An alligator lizard in the genus Elgaria. They are famous for their fierce bite, and once one of them bit my finger and drew blood, which impressed Kieran. We’d caught it up in Joaquin Miller Park, in the Oakland Hills, and I held it up to him as it thrashed in my hand.

“Do you want to hold it?” I asked.

“Do they bite?” he wanted to know.

“Sure, but they can’t really hurt you,” I assured him.

Just then, the angry lizard chomped my finger and would not let go. I had to pry the jaws off. As soon as I got them open, little red beads of blood welled up on my finger. Kieran looked at the blood, then at me.

“You were wrong,” he said.

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