Our mother disappeared when we were two. She left a note telling us how much she loved us, and a casserole dinner. Then she set off for the desert—her country. The last thing we have of her is a photo sent along the way. She’s standing next to the car with her hand swatting at something.

Dad has the photo in a frame in his room. Every few years he heads outback looking for her. Zeb and me—we have to look after ourselves. I don’t think it’s ever occured to Dad that normal dad’s don’t leave their kids like that. But Dad hasn’t been normal for as long as we can remember so we mostly look after ourselves even when he’s home.

He’s a scientist—nuclear physics. In his world everything has a reason. Mata was so different. He has a book where he’s written her stories. ‘Mata flew on a hot breeze with pink cockatoos’. ‘Mata was a cat but she didn’t want to kill for food’. ‘Mata left a shadow by the window to watch her while she slept’.

Dad says she’s out there somewhere. We think so too. But he’ll never find her. He’s always looking for evidence. He thinks logic will track her down. He should be looking for signs.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (