In Harlem they play the numbers. In the beauty parlors, on the stoops, down Lenox Ave. there is steady conversation and relay with the bookie, investing in a dream which never materializes but sustains the dullness of the day and imbues it with an intangible and tenuous meaning. Hubert Cooley was a superintendent on 126th Street whose insipid years of squalor and dissatisfaction have rendered a dubious mental state -- of which his peculiar behavior in Central Park is the first important sign. His apprehension unearths a network of relationships and characters which connect, directly or indirectly, with Hubert Cooley- the son James Lee and his girl Essie, his unappealing wife Gertrude, the bookie John Lewis, the sophisticated daughter Iretha. In the rush to bail out his father, James Lee has a fight with Essie who vows never to accept rough treatment, conventionally expected from men again. Hubert dreams a number and scrounges the grocery money to play it. Foolishly the bookie pockets the money for his private bank, but when Hubert ""hits"" it, he pulls a disappearing act in Grand Central where he bumps into James Lee, now enlightened, persuading Essie of his new-found insight. As James returns to Harlem emptyhanded, bookie and Essie entrained, Hubert is proudly waiting for his dream -- no entreaties can dissuade nor facts dislodge his belief. His number is Negro but his conviction is American -- the dream being a fundamental American support but a source of irreparable disillusion. Well-plotted, extremely perceptive, this first novel presents its timely philosophy undisguised.