked girls.

No wonder he was reluctant to show us in.

"Your wife is not home, right?" I said, nodding at the TV.
"I have no wife."
"Excuse me," I said.
"It is okay" he said, now more friendly. "It does not work any more anyway. He is completely worn out. "
Questioningly I looked at him.
"It does not work any more? Totally worn out? What do you mean? "
"You do not need to feel pity for me. I miss nothing."
I did not understand one shit of it.

"Are you sso stupid that you do not understand it is not worn out from pissing?"
I changed the subject.
That "M" in the middle of your name refers to "Martin", does not it?
"How do you know?" he said.
Bewildered, I looked at him.

"Martin Maarten Martens?" This man must be as stoned as a polecat.

"We want to talk about pigeons, I said. "Off the record, of course."

"Off the record?"
"I mean that I will not talk to anyone about what you say."
"Word of honor?"
"Word of honor." (But I can still WRITE about it, I thought).
"Well, it is simple. In modern pigeon sport it has just become impossible to win without antibiotics."

Those who think you can still win with grain and water alone are fools.

"Thats why we are here. We also want to play well and you seem like a very suitable and likeable person" I got out of my throat with great difficulty.

He smiled contentedly.

I smelt he would make my day.


"Okay, I will tell you all you want to know, but you must swear not to talk about it with anyone. "
"That was sworn."
"Look, it is mainly a matter of the right timing" he said.
"Especially the number six is important. You once wrote about La Sota for better results, didnot you? "
"And when did you use it?"
"Six days before the race."
"Right, remember six."

"Is six so special?"
"Very special. What is half of six? Right, three. Add 6 and 3 and you get nine.
Write down nine times 1 and calculate the square of what you get.

So I did.

111111111 x 111111111 = ...................... I was shocked when I saw the outcome.
Martens smiled.
"Now think about three CONSECUTIVE numbers of which you can divide the third by 3. Add them and then add the figures of that sum.
I wrote down 7, 8, 9.
"A little more complicated," said Martens. I wrote: 238, 239 and 240 and looked at him questioningly. "Now add up. "
I did: 717.
"Now  add up the figures."
7 plus 1 plus 7 = 15.
He nodded approvingly. "Again add up the figures."
1 plus 5 = 6.
"Now do the same with other consecutive figures of which you can divide the third through 3, said Martens.

Whatever I tried, I always came out at 6. "Is 6 a magic number or not?" he laughed.

I nodded, a bit dazed.
"Besides, what pigeons do many foreigners prefer? Pigeons from Antwerp.

And what do their band start with?"

I frowned.

"Look," said Martens, "in everything I do, I have the number 6 in my mind.
- For the first National race I inject my birds. 100% Guarantee a good result provided you do it six days before the race and birds were not previously injected.

- Two weeks later there will be another "national". Then put up the pigeons a tablet against canker. It also works but again... provided that it is the first time.

And... do it six days before basketing.
- For the next national, again 2 weeks later, give them a cure against paratyphoid and Coli. Start six days before the race.
- And then, 2 weeks later, give them another injection. The last one because the following will not work anymore. "
I nodded.

We knew enough and I found beads of sweat on my forehead.
- Was it excitement?
- Was it because the TV was still on?
- Or was it because of the small space?
One should know that I suffer from a mild form of claustrophobia. Something I got from the countless times that I had to hide in a coal hole, crawl space or something similar after I once again was caught in the pigeon loft of my parents.
But I had learnt something and put my arms around him which was my way to show my gratitude. He resisted like a worm that you try to put on a hook.

Did he doubt my manliness?
He must have seen then how I had occasionally glanced at the tv.

"Do you think that all this is fair?" I asked. "You remind me of Lance Armstrong.

It is also unfair to my friend, Mr X who races in the same competition as you do.

He does NOT inject his birds.

Now he laughed loudly.

"X? From him I learned all this. "
"Shit, shit, shit," I mumbled.

X was the man from whom I had bought a bunch of birds the year before.

Now I understood why they were worth nothing.
"What did you say?" Martens said.
"Nothing," I said, I beckoned to Peter, grabbed my coat, showed a barely audible fart and walked to the front door.

And I thought about a friend in China who had bought many birds from a famous champion here. None of them appeared to be any good. And this "famous champ" is known for his medication!