Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall

  • This summary of The Fourth Stall includes a complete plot overview – spoilers included!
  • We’re considering expanding this synopsis into a full-length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's important.
  • Want to see an expanded study guide sooner? Click the Upvote button below.

The Fourth Stall Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature  detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander.

The Fourth Stall is a 2011 young adult novel by American author Chris Rylander. A child-friendly parody of The Godfather, The Fourth Stall concerns the inner-workings of a kiddie criminal hierarchy at an otherwise normal K-8 school.

The protagonist is one Christian Barrett, a sixth grader who goes by Mac. Fashioning himself as something of a Vito Corleone of junior high, Mac holds court in the fourth stall of the boys’ bathroom, hearing out the student body and doing what he can to solve their problems—for a price. His consigliere is a fellow sixth grader named Vince who works with Mac to produce forged notes from parents and doctors, movie tickets, test answers, and other relatively innocent items of contraband in return for modest monetary payments. Their goal is to save up enough money to see their hometown Chicago Cubs play in the World Series. Mac sits on his “throne” every day during lunch and recess.

One Monday morning, a diminutive third grader named Fred knocks on Mac’s stall door. He says he needs “protection” from a high school bully/crime boss who goes by Staples. This comes as a surprise to Mac. He always thought Staples wasn’t real—a sort of bogeyman designed to keep underlings from causing trouble. Contrary to legend, however, Staples is as real as it gets, and he is running a new gambling ring that Mac perceives as a threat to his “territory.” Sensing that it is in his best interest to take up the case, Mac agrees to provide Fred protection as a way of learning more about the threat Staples poses to his little famiglia.

Mac’s first step is to learn the word on the street about Staples. For this, he turns to a trusted snitch named Ears (naturally). Ears confirms Fred’s tales of Staples’s encroachment on Mac’s territory. Mac decides to nip this in the bud as quickly as possible, going “scorched earth” on Staples’s operation, despite the fact that Staples is older and invoking his name strikes fear in the hearts of junior high gangsters. First, they strike at Staples’s chief debt collector, intimidating and humiliating him into abandoning Staples. Next, Mac calls together the biggest and meanest bullies at his school to launch a widespread intimidation campaign against anybody who dares to place a bet through Staples. The plan appears to work, and Mac feels victorious. Then, Mac discovers something ominous: a dead rat in his locker clearly placed there by Staples or one of his goons.

Moreover, the campaign against Staples proves more costly than Mac expected. To pay off the bullies, Mac and Vince are forced to deplete their World Series fund. Others are generally put off by Mac’s strong-arm tactics, and business tapers off as a result. With no new money coming in and little money left, Mac wonders if his days as a crime boss have come to an end. Nevertheless, he refuses to give up. Instead, he hires Tyrell to go undercover in some of the more seedy sub-groups of the school district to learn what he can about Staples’s long-term plans. Secretly, Mac believes that it is Vince who, in a “Fredo”-caliber act of betrayal, has been working against him.

Mac is relieved to learn that, according to Tyrell, it is Fred—not Vince—who has been feeding Staples information about Mac’s conversations by email while pretending to play Nintendo DS. When Fred’s treachery is revealed, he apologizes, saying he only did it out of fear of getting beat up by Staples or one of his crewmembers.

Enraged, Mac waits for Staples to enter the fourth stall where Mac holds court. After Staples threatens to beat him to a pulp, Mac tells him there are members of his crew out at Staples’s house as they speak. If they don’t hear from Mac soon, they will steal Staples’s belongings, his money, and even his dog. However, Staples calls Mac’s bluff and chases him out of the school. Staples catches up to him on the school field and is about to beat up Mac when Mac’s allies come to his aid, surrounding Staples. Instead of robbing Staples, as Mac had initially wanted, he and Vince decide that since the Cubs didn’t make it to the World Series—and, in their estimation, probably won’t for a very long time—there is no reason to fill the World Series fund. All parties walk away and no one gets pummeled.

The Fourth Stall is a clever parody of gangster films that suggests and references the adult themes and motifs of the mob genre while still managing to be an age-appropriate read for middle school students and above.