"Let me get this straight," Carolina said, as she rubbed her palm across her forehead, as if doing so could sooth her brain and help it not panic at the mission in front of them. "What we're looking for is somewhere in this?"
She pointed to the mish-mash of shoeboxes stacked and spread out across the room. Some had lids askew and some didn't have lids at all. Some had postcards laying in small bundles atop an already bulging box and there were scores of single postcards scattered about on most every inch of available flat surface.
"Yes," her mother replied.
"Do you have the slightest idea how many postcards you have?"
"Well, yes," Tina said confidently. "Last count I did was 8,869. That was back before April, when I was preparing my taxes. You know dealing with the IRS, you wanna be precise and my Profit and Loss statement had to --"
"Mother," Carolina said as she whipped around. "Focus!"
Michel jumped in before Carolina's voice got any brusquer. "Well, this shouldn't be too difficult. Pas de problème. Pas de problème. It looks like the cards are filed and categorized."
Carolina looked at Michel and simultaneously cast her mother an evil eye. "But Michel, my mother doesn't file things alphabetically by subject the way normal people do." She started gesturing wildly with her long arms, each gesture an accent mark -- an accent grave of frustration. "Mom files things by association, by whatever pops into her mind first." Now Carolina's pitch was reaching as high as her flailing arms. "Mom files the way she thinks, the way her mind works."
The Frenchman looked at Tina. She blushed.
"Didn't you ever read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler when you were a kid?"
NOTE to self: ? on a deadline/timeline to increase the sense of urgency. The kids in Frankweiler's book had 1 hour to find what they needed. I need to weave such a deadline into my story for added suspense, but I'm not sure at this moment. I feel confident this point will unfold as I continue to write.