Blood Bath

Leave a comment

March 15, 2015 by The Citron Review

by Marley Andino


My house sits a city block from the Chesapeake Bay—not the bay of picture books, but of stinky marshes spilling between rail lines and chained-up lots. My cousins live one street north. I walk there, looking both ways at the corner, skipping the oily stain where Mom said a sedan splattered a kid like me.

My cousins’ clean house has an empty smell. I stand in their foyer, gulping air-conditioned chill.


My house smells like penicillin and Rit Dye.

I am six—old enough to help with the washing. Mom lets me pour in dye, and the machine wobbles and beats the clothes into coffee-colored foam.

“This way,” Mom says, “we don’t have to worry about stains.”

My brown play clothes smell like licked pennies.


At my cousins’ house, I hear something. Funny words, sing song—Dong Nai, Saigon—coming from the den. I wander in and listen. I wonder about a world outside my city block.

Mom runs to shut off the T.V., but I see dead boys, balloon skin stretched tight over puffed-up faces.

“We don’t need to see a bloodbath,” Mom says. She’s mad, she’s pushing me out of the room.

“Is there a war?” I ask my aunt.

“My girl should go on home,” Mom says.


Back home, I beg Mom for a sleepover.

Her look says we don’t have visitors. But she gives in. My aunt sends my cousins out of the air conditioning and down the block to my house.

Seven o’clock. Bath time, my cousins say. They said it like fact. Seven pennies, seven dandelions, seven is nothing to me.

Mom runs lukewarm water. “Knuckle deep,” she says. She closes the bathroom door.

I am scared but fill it higher, hotter.

I slick the iron tub with shampoo and slide down its sloped back, spraying the girls with water.

Lilly, she’s five and brave, goes feet-first down the ramp. Water splashes the tile and soaks everything.

I help Gabrielle up onto the steep back, tugging at her elbows.

“Be brave,” I say.

She squeezes her eyes shut, slips. I hear a crack.

Gabrielle is still under water when she opens her eyes. Her blond hair fans out around her like mermaid hair, and vines of blood leak out into the water.

I cradle her head.

Lilly screams.


“This was you,” Mom says, when she sees Gabrielle in my arms, and the blood, and the deep water, and I don’t deny it.

Mom leaves us alone in the warm, dye-smelling bath.


After a long time, my aunt comes in, breathing hard, and pulls Gabrielle from my arms. My cousin is limp, spilling pink. “Call an ambulance!” my aunt yells. I stare at the back of Gabrielle’s skull. White jelly shows through the inch-wide gash.

Mom stands in the doorway. She bends, bare hands mopping at the bloody, foam-flecked tile. “They’ll see this mess,” she said. “I can’t let them in.”

Everything slows. It feels hard to breathe, like it’s me under water. I want Mom to dry me off, but she’s kneeling, frozen.


Later they come, in a rush of uniforms, and crowd the room. I’m cold. I sit in the bloodbath and try to cover myself with my hands, because they are strangers.


Marley Andino is a Virginia-based writer and sculptor. She was selected as a 2014 Virginia Quarterly Review Nonfiction Scholar. Her essay “Water Capes and James Bond” was chosen as the third place winner of the 2014 Norton Girault Literary Prize. She is currently at work on DRY LAND, a memoir. An excerpt of DRY LAND appears in the Spring 2014 issue of River Teeth: A Journal of Narrative Nonfiction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Snow on brush in desert

IMAGE CREDIT: Jill Katherine Chmelko. Protest Road, Winter. 2019.

🍋Our Tenth Anniversary


    Cheers to ten years of celebrating the short form.


🍋 Instagram

Winter will soon come to a close and everyone's crying! We trust Paul Beckman to reveal a trail through it all. Paul Beckman’s fourth short story collection is Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), was a finalist for the 2019 Short Story Indie Book Awards. He was one of the winners of @bestsmallfictions 2016. He won the Editor’s Choice Award in 2016 from Fiction Southeast, and was in the #WigleafTop50. His stories have appeared in @jellyfishreviewig, @spelkfiction, @litromedia, @pankmagazine, Lost Balloon and many others. Paul curates the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series monthly at KGB Bar & @kgblitjournal. #amreading #flashfiction
Don't cry...or maybe do. A deeper look at our saltiest moments with Denton Loving's "The Topography of Tears." Denton Loving is the author of the poetry collection Crimes Against Birds and editor of Seeking Its Own Level, an Anthology of Writings about Water. His writing has recently appeared in @lunchwithironhorse, @kenyonreview, #ChattahoocheeReview and #TheThreepennyReview. #amreading #creativenonfiction
US President George Washington rode a horse, of course. So we are recognizing this President's birthday with our Winter Issue story, "The Farrier, by Lisa Tuininga. Lisa Tuininga writes fiction and creative nonfiction. She holds a BA in English Literature from DePaul University and has studied at Seattle’s literary center, @hugohouse. Her work has appeared in @belletristmagazine , Adanna Literary Journal, @sharkreeflit, and others (under pen name Lisa Regen) and she is working on her first novel. #amreading #amsubmitting
Whether you celebrate V-Day or you're anti-V-Day, we all have laundry to do. Kris Willcox's work is in publications including The Cimarron Review​, @beloitfictionjournal , and @PDXReview. #amreading #flashfiction #litmag
Dive deep into some #flashfiction with @elpattee. Emma Pattee’s writing has been published in @nytimes and @carvecommunity and is forthcoming in @marieclairemag. She was a 2019 AWP Writer-to-Writer mentee and leads the Portland chapter of Women Who Submit. She is currently working on a novel.
We review the debut Cathy Ulrich collection Ghosts of You (@okaydonkeymag) We're over the moon with ZEST. #amreading #flashfiction

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new issues by email.

%d bloggers like this: