They’re So Beautiful When They’re Sleeping by L Mari Harris

She halfheartedly pushes his hand away as his fingers ease under the hem of her shorts. She looks over her shoulder into the backseat. “Concentrate on your driving, mister.”

He trails his fingers up and down her leg, sees her stifling a laugh.

He bumps the cruise control up to seventy-five. “You got it in you to drive all night? I do.” Both of his hands are back on the steering wheel. “I feel so alive. I want to keep going.”

The radio is off and their windows are lowered halfway. The wind is cool on their faces. The car engine is so quiet they can hear the cicadas’ fevered shrills in the corn and bean fields along the highway.

She sticks her arm out her window, marvels at how hard she has to push against the wind. “Yes. Let’s keep going.” She leans forward and looks up. She feels like she’s flying into the stars, like she could grasp whole handfuls of stars if she wanted.

“Driving all night will get us there so much faster.”

“Yes,” she agrees.

He looks in the rearview mirror.

She shifts in her seat and studies the back of the car.

“They’re so beautiful when they’re sleeping.”

“Yes,” she agrees.

Their children are safely buckled in their seats, their bodies gently leaning into each other. Their son’s head is thrown back, mouth open, and every now and then his tongue whips out to lick his lips, a habit he developed as a toddler. Their daughter’s head is resting on her chest, her hands on her lap, palms open.

She yawns and rests her head on the cushion of the car door. She watches the stars she could grasp if she wanted, until she can’t keep her eyes open anymore.

He listens to her faint snores over the wind and cicadas. He keeps going. He’s driving into the sun as it begins to rise.

He needs to pull off the highway, stretch his legs. He slows and turns into a truck stop. She wakes beside him, groans as she stretches and cracks her knuckles.

She reaches over the seat and gently shakes their children’s knees, uses her soft mom voice to tell them it’s time to wake up. Both children rub their eyes and look around, still sleepy and unsure of where they are. 

Inside the truck stop, they tell their children to go to the bathroom, remind them to wash their hands. They point at the coffee and soda machines, tell them they’ll be right over there. To come meet them right over there

When their children come out of the bathrooms, they walk down a tight isle filled with trucker hats and stiff purses that have painted flower designs burned into the leather. They spin wire stands of keychains and magnets. Their fingers trace along Wish You Were Here! and Greetings! on the postcards of clear blue lakes and snow-capped mountains.

They reach the long coffee counters and turn in circles, looking.

Maybe they misunderstood.

Huh, they say.

Jinx, they say.

They smack each other. They can’t help themselves.

They wander over to sniff the donuts, wish their parents would hurry back over from wherever they are. They look at the juices, try to decide if they want orange or apple.

They wander over to the cash register lines, then over to the front doors, where they press their faces against the glass. They name each car at the gas pumps—blue car, black truck, green Jeep.

Their car is white with four doors, a luggage rack on top. It has a small dent on the bumper where their father had accidentally backed into one of their bicycles the month before.

Their car is a blinding white. They shield their eyes as it slowly drives past.

They watch it signal and slowly turn onto the highway.

They watch it keep going.

L MARI HARRIS — L Mari’s stories have been chosen for the Wigleaf Top 50 and Best Microfictions. She lives in the Ozarks. Follow her @LMariHarris and read more of her work at

Art by SUSAN SOLOMON — Susan is a freelance paintress living in the beautiful Twin Cities area of Minneapolis/Saint Paul.