I once read a short passage in school (between 2001 & 2003) from a book in a dutch teaching book. Probably a book translated from English. I always wondered what book that was.

A family at home was having a discussion because they had little oxygen left and the new delivery was not due soon. The father was getting angry, wanted to slam his fist on the table but calmed himself down to save the oxygen.

Some moments later something happened; a window broke and the living room was filled with the toxic gasses from outside. The father felt the pain in his lungs.

  • Do you remember when you read it? Commented May 17, 2014 at 9:51
  • @Shevliaskovic : It was between 2001 & 2003
    – MichaelD
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 10:02
  • It would be good to add any more info you might remember, like any names, publication date etc Commented May 17, 2014 at 10:03
  • I wish I had that info. It was a short fragment...
    – MichaelD
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 10:08
  • 2
    I can't resist: earth is never breathable.
    – methuseus
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 19:27

1 Answer 1


Sounds like "A Pail of Air" by Fritz Leiber. It's actually a short story from 1956 but it has been anthologized several times. It takes place on Earth after its been knocked out of orbit, and the atmosphere has frozen - the main character is a teenage boy who lives with his family in an improvised shelter and who is tasked with going out into the airless wasteland and scooping up a daily pail of frozen air, which would melt and provide their oxygen. The family believes they are the last survivors, but the story ends on a somewhat hopeful note when the boy discoverers explorers from another colony of humans. You can read it here on the Baen site.

  • 5
    I don't think so, because there weren't toxic gases outside in "A Pail of Air", there was vacuum, and there were no oxygen deliveries.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 20:23

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