Oxygen

“You know what’s cool?” Victor said.

“So help me, Victor, if you say ice…” Carol held up a finger in warning.

“No no, nothing so silly. No, I’m talking about the discovery of oxygen!”

“What about it?” Carol asked, relieved.

“Well, think about it. Someone had to figure out a way to prove that this stuff exists.”

“But why would you need to prove that? You breathe in, and voila. Proof.”

“Yeah, but breathing in is like, oxygen and nitrogen and other gases. Oxygen on its own, though? That needed to be figured out, and how to isolate and everything.”

Carol rolled her eyes and looked back at the newspaper. “You think everything is amazing, Victor. It’s cute. But really, it’s not that special anymore.”

“What are you talking about?” Victor said, his voice rising in pitch. “What about the other day, when you were flying home?”

“What about it?”

“Well, what if the cabin pressure changed?”

“And?”

Victor dropped his arms in exasperation. “The oxygen masks that drop down? Keeping you alive and all that? We wouldn’t have that if no one had discovered oxygen on its own! And you wouldn’t be able to anesthetize people for surgeries, or at least not be able to keep them alive. And there are a thousand other ways we use oxygen isolated from other elements! It’s really important!”

“Okay, okay, calm down,” Carol said. “I’m just saying, it was, what, fifty, sixty years ago? Not that special any more.”

“No! It was, like, two hundred and some years ago!”

“Really?”

“Yes! The 1770s!”

Carol finally set the paper down to look at Victor’s face. He was flushed in his excitement, his desire to make her understand the importance.

“That is pretty impressive, actually. They didn’t really have much to work with, I guess, so good on them. Alright, Victor, I’ll grant you, it’s pretty cool.”

“Thank you!” Victor said in exasperated victory.

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