Sundays on Pak Tai Street, outside the royal blue and ornate gold of the no-longer regal Jockey Club, flocks of strange birds with rectangular wings are gripped by gnarled hands stained with black ink, congregating on gritty, uneven sidewalks and ash-flecked tiles, grimacing strained lopsided smiles.
Prize fowl flutter feathers embroidered with ads for watches, restaurants and mobile phones, stats on steeds with evening dreamlove petnames like Dreamscape, Midnite Promise, Kowloon Star, Tears to Your Eyes and Ultimate Glory. The men who tend their beauties shake fists at screens in weekly vain to alter their foregone stories.
It is an overcast and windswept day on the street, crowded with red-top minibuses, clusters of chattering filial crowds that make even leisure time insufferable, stalls and shrieks selling everything from pots to toothpaste to ginger to paradise in a clasp, wok or sizzle, as gamblers join the choruses of touts, hawkers, hagglers and fiddles. Above the din, cries amplify, as pages ripple, cooing in anxious hands, promising so much, but delivering little.
Later, after the sky sets on even the most fervent punters, the most rabid bidders, greyed and blackened carcasses remain, smudged, flat. They lie muddied, foot-trod, drained of the visions they promised earlier, drowned in grime and spittle.