Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From the village November 30, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2020.

ONCE UPON A TIME in The Land of Plenty, a waif of a girl and her mother huddled, seeking warmth inside their small stone house. They’d just returned from a tiring journey by foot to a neighboring village. There the daughter received a magical potion to protect her from The Great Invader, who had claimed her father’s life. They felt such gratitude for the protective potion now available to all but the youngest.

The pair felt no bitterness about the loss of their beloved husband and father, but rather a mournful acceptance of his fate. When he fell ill, Ministry of Health researchers had only begun to understand The Great Invader and ways to effectively deal with him. They were certain he could be stopped. But, alas, Ministry officials underestimated the resistance to their advice, to the life-saving potion, to measures that would keep most villagers, city-dwellers and peasants from serious illness or death.

Spikes define The Great Invader and his cousins. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2019)


As mother and daughter edged near the hearth, fire heating a small kettle of thin porridge, a persistent pounding broke the silence. The weary woman hesitated, unsure whether to answer the urgent knock. But the kindness instilled in her by sage elders replaced her momentary hesitation. She rose, grabbed a swatch of cloth from a peg on the wall, covered her face and cracked the door.

There stood a stranger—teeth a sickly yellow, spiked hair framing his filthy face, gnarled hand raised in a threatening pose. Without even a second thought, the mother slammed the door, dislodged a worn plank, dropped and locked it in place. Her shoulders heaved. Her legs gave way. And she fell in a heap onto the dirt floor, overcome with emotion. She recognized the stranger as a cousin of The Great Invader from a sketch posted in the village square (before The Village Know-It-All removed the identifying scroll). She breathed gratitude for the potion that protected her and her cherished child.

Wheat. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2019)


The young mother and her daughter were, by nature, kind and loving. They often befriended the lowliest among them. The beggars. The downtrodden. Those who had fallen on hard times. They had little themselves, but shared what they had. Yet, even with the mindset of kindness, they struggled to understand how so many in their village seemed now to care only about themselves. Gone was the cohesiveness of community care. The Great Invader and his extended family gloated, empowered to press on with selfishness, untruths, misinformation and distrust fueling their cause. They never could have imagined the ease with which they could infiltrate The Land of Plenty and beyond.

Frustration mounted whenever mother and child ventured into the crowded village marketplace. Few covered their faces. Few believed The Ministry of Health or the Office of Truthfulness. The pair observed how villagers dismissed warnings about The Great Invader and scoffed at ways to protect themselves and others. So the two hastened to gather a handful of potatoes, a sheaf of grain and a clutch of carrots clumped with dirt. They parceled pennies into the palms of peasants, then fled the market.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo.


On their way home, mother and daughter passed by The Village Center for Healing, now overrun with the sick and dying infected by The Great Invader. Most had refused the magic potion. The pair’s hearts hurt for the exhausted village healers who continued to care for the failing, even in the face of disrespect and denial. They skirted past the ill and sidestepped rotten tomatoes lobbed by villagers refuting reality with anger.

The woman paused for a moment when she noticed strangers tending to the ill in overflow cots along the cobblestone streets. Fear prickled her spine. Could this be The Great Invader in yet another disguise? But she soon realized these strangers had come to ease the burden on village healers. She recalled a posting in the village square announcing the arrival of the group from a far away city. Gratitude rose within her, a smile curving her lips.

Hope swelled within her that maybe, just maybe, the influx of healers would convince the doubters to recognize the severity of the situation. To realize they could stop The Great Invader, first by believing those who had investigated him and then trusting the magic potion to keep them safe. It was within their grasp…


NOTE: In every story exists truth, this one no exception. As The Great Invader (COVID-19) continues his march, now in mutant strains, we need to remain vigilant. Get vaccinated and boostered. (If you already are, thank you.) Mask up. (If you do, thank you.) Stay home when you’re sick. Follow other safety mitigation. Think beyond yourself. To the child next door. To the elderly. To the immune-compromised. To the family you love. This is about more than each of us individually. This is about all of us, our community of humanity.

This is part of an ongoing series about The Great Invader. I moderate all comments and will not give voice to anti-vaccine, anti-mask and other such opinions on this, my personal blog.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “From the village”

  1. wyonne Says:

    Thank you, thank you, Audrey!!
    Your thought provoking “legends” are right-on!

    • Thank you, Wyonne. I’m trying a creative approach to make a difference. The COVID rate in Minnesota right now is horrible, coupled with the challenges in healthcare. I feel for those healthcare workers. And now we have omicron looming. I feel like this will never end…until more people get vaccinated and people, in general, follow COVID mitigation. In my extended family, just in recent days, three children and one adult have come down with COVID. I’m sure there are others of which I am unaware.

  2. Norma Says:

    As of today, there are 6 residents here at the senior facility that I reside in.. There originally was 4, but we had testing yesterday, and the results came back with 2 more. Now I wonder if I might have eaten at their table, did I have a conversation with one of them. Who are they? I heard that 2 are in the hospital. I’ve had all my shots, but is that enough?

    • Oh, Norma, I understand your fear and concern. No vaccine is 100 percent effective, but it’s certainly much much better than not getting vaccinated. You’ve protected yourself as best you can. I pray those in your building who have tested positive will heal, and quickly. I know it’s scary.

      If only everyone would choose vaccination, we would not find ourselves in this place of break-through cases, new variants and a seemingly endless pandemic. Hold onto hope and your deep faith.

  3. I am guessing that the far away helpers in your story are the Air Force Doctors and nurses who were recently sent to MN to help the healthcare workers. If not, still a huge debt of gratitude is need for all those who run towards helping and not away in this world wide crisis! Keep the hope. Help where you can and always be safe.

    • That’s exactly who I’m referencing, Paula. These dedicated military men and women are now at Hennepin County Medical Center and at the St. Cloud Hospital. Additionally, some 400 Minnesota National Guard members are either in training or in place at long-term care centers throughout the state, working as certified nursing assistants. I am grateful for this extra support to assist our overworked and stressed healthcare workers.

      I’ve been thinking of you, Paula, with the omicron variant detected in passengers on the flight that landed in the Netherlands. And the unrest over lockdowns. I expect the variant is already circulating in the US. Some days it’s really difficult to maintain hope…that this pandemic will ever get under control. Please take care. Stay safe. Stay well.

      • Hummm… well the riots were only 200 or so idiots and because we almost never have things like that happening here it made international news.🙄 The omicron is most likely already everywhere. The Dutch were the only ones in the EU that isolated the flights out of South Africa and tested everyone to see the scope of the problem. Smart if you ask me. Although lots of news and talk in the government here over the testing and mandatory quarantines of those passengers. 🙄 All in all we are in a holding pattern. I am running out of hobbies to lean on…

      • Paula, thank you for the additional info about the situation in the Netherlands. I agree with your “smart if you ask me” comment.

        I understand your “running out of hobbies to lean on.” I think we are all feeling the stress of this ongoing pandemic, except perhaps those who deny it and refuse vaccination.

      • Stay safe and healthy in the coming weeks and please…keep writing your stories!

      • Thank you, Paula. I appreciate your support of my creative writing.

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