was caught AWOL
as he tried to sneak back on board his ship at about 3 am. The chief petty officer
spied him and ordered the sailor to stop. Upon hearing the sailor's lame explanation
for his tardiness, the officer ordered the sailor, "Take this broom and sweep every link on this anchor chain by morning or it's the brig
The sailor picked up the broom and took a few half-harted swipes at the chain. But as he began to sweep, a tern landed on the broom handle. The sailor yelled at the bird to leave, but it wouldn't. The lad picked the tern off the broom handle, giving the bird a toss. The bird left, only to return and light once again on the broom handle. The sailor went through the same routine all over again, with the same result. He couldn't get any cleaning done because he can only sweep at the chain once or twice before the blasted bird returns.
When morning came, so did the chief petty officer, to check up on his wayward sailor. "What in the heck have you been doing all night? This chain is no cleaner than when you started! What have you to say for yourself, sailor?" barked the chief.
"Honest, chief," he whimpered, "I tossed a tern all night and couldn't sweep a link!"