Isaiah has settled down into a simple life with his hobbies and pets when he learns an old friend is back in town (and interested in designing some tracks of his own).
He'd previously been satisfied with "single guy, did all right for himself, achieved his goals, now owns bearded dragon named Scrambles" as a brief-but-accurate summary of his life. Zack's being back—and this wasn't just a chance meeting that was nice but then over, Zack had been transferred and had a house out there and everything—meant things were in flux again, because while they never really said anything about it they'd still fucked kind of a lot before spiriting away to their respective futures. That didn't mean anything, but it didn't not mean anything. It wasn't like Isaiah had never regretted falling out of touch, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes just for reasons, but maybe Zack had needed the space for reasons of his own. Was there a polite, socially-acceptable way to ask the guy you used to go fishing with every summer whether or not he was seeing someone, and if not, did he want to fool around at any point? Was that something you could even ask about? Isaiah had to force himself to focus on reorganizing a display before his mental italics gave him a headache.
At least he didn't have to worry about boring anyone if he wanted to talk about trains.
This story has no connections to other stories or characters.
This story has no related links.
The basic conceit of Railfans came into being because every day on my commute we pass by a model train store (which shall remain nameless) that seems like it's never open, its store hours being by appointment only; their website talks of inventory liquidation. Hobby shops have a tough time of things in the age of the Internet! I figured someone who had income from other sources would be a good candidate for running an open-when-we-feel-like-it shop, and a writer who'd done well for himself (explaining the nest egg) but burned out sooner than he wanted to (explaining why he wasn't still writing) felt like a character whose head I wanted to explore.
I'm not sure what exactly Isaiah wrote, but it's probably genuinely pretty decent, making for a good beach read if nothing else. Zack isn't just being polite when he expresses interest in reading it! I intentionally played down the whole book thing because otherwise this would become A Story About Stories instead of A Story About Tiny Choo-Choo Trains.
The "Encyclopedia Britannica guy" is one Donavan Freberg, son of satirist, singer, and voice actor Stan Freberg. The commercial in question was at times inescapable on certain channels in the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s.
Rook City doesn't exist, though miserable Michigan winters certainly do.
Isaiah lives extremely frugally and tends to keep his heat low or off because he's a mutant who's fine piling on blankets and socks indoors, with one exception: his pets' habitats are always kept toasty warm. He's a cheapskate, not a bad reptile dad. I'm not entirely sure how many pets he has in addition to Scrambles the bearded dragon, but the answer is almost certainly "more than two," since he's got an entire room for his critters that probably has a computer desk or something in there, too.
- http://harmless-one.livejournal.com/36069.html: "Railfans by Iron Eater charmed the living daylights out of me. There is this slow burn that just drags you in and keeps you interested. This story has, officially, the best description of a small town sports bar I have ever read. Also, super sexy. And you're really cheering for these guys--Zack and Isaiah--because they're both so likeable and nerdy and adorable. This is another of my favorites from this issue, way high up on the list."
- fairyninjas.wordpress.com: "Two old friends reunited over miniature railroads. Fairly basic, but clever at points, and overall enjoyable."